About the expedition

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The expedition in the news

We will have more detailed posts up in the next week or so dealing with our time in Bishkek. In the meantime here are links to some accounts on the expedition from various sources.

A few websites have featured articles on the expedition. UKclimbing published this article, written by John and Robert.

Alpinist mentioned the trip in this article, dealing with mountaineering this year in Kyrgyzstan in general. The Torugart-too has seen a lot of action, evidently the revolution didn't put too many people off!

The BMC published this article on the trip.

Alpkit, a web based company making some really cool products, published an article by Robert on his and John's experience on Mur Samir. Alpkit made Robert's bivvy bag, his sleeping bag, his headtorch and his bright green synthetic jacket.

An account was published in Student newspaper, something that as Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club members we are delighted with as it is good publicity for the club.

As can be seen from these articles there is a great deal of interest in Kyrgyzstan, with many unclimbed peaks and many more unclimbed lines waiting for a first ascent.

Some light entertainment....Robert is putting together a film of the trip. Here is the trailer on youtube.

We would like to thank our sponsors, The Mountaineering Council of ScotlandThe Scottish Mountaineering Trust, The Sang Award and The Fabulous Bakin' Boys.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Packing, panicing and repacking-the expedition kicks off.

Adam and I converged with rucksacks and holdalls on John's flat where we went through our exhaustive kit list. Everything was checked, double checked and packed so that it would take the smallest amount of room possible. This left us with five hold bags and three for hand luggage.  BMI allows two hold bags per person but there is a weight allowance of 20kg per person, shareable between a group. With our climbing hardwear holdall weighing 31kg by itself we knew we would be over.

 And how! The excess baggage for the whole trip was calculated as £900. We sat for a while with our heads in our hands trying not to panic then repacked, leaving out anything that would make basecamp comfortable, cutting the labels from clothing, leaving out that spare pair of boxer shorts….

 Eventually, by taking the lightest gear and the smallest amount of that we got our baggage excess down to around £400 return, an acceptable if still less than ideal price to pay. Sighs of relief all round, we headed home to bed.
 The next day we did all the last minute stuff, checking and checking again so that nothing was left behind. That wet evening Harry Holmes gave us and our gear a lift to Edinburgh Waverley train station where he and Nick DW gave a hand with our bags to the train. We were wished the best of luck and boarded, settling down to a comfortable night's sleep in mine and Adam's case while John was left wandering about looking for a cabin with a working door handle.

 We were woken in London's Euston station by breakfast (orange juice and a croissant) being delivered-quite a luxury! Struggling to carry our bags we made our unsteady way to Heathrow airport via the Piccadilly Line of the London Tube, a fantastically efficient way to get about. With our massive amount of luggage we got some dirty looks as commuters were forced to jump over or walk around our mountain of gear, adding a considerable distance to their commutes.
 In the airport we went for some noodle soup to steady our nerves before the ordeal of checking in and having to pay excess baggage. This went better than expected. Due to the setup of the check in desk and weighing apparatus I found that I could stick my foot under each of the bags as they went on and reduce their perceived weight by a fair margin. The resulting excess of 5kg was ignored by the smiling check in staff and we made ourselves comfortable on the plane for our X hour flight to Bishkek, via Almaty.
 Looking out of the windows as we flew we saw huge linear wildfires as we flew over Russia. I only learned on our return that these had damaged a great deal of property and caused severe localised air pollution.
 Some time during the night we landed at Almaty, Kazakhstan. Here some passengers got off and a few more got on. From the windows we could see the fantastic fleet of former soviet aircraft and some futuristic looking models reminiscent of Naboo starfighters. This and the bizarre high peaked caps of the local officials, arriving by Lada, gave a very surreal air to proceedings.
 We flew over the border to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, landing early in the morning. We were met off the plane by a driver for ITMC, the company we had hired the van from and pushed a loaded trolley of our gear, loading up the large campervan style vehicle they had sent. This delivered us to the Royal guest-house, where after a great deal of bell ringing and door knocking we were shown to our comfortable if hot bedroom. We laid down to sleep and noticed that when switched off the two lights in the room flashed at random intervals of no more than three seconds. With our sheets held over our heads to block out this artificial lightning we slept like logs.

