BMC supported expedition makes seven first ascents in Kyrgyzstan

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 04/10/2013
Approaching the head of the Kichik Sautor Glacier with the rounded summit of Pik Currahee and, immediately to its right, Pik Little. Supplied by George Cave
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Supported by grants from the BMC, MEF and Alpine Club, six British climbers, comprising the Bristol Djangart expedition, made first ascents of seven peaks on the Kyrgyzstan-China border.

The Djangart Range lies in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan, west of the well known Inylchek Glacier.

In common with recent expeditions to the Djangart, the primary aim of the British team had been the first ascent of its highest mountain, Pik 5,318m

This had been the goal of five expeditions in the past, some being defeated by the logistical difficulties of reaching the foot of the peak.

However, just before leaving the UK the British climbers learnt that 5,318m had finally been summited.

In late July, on their second attempt, all six members of an American expedition (Rob Gleich, Jeff Langcor, Nick Lewin, Austin Lines, Zach Matthay and Ryan Stolp) had reached the top, naming the summit Pik After-you.

A few days later Longcor and Stolp  climbed the 5,172m peak on the ridge to the south, naming it Pik Buddyness, the other four summiting the 4,860m peak to the north, dubbing it Pik Skimmins.

A week or more later Harry Bloxham, George Cave, Clay Conlon, Ross Davidson, Alistair Docherty and Harry Kingston, all current or previous students at Bristol University, were lifted by helicopter to a base camp in the middle of the Djangart Valley.

Success came early. In an arduous 12-hour approach from base camp to the head of the Kichik Sauktor Glacier, which is located towards the eastern end of the range, Cave, Conlon, Davidson and Kingston set up camp at 4,300m below one of the expedition's main objectives, unclimbed Pik 5,025m.

All four climbed to a col on the frontier ridge at 4,800m, from where Cave and Kingston turned right and made a short ascent to Pik Little (4,850m) via Consolation Route (400m, AD).

Conlon and Davidson turned left and headed up towards 5,025m, finding difficult conditions that required them to pitch the corniced summit ridge before reaching the top. The route was grade D-.

They named the summit Pik Currahee and returned to the col 16 hours after leaving camp.

Snow conditions were deemed too poor to continue down, so they bivouacked before descending to the tent the following day, after 29 hours on the mountain.

A little later Bloxham and Docherty climbed a new 5,100m peak immediately south of Pik After-you, naming it Pik Betelgeuse (AD-).

Ascents were then made of border peaks further west in the massif; Pik Kasparov (4,822m, AD; there was a lot of chess playing during the expedition), and Pik Ozon (4,971m, AD).

Docherty and Bloxham walked the length of the main Djangart Valley west, and then up the Djangartynbashi Glacier to make the first ascents of Pik Feto (4,831m, AD+), and Pik Topor (ca 4,970m) via an 800m gully at D-.

The team was helicoptered from base camp after 18 days in the mountains, having experienced "some of the best alpine ice we have ever encountered".

Although visited in 1932 by Russians, who made no ascents, the first mountaineering expedition to the Djangart in modern times comprised British climbers Ingrid Crossland and Graham Sutton. In 2004 they tried to reach Pik 5,318m but were unsuccessful.

The central area was explored again in 2010 by an Anglo-American team, which included British climbers Dan Clark and Matt Traver, and the central and eastern sectors in 2011 by three expeditions; Spanish, Danish and the British pair of Alex Brighton and Richard Tremellen.

All made a number of attractive ascents and the Brtiish pair made the best attempt on 5,318m to that date, finding a relatively straightforward line to the summit but being defeated by poor snow conditions. Currently, it is not clear which route was followed by the Americans on their successful ascent.
 



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04/10/2013
Looks like a successful few weeks for the Bristol team. And their choice of names shows a bit more thought than their US compatriots (even if Betelgeuse needs respelling)!

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