A team of four’s ski touring adventure into the central Tien Shan mountains, on the search for unexplored glaciers and peaks.
Kyrgyzstan. A land of contrasts, of extreme juxtaposition of colour and terrain. Large lakes next to sharp mountains, extensions of grassland rub up against dry and arid plateaux. Due to its continental climate, the temperatures also vary substantially, with very warm days and extremely cold nights. These sharp contrasts are not limited to the countryside, as the people of this small central Asian country also show a mix of different customs and cultures that make it so special. The influence of both Turkic culture and islam, the Soviet Union, and traditional nomadic values have all led to an extremely interesting and surprising nation that defies ones expectations again and again. It is also home of some of the most beautifull mountains on the planet, and for better or worse, some of the less well known. Due to the existence of the Soviet Union these peaks have long been out of bounds for western climbers. Those that did venture to the Tien Shan, together with the Russians that had easier access, almost always headed for the hard pitches of the central Tien Shan or the Pamirs. Due to this interest in putting up ever harder lines, many of the less well known ranges are still to be discovered. Flicking through any guidebook, the description of many of the mountain ranges finish with: contains many unclimbed peaks!
I’d had the desire to explore the Kyrgyz mountains for many years, ever since before my first trip there in 2014. The possibility of actually making some first ascents seemed too tantalising to ever be a reality. But knowing that there are summits that remain to be discovered in the world, made me want to at least try and give it a go. So with a last-minute rush, and the help of Thomas and Severine I filled out the form to ask for sponsorship from expé.com, an outdoors sale company, and hoped for the best (this was in February 2015). Several weeks later, we had our reply. We were off to Kyrgyzstan!
So what were the main objectives of the expedition? Rather than focus of the tallest, already climbed summits of the country, we wanted to aim for first ascents in the 4000 m to 5000 m range, following the furthest possible valleys. To do so we would be using a ski touring approach and use sledges to carry our gear between intermediate campsites. The trip would last about a month, as that would be the upper limit for which we could easily carry enough supplies. We dreamed to explore, without knowing what would be hidden behind the next pass. The trip would take place some time between March and April 2016.
Having decided that we needed four team members to accomplish the task, and with Thomas finally not being able to participate, we needed to find two new team mates. These ended up being Arnaud, who contacted us upon seeing us online, and Nico, a friend of Sev’s who I’d met climbing Mont Blanc. Together we would spend the next few months organising equipment, insurances and all the rest of essential preparatives needed to safely make such a trip.
« американский? (amerikanskiy ?)
« нет, Французский, испанский! » (Niet, Frantsuzskiy, ispanskiy!)
« турист? » (turist ?)
«да, альпинист” » (da, al’pinist)
Time and again, during our first trip, we would make ourselves undertsood in the taxi or marshutka. Therefore, taking into account that we would be touring the land of the киргизский (kirgizskiy) it should be fitting we also, would be kirgski.
Over the next few posts I will be uploading a short overview of the expedition!
The main expedition webside can be found here at https://kirgski.wordpress.com. It’s in french, but we are still uploading interesting stuff!
There is also information about each year’s bourse expé teams at bourses-expé.com. Go and check it out! I’m personally interested in the kayak trip in Canada and the biking across Tibet!
And you can see a short video by France 3 Alpes about the sponsorship, where I discuss our project, here.