American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Tien Shan, Western Kokshaal-Too, Sarychat Glacier, Various Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2010

Sarychat Glacier, various ascents. On August 11 and 12 Martin Jones, Edward Lemon, Jacob Wrathall, and I, from King’s College London Alumni Mountaineering Club, achieved first ascents of five peaks on the western side of the Sarychat Glacier.

We arrived in the range July 26 but, due to circumstances, had to ferry equipment for nine days to reach our base camp at 3,520m on the west side the Sarychat valley, near the confluence of the Aytali and Sarychat rivers. Although this helped enormously with acclimatization, once we had explored the glacier, we were left with little time for climbing.

Our initial approach to the glacier above stayed on the west side of the river and traversed extremely difficult moraine, similar to that described by the Slovenian FreeApproved expedition on the neighboring Fersmana Glacier to the west (AAJ 2009). It took four hours to cross the moraine. The glacier was then found to be heavily crevassed, and the traverse to planned targets on the eastern side of the glacier proved slow and difficult. Our first attempt to reach these peaks was abandoned due to the difficulty of approach and bad weather. However, on the descent we discovered a relatively easy gully on the east side of the moraine, which was much faster but necessitated wading the thigh- deep river to regain base camp.

We used this faster approach on our second trip up- valley but then moved into a cwm, which we named Arwyn, to the west of the glacier. The Sarychat falls into the eastern sector of the range, where the rock is not the featured granite characteristic of the west, but disappointing shale. On the 11th, from a camp in the cwm, we climbed as two independent pairs the aptly named Slush and Rubble (Scottish 2 or soft 3) to the crest of a ridge and from there traversed to two previously unclimbed summits. We named these after former King’s College lecturers: Pik Lyell (4,864m GPS) for 19th-century geologist Charles Lyell and Pik Thornes (5,014m GPS; 4,989m on the 2005 American Alpine Club Map) for John Thornes, a recently deceased geographer and pioneer in the field of erosion modeling.

Next day Martin and Jacob climbed a mixed route up a chimney in a rock buttress on the north-facing wall of the cwm: Choss Bros. (Scottish 5). They then turned north and ascended Pik Katherine (4,840m GPS). Edward and I chose a line just to the left, staying on snow and ice for much of the way: Quartered Safe out Here (70°). Once on the crest we headed south along the ridge toward Fers III (5,210m), a superb unclimbed snow pyramid. We climbed two small peaks on the ridge—Sylvia (4,910m) and Hilarie (4,928m)—but lack of time and deteriorating weather prevented us continuing along the beautiful connecting snow ridge to Fers III.

Gareth Mottram, U.K.

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