The sound of crunching snow under foot, not a cloud in the sky, virgin ground where no soul had previously tread. Sounds idyllic. Well Robert Taylor has just returned from a successful trip to the Torugart-too region of Kyrgyzstan, where he was part of a Scottish expedition ticking off new ascents, including 2 new unclimbed peaks. Here he’s been kind enough to give us a brief account of one of his ascents and it seems to get that euphoric feeling you may need to suffer a bit first.
The Doctor and I walked in up the glacier, leaving The Apprentice watching the camp and fearing the wolves. It had been a warm day and the surface had turned to mush, my companion going in to his waist and wetting his boots. Clearly pitching a tent on this would lead to drowning so a night on the moraine beckoned. This of course was too uneven for us to pitch our single skinned bivvy tent so we ate our freeze dried meals, rubbed what warmth we could into our bodies and lay down to sleep-The Doctor wrapped in the bivvy tent and a 4 season synthetic bag and I in a Hunka and a SH800. The weather was proving less than clement so I had thermals, a soft-shell, an 0Hiro jacket and a fleece hat on. An alpine start in the morning, we would need our sleep.
I dozed off with my hardshell wrapped around my footboy but was woken by the first snowflakes on my face. For the remainder of the night it lay across the front of my bag, allowing moisture out but no snow on, a handy goretex valve. I was warm and dry all night bar some condensation on my jacket, the Hunka, SH800 and 0Hiro performing admirably.
Morning came all too soon and with it four inches of fresh powder, most of it clearly itching to avalanche us. Having been soaking up my breath all night my hard-shell was stiff as cardboard, I folded it into an approximate body shape. The weather seemed to be clearing so we walked up the glacier to ‘have a look at the route’. All of our non essential kit was left behind wrapped in my bivvy bag.
A snow slope led to the ridge that runs between China and Kyrgyzstan. Here sheer cliffs dropped off to our left giving way to rolling foothills, glimpsed occasionally through the snow and hail. A ridge traverse, some downclimbing and a final steep gully brought us to the summit slopes and an exhausting walk, pausing every five paces to gasp for air, to the snow summit-never before touched by human feet at 5034m. Here feelings of elevation gave way to feelings of elation however briefly and we began the long downclimb to the glacier, following the left hand side of the snow basin to minimise the danger from seracs. It was extremely cold and windy, I did not take the 0Hiro off all day.
Fifteen hours had passed since we left the bivvy and we were glad to be back. It was too late to walk out but at least we could now pitch the tent on the snow. We fell inside, exhausted, ate our remaining chocolate bar, all we had left, and tried to sleep as the wind and snow battered our tent.
In the morning our boots, sleeping bags and gear were covered in a fine powder that had been forced in through the vent. Though my bag was damp from two nights of condensation and hard use it was still acceptably warm. As I dug around outside to locate our belongings I could hear The Doctor cursing as he thawed his frozen boots over our spluttering jetfoil.
Our walkout was under perfect blue skies and over crisp powder. The next day The Apprentice and I would walk in for another first ascent.
For some more of their exploits, please check out their… Blog