Mountains

All of mountains attempted on the expedition were between 4100m and 4400m high. Most of the peaks formed part of a high-level ridge and therefore the prominence of most of the peaks was not particularly large. In this report, we use 'peak' to refer to a prominent summit, while 'point' refers to a subsidiary summit. A sketch map can be found below to aid interpretation of the descriptions of individual mountains.

The moraine began immediately above base camp at 3000m. The moraine was old and grass-covered in the main, but did include some rocky sections to catch out ankles. The edges of the moraine were unstable, steep and unpleasant to travel up and down. Higher up, the grass covering stopped, leaving stable rock moraine in flatter areas. This got progressively more unstable and more mixed in size higher up. The east side valley (known by us as the hanging valley) followed a similar pattern, although it was steeper, giving almost no grass-covered moraine and much more unstable mixed-size moraine. The west side valley had a long stretch of evenly sized unstable scree that was simple in descent, if hard work to ascend.

The main valley had a long moraine walk in to the glacier that took around two hours. The glaciers were rock-covered until around 3400m and dry until 3600m. They were heavily crevassed in places, but most of these crevasses were avoidable. The snow was generally soft and did not freeze fully at night. On the summits and ridges white snow was generally very crisp, but most snow had a red tinge and this snow became soft very quickly after sunrise. As a result, most of us put a foot in a crevasse every time we were out. There were occasions when both feet went in, up to knee or waist height, but a full fall into a crevasse was never a concern. Most of the routes attempted involved snow slopes with a gradient between 30° and 50°. Often these were long and unprotected. In the late morning the snow melted, leaving glacier ice that was difficult to protect and nasty to descend. Peaks occasionally had rock outcrops on the summit and the teams climbed a number of sections of I or II (UIAA rock grade). The rock was generally slate and, although it was loose, there were plenty of larger blocks and solid cracks for protection where needed.

A number of routes were identified for future expeditions. Most peaks were climbed by their easiest line, but a wide range of more challenging ridge and face routes are available. Other peaks had routes that were not in condition, or required climbing at a grade beyond that at which members of the team felt comfortable. For all of the routes done and those identified as having future potential, more consistent snow would be a real bonus, and in some cases a necessity. For the mountaineering, it would make sense to come earlier in season when snow cover may be better. This may entail a winter or spring trip utilising skis. This would open up more possible routes, but would obviously have implications for access to the valley.

Attached files: 

Peak 4273

A: West Ridge, PD. Attempted by Dave Farrow, Bethan Gudgeon, Doug Hull and Jo Smith, 5th August 2012

From the right hand side of the moraine, the rock covered glacier can be ascended to reach the upper terrace of the glacier. Objective danger and loose rock is high on this section when not frozen. The West ridge can be followed easily from here, until the ridge narrows to unstable rocky blocks and steep snow or ice. Beyond this crux, the ridge looked like it continued in a similar manner.

 

B: North Flank/Face, PD. Ascended by Dave Farrow, Bethan Gudgeon, Doug Hull and Jo Smith, 9th August 2012

A more direct route is best started from the left side of the moraine, which additionally gives a slightly better approach. Keeping close to the central rock pillar gives the easiest line of around 30-40 degrees on snow-covered ice, with the least crevasse and serac danger. Once the upper terrace has been reached, continue directly up on good snow (no climbing required). A small ridge ending in rocky boulders marks the north top. It is unclear which is the highest summit. The southern top looks highest when viewed from other summits in the area, but is hidden from the north top by the central top. The central top is composed of a secure looking 15m block with a slanting crack that might give a grade III/IV rock pitch. Getting to the base of the block involves moving across a narrow, unstable and fairly unprotected rock ridge. We only reached the north summit.

 

Summit of Peak 4273 from North top - last few metres still unclimbed.

Peak 4225

A: North Ridge, PD. Ascended by Michael Fordham, Matthew Graham, Joe Hobbs and Tom Wright, 4th August 2012.

