About the expedition

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.