American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Tien Shan, Western Kokshaal-Too, Komorova Glacier, Various Ascents; At Bashi Range, Acha Kaeyndi Valley, Various Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2010

Western Kokshaal-too, Komorova Glacier, various ascents; At Bashi Range, Acha Kaeyndi Valley, various ascents. In August Eddy Barnes (U.K.), Sari Nevala (Finland), Vanessa Wills (Australia), and I headed to Kyrgyzstan, intending to make first ascents in the Borkoldoy Range, an area that had primarily been explored by Pat Littlejohn’s ISM expeditions. This was Eddy’s first expedition, at the tender age of 20.

However, 20km from our intended destination we were waylaid by hunters on horse. They made it clear that we were unwelcome and should go elsewhere. We were constrained by transport, fuel, and information but took the view that we were meant to have an adventure. So we went to the nearest high point on the plateau, had a look-see, and drove off into the most interesting, but seemingly doable, part of the Western Kokshaal-too, in the far distance. This turned out to be the tri-tongued Komorova Glacier.

Most mountains in this area had already been bagged, but we summited five previously climbed summits, up to a height of 5,250m, and may have added a new one. These were three unnamed acclimatization peaks of 4,250m, 4,323m, and 4,416m, Pik Beggar (4,640m, PD+), Pik Jerry Garcia (5,250m, PD), and an unnamed peak that we have called Pik NikKaz (4,957m, PD+), a subsidiary summit to the north of Pik Jjin (ca 5,180m; the highest of the four teeth of Trezu- bets.) [ One was climbed by Russians in the 1980s and repeated by an ISM expedition, which also climbed two others from the east in 1999.] We climbed this via the west face and north ridge. We attempted Pik Jerry Garcia via two routes, the southwest face and north ridge, aborting the north ridge at 5,100m. However, the views across the border from the southwest face were spectacular, particularly the Great Walls of China. There is huge potential for much harder routes, although descents could be entertaining.

On August 20 we drove west for eight hours to the At Bashi Range. As with the Western Kokshaal-too, we’d had no plans to climb here, so we had no maps and had conducted no research. In a hamlet on the south side of the river (opposite side from At Bashi Village), we found the start of an entertaining track leading south into the Acha Kaeyndi Valley. This valley lies about halfway along the At Bashi, a chain ca 80km long. After establishing a base camp at 2,790m and an advanced base at 3,513m, we summited 10 peaks in a northeast-facing cirque. The highest we dubbed Pik Icarus (4,537m). It is likely that four of the 10 were first ascents: Dove Peak (4,311m, PD+), Crow’s Nest (4,155m, AD+ with several pitches of scantly protected British VS), Chook Mountain (4,063m, PD+), and Icarus (PD). The only good rock was on Crow’s Nest.

The excellent, sustained Wills-Brown Couloir was the most technical ascent we achieved, involving 800m of ascent (including approach), with the final four pitches being on superb 70-80° water ice (NZ Grade 4/Alpine D). The route topped out at 4,242m on the ridge connecting Shark Peak (4,249m) and Crocodile Peak (4,352m).

The fluidity of visa regulations, the vagaries of Central Asian diplomatic relations, the dancing water fountains in the central square of Bishkek, the sweet, hydrating, red flesh of the ubiquitous watermelon, and the stark beauty and contrasts of the Kyrgyz mountain landscape, all contributed to make this expedition an unforgettable, not-to-be-missed roller coaster ride. Huge thanks go to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and the Mount Everest Foundation for their support.

Sally Brown, U.K.

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