A primarily Danish party, but with one British mountaineer, Jim Broomhead, have recently made four first ascents in the previously unclimbed eastern sector of the Djangart Range in southern Kyrgyzstan.
In 2010 Dan Clark and Matt Traver visited the Djangart with the support of BMC, MEF and WSA grants. In the western sector they made three fine first ascents of alpine peaks up to TD- in standard.
Inspired by their report, the Anglo-Danish team decided to visit the eastern part of the range, which is referred to as Sauktor. While this area had been inspected in 2008 by a Russian expedition, they did no climbing here.
However, the Russians did visit Djangart's Djangartynbashi Glacier, much further west, where they climbed Pik Leteveta (5,291m), making the first known ascent of any summit in this entire group of mountains.
The Anglo-Danish team used a helicopter to reach a base camp below the Kichik Sauktor Glacier. However, once established, they realized that none of their gas cylinders, essential for climbing in the mountains, had been loaded on the flight. Then they discovered their satellite phone was not functioning.
This remote region on the Chinese border has been visited less than a handful of times, yet amazingly, the very next day a family from Moscow, who had decided to take a holiday trek through the valley, arrived at base camp.
The family had a working satellite phone and was able to call the helicopter company to deliver the missing gas. Game on.
The expedition split into three teams and explored four different glacier systems.
Broomhead and Kristoffer Szilas made the first ascent of Pik Alexandra (5,290m) via a ridge they named Bivouac - French for Mistake. The 700m
route was climbed over two days with a night out at 5,000m.
The lower section featured sound granite with climbing to UIAA IV+, while the upper gave snow and ice up to 70°, and an overall grade of D.
They next made a 15km trek west to the N2 Glacier, to attempt the East Face of Pik 5,318m, the highest summit in the range and still unclimbed. They discovered that this peak presents a serious technical challenge, with a 500m quasi-vertical wall of good granite, leading to 1,000m of ice and mixed. They had neither the gear, nor low enough temperatures for this sort of climb.
Instead, they returned to base camp and climbed a 4,950m peak visible well to the east, naming it Pik Lea. The 500m route, named Mermaid, gave tricky Scottish-style climbing in mostly white-out conditions (D, M4 and 70°).
On the descent, the sun came out, setting off avalanches. Fortunately, the two were on an icefield, where they could place good ice screws. Although hit, they were able to get down safely.
Meanwhile Carsten Cooper-Jensen and Simon Lund Jensen had made the first ascent of Pik Kathryn (4,885m) via an ice face named Russian Roulette (700m: AD: 60°). Sune Buur, Jakob Fisker and Anders Hedeager Pedersen climbed Pik Pernille (5,190m) via Waiting for the Tide (700m: AD: 55°).
The Danes were unsuccessful on two border peaks, 5,112m and 5,025m, but had a fun time and a real adventure making their four first ascents in a remote part of the world.