For three years Dennis Gray has attempted to travel to the area of Keketuohai on the recommendation of non-climbing friends in China. This autumn he was finally successful, and discovered a wealth of granite towers and walls that have yet to be visited by rock climbers.
Keketuohai or Koktokay lies in the southern Altai Range of China's Xinjiang Province, close to the border with Mongolia and c600km north north east of Urumqi.
There are reported to be 108 granite peaks here, with rock faces reaching an estimated height of c1,000ft. Gray feels that out of all the valleys he has seen in his world travels, Keketuohai compares closest to Yosemite.
The walls are situated along the gorge of the Iyrtish River and some reach the valley floor. There are also more boulders in the valley bottom than found at Caley! In fact, although the walls are on a smaller scale than Yosemite, the volume of rock in Keketuohai is possibly greater, and locals assure Gray that no one has yet climbed on any of it.
Currently, there are daily flights from Beijing to Urumqi, or two scheduled flights a week from Moscow. From Urumqi an express bus, going in the direction of Altai, will drop you off at Fuyun, where it is possible to take a mini bus from the Tourist Hotel for the remaining 70km to Keketuohai.
Spring and autumn would be the best seasons: summer is just too hot, and in winter the temperatures regularly fall to at least -40°C: it is one of the coldest places in China.
That's the upside; now for the downside, and why no one so far has climbed there.
Accepted by geologists as a site of special significance, Keketuohai has been made a National Geological Site (visitors are taken part way into the valley on a battery driven 'golf buggy' along a newly constructed road).
The area is populated by Kazakhs, who are involved in building the Park infrastructure and visitor access: Gray feels they are most unlikely to allow rock climbing, unless it was sanctioned from higher authority in Beijing or Urumqi. Visiting the area would certainly necessitate one of the party having at least a basic grasp of Mandarin.
Currently, travelling in Xinjiang is dangerous due to racial tension between the Uighers and Han Chinese. There were large riots in July and subsequently many racial incidents. Al Qaeda has now declared a jihad on the Han Chinese. However, the local population, who are Kazakhs, have so far not involved themselves with this problem.
The possibilities are there, as Chinese authorities are always interested in creating opportunities that will provide jobs and foreign currency, and the Chinese Mountaineering Association are probably not aware of Keketuohai's climbing potential.
It might just be that a group of climbers could arrive on spec, make friends with the Kazakhs, and hope that permission to climb is granted. But it's a long way to travel if the answer is no.