American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Beyyt Kashka-Suu and Oshairak Valleys, Various Ascents

Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Tien Shan, At Bashi Range

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Ben Logan
  • Climb Year: 2010
  • Publication Year: 2011

In late July, Ann Piersall and I explored several drainages in the northeastern section of the At Bashi. A recipient of AAC research grants, Piersall was living in Kyrgyzstan and studying local perceptions of glacial retreat in the rural communities surrounding the At Bashi Range. From the small village of Ak-Muz, we hired a local horseman to take us a day’s walk into the Taldy-Suu Valley (this area is more or less due south of Naryn). The following day we proceeded south unsupported, crossed a 4,000m pass, and set up camp in the Beyyt Kashka-Suu drainage. From there we climbed four peaks. The first (4,390m, GPS) we climbed in deteriorating weather via its rocky northeast arête at PD (400m, II). The following day, under clear skies, we made our way south across a large glaciated basin that rose to a col between two prominent peaks. We climbed the corniced western peak first (4,561m, GPS), before returning to the col and linking two additional summits to the east (4,535m and 4,546m, GPS) via a high ridge (800m, PD III). On the summit of the middle peak (41°03.172' N, 76°08.935' E, GPS) we were surprised to find a large weathered tripod made of aluminum and wood. The location of the tripod corresponded with a triangular mark on our 1:100,000 Soviet map, supporting our belief that it was an instrument of Soviet geodetic survey.

After a week we exited the range via the Djol-Bozoshty Valley, tagging Pk. 4,340m (300m, F) along the way. We later confirmed that survey tripods, used in producing Soviet topographic maps, were installed by professional climbers and engineers in mountain ranges throughout Kyrgyzstan. Conversations with Valeri Kuzmichenok, the former head of the Kyrgyzstan Geodetic Survey, suggest that At Bashi’s numerous historic survey points contradict assertions that the range was unexplored until recently.

A month later we made a trip into the southwestern At Bashi. Hiring a bemused local herder outside the village of Kazylbek, we rode to the head of the Oshairak drainage, where we took leave of our guide and camped at the tongue of a large glacier. The following day we ascended the glacier, negotiating large crevasses and snow bridges, to make camp on a moraine (40°56.001' N, 75°41.000' E; 4,001m, GPS). From there we attempted Pk. 4,530m, climbing east on steep, hard snow to gain a low-angle ridge, which took us to the summit pyramid. Thirty meters from the top we aban doned the attempt, lacking sufficient rock protection to proceed. From our high point we descended to the southwest via a snow couloir that was icy in sections, eventually returning to the glacier, and then skirting the base of the mountain to regain our tent (500m, PD III).

Over the course of the next few days we moved camp west across the glacier and onto a high ridge, putting us in position to attempt a group of attractive 4,700m peaks. However, foul weather and dwindling food and fuel forced us to abandon our exposed location. We did so via a short scramble over a small peak to our west, then descended the Chet-Keltebek Valley.

Ben Logan, AAC

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