In 2009 Edward Lemon and I formed part of a team that was the first to venture to the lower Sarychat Glacier. Problems with the drop-off location reduced our stay to only two days of climbing. We managed ascents of a number of minor peaks (AAJ 2010), but the major summit of the Sarychat, referred to as Fers III by the 2007 Slovenian expedition, was too big a challenge with the limited time. So in 2011, with support from the Mount Everest Foundation, we returned.
This time border posts and drop-off provided little drama, and we shared a beer with the Slovenian expedition that made the first ascent of Pik Byeliy. Our initial challenge was one of our team, Charlie Evans, becoming ill from drinking too much water, in an attempt to avoid AMS.
Reaching the upper section of the Sarychat for my second time, we discovered that crevasses in the icefall had extended down the glacier several hundred meters, obstructing our access to Cwm Arwyn and high camp location. We found a way through, but it took more than two hours to negotiate the maze.
We warmed up with a second ascent of Pik Lyell, by a new route on the east flank. We named it Ambitious but Rubbish (600m, Scottish II/III), because we were hoping to use it to access Sentinel Peak on the Sarychat-Fersmana divide. On reaching the ridge we discovered the crest liberally strewn with tottering spires of shale and decided not to venture further.
At 4 a.m. on August 5 we set off from high camp for the base of Fers III, where we split into two pairs, Evans with Lemon and I with Hannes Granberg, our Swedish undergraduate medic. Both teams progressed well, climbing opposite sides of a 400m ice ramp on the northeast facet. At the level of the main ridge (ca 5,000m) an overhanging 30m rock step impeded progress. Both teams passed it on the left via a descending traverse to a system of mixed gullies and ledges, which led to the ridge. This section provided the technical crux of the route, with several steps of M5 and AI4 split by narrow ledges strewn with large loose blocks. The final 300m was the same for both parties, the headwall of the summit ridge rising to 60-65° snow. From the top we reversed the route. Part way down the face, after 20 hours of climbing, ropes became stuck and had to be cut. Both teams arrived in high camp 28 hours after leaving. This led to Granberg and I naming our route 28 Hours Later, while Evans and Lemon named theirs for smoked cheese Evans carried for summit celebrations: Brothers Chechel.
We provisionally graded both routes ED1. Obligatory difficulties rated an alpine TD, but the route was remote and committing, with loose rock and the crux pitches high on the mountain. We have suggested the peak be named Eggemenduluk (which translates as freedom or independence), in honor of the August 2011 20th anniversary of Kyrgyz independence.
The major climbing phase of our expedition ended at this point, though Hannes and I climbed small peaks on the plateau above base camp, reaching Piks 4,631m and 4,685m (both PD-and located near 41°06' N, 77°31' E). We provisionally named these after our understanding girlfriends, Georgina and Annika. We reported our ascents and the provisional peak names to the Kyrgyz Alpine Club.
Gareth Mottram, U.K.