Winter Mountaineering Course - Scotland


ROCK CLIMBING - CUMBRIA (Lakes) (1 to 4 days),
SNOWDONIA (3 to 5 days)

NAVIGATION Courses - CUMBRIA (Lakes) (1 or 2 days)

Monday, 4 August 2008

Expedition to Tien Shan

Old or young - try following your heart occasionally and live life; do something you want to do; the opportunity may never come around again....

I've just returned from the very remote Tien Shan mountains - a fantastic and place of high mountains. We landed in Kazakstan (a country the size of west Europe) and were whisked from the airport for the long drive to Karakol in Kyrgystan. The countryside is amazing; people live in summer yurts in the high mountains with herds of sheep, horses and cattle. Some take trailers loaded up with beehives into the mountains for the pollen in the high alpine meadows. At Karakol we organized food lists and 11 clients, without any local language skills, bought 400 chocolate bars (I have a sweet tooth but that's crazy!) hundreds of loaves, eggs, cheese etc to sustain us for the coming weeks. Meanwhile Sean and I arranged camp kit, transport and accommodation. After checking stoves and packing we loaded up the truck for the next part of the journey, driving over passes up to almost 4,000 meters, to an ex-Soviet helicopter base. The helicopter deposited us rapidly onto the glacier at 3,800 meters. With the nearest people 3 days walk away we rapidly erected our tents and cook tent and got settled in. After acclimatization and practicing on local ice cliffs we made an ascent of a peak (unclimbed?) at almost 5,000mtrs. Over the next week attempts were made on other peaks but deep snow and avalanches thwarted us. The helicopter flew in 2 hours early and it was a mad rush to get the last tent down and load up whilst being battered by the rotors’ downdraft but we were quickly in the air and heading for Khan Tengri base camp where Sean and 8 clients were going to make an attempt on that peak (thwarted again by bad weather) whilst I returned to UK with 3 clients.
A fantastic country, weather was too warm with the coldest night in my tent being -4 degrees (boiling in my altitude sleeping bag). The weather was a problem and we could literally see the glacier melting away from under our tents. We varied from a truck driver to an investment banker, a doctor to a construction manager, and from 19 to 50 years old. A wonderful team with broad experience, sadly the weather was too warm (or good?) for what we wanted to achieve this time. Maybe another time, who knows?