More British first ascents in unexplored Tien Shan

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 20/09/2011
Pik Laetitia (left) from south west. Alex Brighton

Approved by the BMC and with the support of an MEF grant, Alex Brighton and Richard Tremellen made two fine first ascents in Kyrgyzstan's Djangart region of the Tien Shan.

In common with this year's Anglo-Danish expedition, the two British climbers, both working at Oundle School, were inspired to visit this alpine area after reading the comprehensive report produced by the Anglo-American team that climbed three new peaks here in 2010.

The Djangart region has over a dozen unclimbed peaks above 5,000m and countless others over 4,700m, including the highest, the unnamed Pik 5,318m.

An inability to arrange horses meant that the pair was forced to establish base camp in the Kaichi Valley, before reaching the Djangart Pass that must be crossed to access the main Djangart Valley.

This added at least five hours to each walk-in and would limit the amount of climbing the pair could do. However, on the plus side, fitness improved beyond all expectations.

With the highest peak their main goal, Brighton and Tremellen first climbed Pik 4,783m immediately to the west of 5,318m, hoping to gain good views of a possible line of ascent on the West Face to North Ridge of the higher peak.

The pair climbed a wide couloir on the west flank of Pik 4,561m (without going to its top) to reach the crest of the North Ridge of 4,783m, then followed this south in a fine position, until soft snow forced a bivouac several hundred metres short of the summit.

An hour or two next morning took them over mixed ground and a final corniced crest to the summit, which they christened Pik Emma (AD). They descended a dangerous gully on the West Face.

Closer to base camp lay a striking peak of c4,940m, west of the Djangart. Attempting a one-day push via the South West Couloir and North West Face, the pair met soft snow on the summit structure and were eventually forced to bivouac with no gear at 4,650m.

They'd hoped to complete the ascent next morning but a miserable night-time snow storm forced descent.

A second attempt proved successful. Re-climbing the couloir and its 70m steep (70°) exit traverse, took them to a step of sound rock, which was overcome at UIAA III/IV. The final 200m proved the sting in the tail, difficult mixed terrain at Scottish 5 and 80°.

The peak was name Laetitia, and the route The Phoenix (1,300m: TD), due to it being completed after an initial failure.

In between these two attempts they returned to the Djangart Valley. It took two days to reach the west side of Pik 5,318m via the tortuous moraines of the N1 Glacier. Their bivouac low on the mountain turned into a prolonged session, as a storm moved in and snow fell for 36 hours.

On the fourth day they moved easily up a rock rib to 4,750m before a 60m snow slope separated them from another safe rib. A tentative step onto the snow produced a resounding crack. The avalanche danger was far too great to continue, and, reluctantly, the pair retreated.

In their opinion Pik 5,318m is an achievable objective: the climbing as far as the high point had not been difficult, and it appeared, given good conditions, to be relatively straightforward above.

Early in the trip, the two climbers realised that what they had embarked upon was very different from any mountaineering either had done before. "The unknown presented as much of a challenge as anything we would face on the mountains".
 



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Anonymous User
02/09/2012
Hi guys just read your expedition piece ..i was in the area in 2004 but only had russian maps and no satalite imagery etc etc...do you have the exact gps coordinates for your area so i can compare and look at what you guys got climbed...hoping to make your AAC lecture 14th November if i can get down from Sheffield Regards Graham Sutton

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