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Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Western Kokshaal-too, Bolgandy West Valley, Pik Margesson, Pik St. George, Shining Tor, Pik Nantucket, Pik Heliya, Pik Jessica and Jeremy, Pik Stapledon, Pik Sally; Pik 4,705 m, Attempt

Bolgandy West Valley, Pik Margesson, Pik St. George, Shining Tor, Pik Nantucket, Pik Heliya, Pik Jessica and Jeremy, Pik Stapledon, Pik Sally; Pik 4,705m, attempt. In August David Jorden, Chris Lloyd, Tom Sutherland, Ben Sutton, and I traveled to Kyrgyzstan to climb in the eastern Borkoldoy. However, on arrival in the Ak Sai Valley we discovered that the track had been damaged by floods, and we could not get close enough. Our backup plan, exploring the Djangidjel Range, also proved impossible; we were stopped at the Kubyurgty Pass by Russian hunters barring entry into the valley. We settled on a cirque in the Western Kokshaal-Too, 14km west of Kyzyl Asker. This was a fortuitous find, and we made several first ascents.

On August 23 we established base camp at 3,500m near the head of the valley that is four main valleys west of Kyzyl Asker, rising to the Chinese border (N 41°06'24.9" E 77° 10'55.1", GR 835544 on the Soviet Military map). Our first summit was Pik Margesson (4,526m) on the western side of the valley. Shattered rock made bypassing gendarmes tricky (PD+). The peak just to the southeast of base camp, named Pik St. George (4,496m), was straightforward (F+).

We then moved up valley to establish an advance camp on the eastern side of the cirque. From here we climbed Shining Tor (4,607m, F) from the south and Pik Nantucket (4,600m, PD). On Pik Heliya (4,660m, PD) we scrambled up a scree face onto the northeast ridge near the summit. We attempted Pik 4,705m, which dominates the head of the valley, but the snow—which fell frequently and never consolidated—did not allow us to cross the large crevasse field at the base. However, from the bowl below Pik Heliya, Pik Jessica and Jeremy (4,600m) and Pik Stapledon (4,600m) proved relatively accessible (both PD-). The highest peak in the valley, Pik Sally (4,818m), dominated the eastern rim. We climbed it via a direct route from the cwm immediately east, reaching the northeast ridge just below the summit (PD).Weather and rock were limiting factors on our trip. We had several heavy snowfalls with minimal consolidation. The rock, a finely layered and shattered siltstone, was extremely poor; narrow crests were highly unstable. However, the most terrifying part of the expedition was our vodka-loving driver taking the vehicle, a not-very-well-pimped minibus, down a boulder-strewn river on the way out. Miraculously we arrived home in one piece.

George Margesson, Oxford University Mountaineering Club