We would like to thank our sponsors, The Mountaineering Council of ScotlandThe Scottish Mountaineering Trust, The Sang Award and The Fabulous Bakin' Boys.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

First ascents

We achieved three first ascents on our expedition-two unclimbed peaks and a new route. We also made an ascent of a route by Andreou and Barrett from their expedition. Here we briefly describe our first three ascents. Names and grades are provisional as we are still mulling these over.

The first  FA was climbed by John Proctor and I at 5034m, we have decided to call it Mur Samir (formerly pk 5008 but we got a more accurate altitude from the GPS device). Exact coordinates of the summit to come very soon. The whole story behind this ascent will be posted in due course, be assured that it is entertaining. We decided on the grade AD for our ascent route and PD for our descent route, the reason for our route choice will be apparent in a future post.

Above....Glacier with Mur Samir in background middle. John on summit of Mur Samir, China in background.

The second peak was climbed by Adam Russell and Robert at 4800m(more accurate height soon) and took a route up a couloir that was a veritable shooting gallery. This we decided to call Pk Karishkur, Kyrgyzy for wolf. It lies towards the North end of the Mustyr ridge. We settled on a grade of PD+ with fairly hefty objective dangers!

Left, Robert on the summit slopes of pk Karishkur, looking worse for wear after two back to back peaks and associated cold, sun and starvation. 
Above, Adam on the summit slopes, grade I/II ice.
Below, Adam on the summit.

Adam and John climbed a long ice route at AD/D from the Teke-Lutor glacier. It provided 700m of ice climbing, mostly grade II but with occasional sections of grade III. However, when they topped out onto what they expected to be the summit they found themselves to be on a subsidiary summit. A ridge traverse was required to reach the true summit, not visible from the glacier below.

                                                           Above, Adam on grade I/II ice.

Three new routes in the 12 days climbing we had budgeted is pretty good especially considering that the weather was not always ideal. To have managed three first ascents of such good quality is success enough, the fantastic cultural experience a massive bonus. Stories and more pictures to follow soon!

We would like to thank our sponsors, The Mountaineering Council of ScotlandThe Scottish Mountaineering Trust, The Sang Award and The Fabulous Bakin' Boys.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Safe return, success and stories.

We are all back in Edinburgh after a day of travel, more details on the expedition's successes to come very soon. We will post with the rough details then have a lot more, exquisitely detailed posts after that chronicling our many adventures in Kyrgyzstan. We all kept diaries on the trip and took plenty of photos/video so expect our EMFF entry very soon!


Thursday, 22 July 2010


After some baggage drama (we were looking at an excess of £900 and financial ruin) we repacked and came in just over the limit. Once at the airport a little bit of foot support/combined tactics took us just 5kg over...which they ignored!

We are in the departure lounge at the moment waiting to board. Getting our baggage from Euston to Heathrow was fun on the tube, incurring much anger from the soulless, sullen eyed and sallow expressioned commuters. Lol.

See you in a month!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Last entry before departure

We are congregating at John's to pack the last of our gear and eat then getting a lift (cheers Harry) to Waverley train station where we board the sleeper for London. We have spent the day buying the last of the freeze dried provisions and double/triple checking lists. Next post will be post trip, wish us luck!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Final preparations

We are all in Edinburgh and catching the sleeper train to London tomorrow. Items are being decided on, if they are deemed esssential weighed and packed; jackets and trousers reproofed and final items (radios, gifts, bribes, batteries, freeze dried meals) bought. We all began taking our chloroquinine last Wednesday and instructions are to take them once a week so tomorrow begins for us with two exceedingly bitter pills. All rabies vaccines (three shots each) have been injected and passports, visas, border permits and the masses of paperwork required are all ready to go. Maps have been printed, annotated and laminated in triplicate.

The psyche, already at astronomical levels, is building even further....

