Fergana and Borkoldoy, Various Ascents

Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Tien Shan
Climb Year: 2011. Publication Year: 2012.

The Northern Borkoldoy has a staggering collection of gnarly looking peaks topping out at just under 5,000m. The 4x4 journey to reach them was the hardest I have ever undertaken. The direct back roads from Naryn to Issykul feature dramatic gorges, broken bridges, crumbling single track, and a 3,940m snow-covered pass. We slithered off the road at least once.

Dave Molesworth, Tim Seel, Misha Sukhorukov, and I began my fourth trip to Kyrgyzstan in the Fergana Tau, which I visited in 2010 (AAJ 2011). We first climbed a peak at the head of the eastern arm of the glacier, a long slog across scree and glacier followed by a steep ice face. The final 200m provided all the delights of steep scree and broken rock, and our summit (4,710m, 40°33'07.13" N, 74°37'16.23" E, AD), proved to be part of a long broken ridge, with numerous summits for future visits.

Starting from a camp at 3,400m, we probably overdid it as a first acclimatization climb, so we moved camp higher and from this new location made two climbs. The first involved scree, snow, and a short scramble up the final ridge to a fine summit (4,650m, 40°33'36.57" N, 74°34’55.11" E, F). The second lay east of the main col, on the watershed ridge with Osh Province. Steep snow and ice, followed by a short scramble, brought us to a forepeak, from where we traversed a snow basin to the main summit (4,685m, 40°33’02.58" N, 74°35'15.55" E, AD). Rockfall and hard ice deterred us from descending the same way, so we dropped down scree on the wrong side of the watershed, hoping to reach a glacier we had seen from the col. The farther we went, the worse it looked, and, when we saw our glacier below, we realized the immensity of the relief. All we needed to do now was re-ascend 200m to the col, but Misha wanted to traverse the ridge, which looked like at least eight hours of fun. Aged 63, he’s an insatiable lad, but his internal GPS has gotten us into trouble on more than one occasion.

After an unsuccessful attempt on a peak above the Torugat road, we started an epic journey cross-country Just before the Tosor Pass we saw two peaks that “needed doing.” Here we met Ukrainian rafters about to descend the Rishi Naryn. From a high waterless camp, we climbed a steep face and pleasant ridge to bag summits of 4,560m (41°51'12.75" N, 77°04'43.43" E, PD) and 4,630m (41°51'11.58" N, 77°04'21.51" E, PD). I was desperately knackered, thanks to the trots leaving me badly dehydrated. Olec, our driver and cook, finished me off with a traditional cure of vodka and salt.

By the time we reached the northern Borkoldoy, we had five days left and a boatload of peaks from which to choose. A fabulous morning deteriorated into heavy snow and Tim going sick, but Dave and I reached a fantastic viewpoint (4,350m, 41°28'06.60" N, 77°31'50.01" E, F). We began to notice the approach of winter, with night temperatures dropping to -22°C.

With the return of good weather three of us decided on an ascent of the dominant peak. After a bivouac at 4,000m in biting cold and blowing spindrift, we started up an endless ridge. This led to at least four summits and an overhanging serac to traverse. The final slopes were endless, as we slogged through knee-deep snow and past a couple of unusual circular crevasses. It was 3 p.m. when we arrived on the summit (4,815m, 41°25'05.08" N, 77041'34.15" E). We reversed the route and just finished the pinnacles when darkness fell. We stumbled down the remaining snow slopes under a full moon. It was a demanding day at AD+, but with another freezing bivouac, a bowl of cold pasta, and a tin of fish, it was overall ED, at least. We had promised to be down that evening, but the promise would be broken. Next morning Dave and Olec were relieved to see us; the tough old paratrooper and Spesnet soldier had tears in his eyes.

Mark Weeding, U.K.

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