From the moraine cross the glacier across easy ground with few crevasses before heading steeply up to gain the bottom of the North Ridge. The initial rocks can be skirted on the east side; gaining the ridge proved to be icy in places. The ridge itself continues steadily upwards to a false summit, where the east ridge is joined with an easy final climb to the summit. This route was also completed in descent.

 

B: South Flank and East Ridge, F. Descended by Route A ascent team

This route was completed in descent though would make an easy if somewhat tedious ascent route. Climb the glacier step as above to the foot of the North Ridge, but then skirt beneath the ridge to a col at 4000m to the east of the summit. From here the east ridge appeared short, rocky and loose and can be avoided by moving south onto the south flank where a few rock steps lead up to regain the east ridge at the false summit. Continue as for Route A to summit.

C: West Ridge, F. Ascended by Dave Farrow, Bethan Gudgeon, Doug Hull and Jo Smith, 11th August 2012

The west ridge is a simple, wide snow slope, giving a good high level traverse.

North Ridge of Peak 4225

Point 4215

A: West Ridge, PD. Ascended by Dave Farrow, Bethan Gudgeon, Doug Hull and Jo Smith, 11th August 2012

From the moraine, keep on the right of the glacier to avoid the crevasse field. Higher up, occasional crevasses stretch all the way across the glacier. Crossing these is unavoidable, but inadvisable in the soft snow found after early morning. The back wall of the glacier is climbed to avoid seracs, starting below the obvious rock summit and working left gave a reasonable route. The bergschrund, just below the ridge crest, is around 10-15m wide with solid snow covering in most places. The cornice remains are similarly large, but there are several options that lead to the ridge. The ridge leads easily to the base of the rock summit. The rock gives a 15m climb of around I.

 

Summit pinnacle of Peak 4215

Peak 4383

A: West Ridge, AD. Ascended by Dave Farrow, Bethan Gudgeon, Doug Hull and Jo Smith, 15th August 2012

A moraine ridge leads under the northern buttress of the peak to the bottom left of the right-most glacier (looking up) in the valley. From here a simple dry glacier leads under the impressive seracs on the north face towards the western col. The route to the col is crevassed, but these can be avoided by a fairly steep (40 degrees) snow slope that leads up left to a point high on the ridge. The ridge at this point is wide and fairly flat and can be followed easily. There is an obvious gully marking the start of the final ascent that gave a Grade II snow/ice route of around 80m. The initial 20m to the base of the gully is good snow at around Grade I. We followed the steepening icy gully to mid way then branched out left to scramble up a rock section and a final snow slope. The top snow slope was unprotected and slushy to descend, but there is an abseil block from mid way. This 30m abseil ends at the top of the grade I simple snow slope. Continuing in the gully trending rightwards also looked possible, but may be trickier to descend. The actual summit is the second top; a small descent and re-ascent on snow leads to an easy (I/II) pitch of rock to the summit. The obvious rock ridge to the summit is deceptively steep; but can be avoided on the south side.

Looking up East ridge of Peak 4383


Northern slopes of Peak 4383 from Western ridge of Peak 4315


Western ridge of Peak 4383, with Peak 4218 in foreground. Taken from Peak 4215

Peak 4233 'The Molar'

 

A: North-west flank of South-west Ridge, PD. Ascended by Michael Fordham, Matthew Graham and Joe Hobbs, 6th August 2012.

After ascending into the hanging valley a steep scree slope leads up to a col with a cairn. From this cairn drop down onto the glacier and traverse beneath the south-west face. An obvious snow slope heads steeply up from the glacier. After around 150m of ascent on a slope with an average angle of 45° the aspect eases to the broad south-west ridge. From here it is a simple scramble over rocks to the summit.

 

B: South-west Ridge, PD. Ascended by Dave Farrow, Bethan Gudgeon, Doug Hull and Jo Smith, 7th August 2012

From the col between Peak 4233 and Peak 4315, the ridge rises gently to join Route A after 1.5km with a few sections to keep the interest. The majority of the ridge is on snow; the first rocky top can be avoided on the left or climbed direct (Point 4187). Shortly after, two wind scoops can be walked around on the left. The first could be avoided on the right by descending to the rock just before and descending into the bowl if the steep snow on the left is unstable. The second rocky top is best avoided on the left again. Directly climbing this is possible, but would be time consuming, and require an abseil descent on the north-west side.