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


As described earlier, the planning has been a lot of work.  We have been working out what has been climbed and what hasn’t, obtaining maps and photos, applying for funding, booking flights and 4WD transport, applying for visas and border permits, assembling medical and toolkits, making sure we have all appropriate gear, (trying to) learn Russian (у меня болитживот!), getting important maps and photos laminated, getting vaccinations, the list goes on…

But most of this work has to take place during the evenings, as weekends need to be left free to climb.  It would be no good turning up in Kyrgyzstan having not climbed for the last 2 months…  So we have been busy at the weekends (and when time allows throughout the week).

Robert has been trail running, mountain biking, swimming and going to the gym in order to raise his general fitness. In addition to this he has been using the bouldering wall at his place of work every lunchtime and climbing outside at every opportunity. A productive few days were spent on Arran, with the A'chir ridge and the South ridge of Cir Mhor being climbed.

Adam enjoyed a week long cragging roadtrip in the Far NorthWest visiting Sheigra, Inbhirpollaidh Rock Gym, Diabaig and Seanna Mheallan amongst others, also bouldering in Rhiconnich, Torridon, Skye and Glen Nevis. Have recently spent 10 days in the Barra Isles of Pabbay and Mingulay on the immaculate Lewisian Gneiss. All the climbing was four star, but stand out routes include: Prophecy of Drowning, Endolphin Rush, Sugar Cane Country, The Raven, Voyage of Faith and Sirens.

John had a productive 4 days on Skye.  The highlight was probably Grand Diedre in Coire a’Ghrunnda.  This route tops out just south of the Thear-Dhublaich gap.  We crossed the gap and continued with King’s Chimney and a traverse of the ridge to Sgurr Dearg, where we rounded off the day with an evening ascent of the Inaccessible Pinnacle and delightful sunset.  Arctic Way on the Rosa Pinnacle on Arran was also a good day, as were trips to Gimmer, Pavey Ark, Raven Crag and Dove Nest Crag in the Lake District.

This post is basically just an excuse for some good photos…

Robert climbing on Cir Mhor, photo by Thomas Henderson Schwartz

John on the Rosa Pinnacle, Isle of Arran. Photo by Jonathan de Leyser.

Adam on Prophecy of Drowning, Pabbay. Photo by Mike Coppock.

I guess a brief introduction to ourselves would also be appropriate. We (John Proctor, Adam Russell and Robert Taylor) are three friends who met through the Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club. John is a scientist, Adam is a gymnastics coach and Robert is a student. We have all climbed in the Alps before but this is our first trip to the Greater Ranges. We are very psyched…

We would like to thank our sponsors, The Mountaineering Council of ScotlandThe Scottish Mountaineering TrustThe Sang Award and The Fabulous Bakin' Boys.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Kyrgyzstan-a brief overview

It is important when visiting another  country to have a basic understanding of its people and customs.

Kyrgyz customs are largely influenced by their nomadic heritage. This is most obvious in the yurta, the tent used by many people to this day. This consists of a wooden skeleton and a felt cover and takes only an hour to set up.
 Kyrgyz music consists of mainly stringed instruments, which I am keen to have a go on!


The first sentence on Kyrgyzstan's 'traditions' part of its wikipedia page reads "Illegal, but still practiced, is the tradition of bride kidnapping". This is nowadays a far less hostile thing than it once was, a throwback now to the days when if you wanted a woman, you stuck her on your horse and made off.

The food of the region is heavy on meat, dairy and bread and light on spices. Each meal ends with the 'omin', a facewashing motion giving thanks to God.
 Kyrgyzstan is well known for its national dish, Beshburmak. This literally means 'five fingers' and this is how it is supposed to be eaten. It consists of noodles, pieces of meat and a spicy sauce. A sheep is butchered and the parts given out according to custom. Honoured guests get the sheep's head and eyeballs, considered a delicacy.


Kymyz (pronounces Kumis) is the national drink of Kyrgyzstan and is a slightly alcoholic drink made of fermented mare's milk.


Kok Boru, literally "Goat snatching" is the most famous game to originate in Kyrgyzstan. Two teams of horsemen seek to snatch a goat from the centre of the field and deliver it to the other team's goals.

Other games are mainly horse based as well. 'Oodarysh' is wrestling on horseback, 'Tyin Enmei' is picking up a coin from the ground while galloping at full speed.

