In August and September, Pat Littlejohn organized two more ISM exploratory expeditions to Kyrghyzstan. Both were highly successful in making multiple first ascents.
Littlejohn's chosen area was the At Bashi, a range of glaciated limestone peaks north of the better-known Western Kokshaal-too.
Rising to a maximum altitude of 4,788m, these peaks are little visited (and generally from the north), though ISM had operated here in 2002 and 2007. This time they approached from the south, which opened up a wealth of new mountaineering possibilities.
In August, Ed Brown, David McMeeking, Mat Piaseki, Steve Taylor, and Littlejohn visited the Mustabbes Valley, on the south side of the watershed from ISM's 2007 base camp.
After acclimatising with the first ascent of Pik Stefan (4,480m, PD), the team climbed the striking tower of Pik Bashnya (4,690m) via the North Ridge at AD, and followed this with the east ridge of a domed peak of light-coloured rock at the head of the glacier. Dom Byely (4,550m) gave another varied and enjoyable AD, with a compact rock tower providing the crux.
An attractive peak to the west was traversed from north to south and featured exposed climbing over the rock tower of Pik Darshana (4,570m, AD). Near the top of the main peak five huge eagles circled the climbers, providing a memorable moment and a name for this summit – Beersh Berkut (4,600m).
September saw a larger team consisting of Patrick Cadell, Adam Dickins, Mark Dillon, Tim Evans, Laura Fletcher, Tom Fox and Paul Wellicome, with guides Adrian Nelhams, Vladimir Komissarov, and Littlejohn visit the Kensu Valley, where the second highest peak in the range, Kensu (4,757m), had first been climbed around 50 years ago by Soviet cartographers. The metal tripod still stands on the summit.
Splitting into three teams, the group made 11 first ascents in seven days, highlights being Sumashedshaya by the South Ridge (4,510m, D+), the East Ridge of Pik Ara (4,595m, AD), the North Ridge of twin-summited Ekilik (4,496m, AD-), and the long and demanding South Ridge of Kensu itself (AD).
Before returning home the group visited the Son Kul Canyon. Outside of the famous big wall climbing found in the Karavshin region of the Pamir Alai, Son Kul is currently Kyrghyzstan’s premier rock climbing destination, having "alpine rock routes" up to 900m.
ISM have put up routes here over the last couple of years and this time added several more up to eight pitches and E2, giving a total of approximately 20 climbs in the canyon to date. It was a perfect conclusion to a most enjoyable trip.
The photograph shows the summit of Beersh Berkut in the Mustabbes Valley. The fine rock pyramid in the left distance is Topoz (4,600m), climbed in 2007 from the far valley by Max Gough, Barney Harford and Pat Littlejohn (AD).