West ridge of Peak 4233 looking West to Peak 4315 (in cloud)



North face of Peak 4233 from base camp


North face of Peak 4233

Peak 4155

A: West Ridge, PD. Ascended by Michael Fordham, Matthew Graham, Joe Hobbs and Tom Wright, 10th August 2012.

From the top of the scree slope at 4000m head north-west along a scree ridge. After ascending for 100m the ridge becomes more of a scramble, culminating in an exposed summit block. From this scramble down to gain the west ridge of Peak 4155 and follow the crest of the snow; in one or two places it may be necessary to cross patches of névé. The route now becomes a climb with sections of II, over the top of the obvious pinnacle from where the route moves easily to the summit. A continuation east along the ridge may be possible.

West ridge of Peak 4155, with first ascent party on summit.

Other Mountains

Date: 

Mon, 21/01/2013

Description: 

The expedition attempted most peaks in the area, but there a few we did not make the summit of due to technicalities, bad snow conditions or lack of time. A few unclimbed lines on peaks we did summit are also mentioned. Photos of these mountains can be found in the google earth file and the report.
 
Peak 4283
This peak, to the east of Base, has a number of gullies leading to a fairly horizontal ridge of rocky pinnacles. The exact summit is not obvious, and traversing the ridge may provide consistently interesting climbing. The main rocky ridge from the south west has a fairly simple approach (see Peak 4273).
Peak 4433
Easiest route may be from the east. From the west, all routes start with long scree ascents above the glacier to reach the snow gullies (or rock ridges). In times of greater snow cover, the approach will be much easier.
Peak 4365
The west ridge rises steadily from the col on snow and ice before the first outcrops of rock are encountered. After passing the first outcrop on the north side there is a final stretch of snow before the ridge turns to rock. Climb up the ridge directly on loose rock and ice, tending towards the south side of pinnacles. We turned back on the west ridge just below the last 35m snow / ice gully pitch due to time constraints, but it looks like it would give a good route at around AD. The north-west face also holds a number of harder lines, and it may have an easier route from the east.
Peak 4256
A simple, nice-looking ridge leads south from Peak 4225 to this higher summit. Would require a camp above base camp.
Point 4218
This looks as if a fairly simple rock ridge will lead easily to the summit, the main difficulty being the retreat down the glacier, which has some unavoidable crevasses.
Peak 4383
The south-east ridge looks plausible as a rock route. The north face also looks entertaining if the serac danger is avoided.
Peak 4233
The north face looks excellent as an easy face route if the lower section was névé and not glacier ice and the top section wasn't too slushy. The glacier is the rough shape of a molar tooth; hence we referred to this face route as ‘Route Canal’.
Peak 4155
The north face looks like it gives another easy face with routes similar to that of Peak 4233.
Peak 4315
From the col, the glacier provides a simple approach to a small summit at 4260m. On finding this point had only 25m of prominence it was nick-named P25. From here the north-east snow ridge leads to the summit. In good snow conditions this would provide an excellent route at around AD. We turned back twice due to unstable snow.

Weather

Bishkek is very hot and dry (average high 32°C in July), but has plentiful water from rivers. We found similarly hot and dry weather around Lake Issyk Kul, albeit slightly cooler than Bishkek due to being at 1600m.

As we drove higher into the mountains the vegetation became greener and extended further from the river, indicating more rainfall. During our time in the valley (base at 3000m), the weather was generally clear and cool in the mornings and clouding over with increasing winds during the day. There was rain in the afternoon every 2-3 days. Only on one day did the rain stay overnight and cloud not clear for the morning. The temperature only got below freezing on a couple of nights at base camp. The dry glaciers were generally frozen in the morning, although the wet glaciers did not freeze thoroughly. The temperature in daytime got to shorts and t-shirt weather out of the wind, but generally the cloud and cooling wind took over before it got very warm. The wind was never strong enough to be of any consequence apart from a bit of wind chill.