'Kyz Kuumai' is a traditional wedding game where a young man on horseback must catch a girl (also on horseback) and kiss her. Should he catch her (she is given the best horse and a 20m head start) he gets to kiss her, should he fail to pass her by a given point they ride back to the start, the girl whipping the man all the way.

'Er-Siysh' is a bit more aggressive, in that two riders try to pull each other off their horses using pikes.

The Kyrgyz are known as friendly, welcoming people with a rich culture and heritage.

We would like to thank our sponsors, The Mountaineering Council of ScotlandThe Scottish Mountaineering TrustThe Sang Award and The Fabulous Bakin' Boys.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Political situation

  Kyrgyzstan sits between Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. It is one of the most ethnically diverse of the central asian nations and predominantly muslim with a secular constitution.

In April 2010 (a few days after John booked our flights!) protesters against government corruption and closure of media outlets took to the streets of Bishkek, the nations capital. We watched as the President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted, fleeing to his parent's house and finally abroad. At least 88 people died, many more were injured and an interim government was appointed.

The country quietened down, with rioting grinding to a halt but not before some baffling details about Bakiyev emerged. It turned out that he had a private zoo, complete with a pair of snow leopards and two bear cubs. A golden eagle, two falcons, four African peacocks, an ostrich, swans (black and white) and some Indian ducks were amongst the animals seized. Almost immediately afterwards rumours of a pair of spare wives emerged, further fuelling the speculation that the man was utterly off his rocker. On the day he left several million (£200m according to some) vanished from the country's coffers.

Once the smoke had cleared we grew less uneasy about the wisdom of travelling there. Trouble flared up again in June, this time in Osh, over existing ethnic tension between the majority Kyrgys and the minority Uzbeks. Though far from our intended destination we watched with trepidation. These petered out after a few days and the country has been out of the news since then, except for a referendum in June which went ahead without a hitch. Touchwood.

Friday, 2 July 2010


Planning....the behind the scenes work that makes sure an expedition happens. First of all we all needed to apply fo Kyrgyzstan visas, these being elaborate, attractive affairs that now nestle in our passports pages. In addition to this a border permit (very Casablanca) needed to be obtained due to the range's proximity to the Chinese border.
 We have had to obtain various prescriptions and vaccinations, all fairly standard for travelling to third world countries. We have been prescribed acezolamide tablets(Diamox) to treat any severe bouts of altitude sickness and allow us to descend safely. We will not be taking the drug prophylactically, this practice being considered dangerous and unnecessary.
 Maps for the region have been sourced from people who have visited before and ITMC, the company we are hiring transport from. These show three main glaciers with the peaks dotted around and between them. John has gone through expedition reports and worked out which peaks remain unclimbed. Several pictures have also helped, these we found online and were sent be previous expeditions.

We would like to thank our sponsors, The Mountaineering Council of ScotlandThe Scottish Mountaineering TrustThe Sang Award and The Fabulous Bakin' Boys.


 The Torugart-too lie on the border between Kyrgyzstan and China, the main route between the two being the Torugart pass.
 The mountains form a part of the Tien Shan range similar in size to the Mont Blanc massif in the Alps but with greater elevation, most peaks in the Torugart-too reaching 4700-5000m. The Torugart-too range stretches for 35km, not counting it's significant foothills.
The region has seen some expeditions before, mainly from Pat Littlejohn's ISM and several of the area's peaks, including Mustyr (5108m) the highest peak in the region have seen ascents.
The climbing there has been described as extremely good and there are many peaks still unclimbed, with many more routes possible on peaks which have seen only one route of ascent. Kyrgyzstan's recently turbulent politics seem to have put off Western climbers for the last number of years, though Soviet climbers were active nearby before the break up of the USSR.

Above, the Torugart-too range taken by the Lipin expedition. To the left, the summit of Mustyr taken by a Japanese cyclist.

We learned a great deal about the region from expedition reports published in the American Alpine Journal and online.

We would like to thank our sponsors, The Mountaineering Council of Scotland, The Scottish Mountaineering Trust, The Sang Award and The Fabulous Bakin' Boys.