Lyman Spitzer Award recipient Scott Decapio offers this brief write-up of a highly successful trip to the China/Kyrgyzstan border. Read on for several amazing FA's!
Scott Decapio (USA) and Sean Isaac (Canada), spent the month of July 2001 exploring the remote and seldom visited West Kokshaal-Tau range on the border of Kyrgyzstan and China. As far as they know, this was only the second expedition to ever climb in the Komorova Glacier area of this military restricted region. What they discovered was an untouched Chamonix with stunning ice streaked granite walls everywhere. Unlike Chamonix though, there were no crowds, no teleferiques and no mountain side cafes but there was endless unclimbed alpine rock and ice.
They drove from Bishkek (capital of Kyrgyzstan) to the mountains via a pair miniature Russian-made jeeps known as Lada Nivas. After a week of epic travel which included multiple military check posts, 4 foot deep river crossings, and digging the stuck Nivas from muddy bogs, they finally arrived at basecamp near the toe of the Komorova Glacier.
Their original goal was a stellar mixed line on the unclimbed 1400m southeast face of Kizil Asker (5842m); however, almost daily snowstorms kept them from even attempting this objective. Despite abysmal weather, Scott and Sean managed three new ice and mixed lines during their one month stay. Each route was climbed all free and in-a-day without the use of bolts.
As a warm-up climb, they made the first ascent of the east face of Pik Gronky (c.4900m) which was also the second ascent of the mountain. Silent Bob (IV WI4, 700m), began with a 300m strip of grade 4 ice then finished on a 50 degree ice face and elegant snow arete to the summit.
Next, they completed the second ascent of the Ochre Walls via a long ice gully with WI3 bulges and finishing with two stellar mixed pitches of thin ice, naming the creation Beef Cake (IV M5 WI4, 600m).
Finally, they set their eyes on a sub-peak of Pik Unmarked Soldier and an ice line that "one always fantasizes about finding": a 700m ribbon of thin ice enclosed in a narrow granite cleft. At times the ice was only one foot wide and inches thick with splitter cracks to the sides providing bomber protection. Royale with Cheese went at V M6 WI5. They named the virgin peak after our basecamp cook/guide: Pik Mikhail (c.5100m).
This expedition was supported by Polartec Challenge, Mugs Stump Award, AAC Lyman-Spitzer Grant, The Canadian Himalayan Foundation, Black Diamond Equipment, Arc'teryx, Sterling Rope, Kayland Boots, Integral Designs and GU Energy Gel.