After landing in Bishkek on August 19, Tom Nichols, James Moneypenny, and I reached the Mustyr Valley on the 22nd, well after the Edinburgh University Expedition had left for home. We made base camp by our vehicle, just below the grass line. We first acclimatized by attempting a new line on Pik Kumay (4,830m) that followed a couloir onto the northwest ridge. Unfortunately, a deep gap in the crest, poor rock, and bad weather turned us back.
We then took five days’ food and established an advanced base on what we dubbed the John Charles Glacier, immediately east of the Mustyr Glacier. This flows down from the north face of Mur Samir, the 5,035m peak climbed by the Edinburgh University team. Our goal was the peak to its left, which we named Torolok after its similarity to the Tour Ronde in the Mont Blanc Massif (Torolok is the nearest Kyrgyz translation of “tour ronde”). The following day we climbed the peak via the north face at D (60°). It gave a superb climb on hard ice. We climbed eight or nine pitches from the rimaye to the summit ridge and then followed this to the chossy rocky top. We reversed the route in seven long rappels using Abalakov anchors.
Two days later Nichols and Moneypenny climbed Diligent Epiphany on the right side of the north face of Mur Samir, I returned to base camp unacclimatized and unwell. This route featured immaculate alpine ice filling a four-meter-wide couloir with a section of 85°, and was graded TD- [the face is 600–700m in height].
After a brief period of bad weather, and the slaughter of our sheep, we headed up again to establish another advanced base, this time in the next glacier basin east of the John Charles Glacier. More bad weather kept us tentbound, but on a beautiful morning we quickly climbed two virgin peaks, Free Tibet (4,700m) and Pik Abu (4,495m); we graded both F. Views to the east were tantalizing, so we decided to explore there during our last few days. I remained at base camp with bad knees, while Nichols and Moneypenny made an abortive attempt on shapely Peak 4,788m, Nichols’s bowels eventually getting the better of him.
We returned to Bishkek via Tash Rabat and then spent a few days sunning ourselves on the shores of Issyk-Kul before flying home. Our gratitude goes to the Mount Everest Foundation and British Mountaineering Council for their generous grants.
Sam Leach, UK