ISM Central Borkoldoy Expedition - September 2005

The central area of the Borkoldoy range in SE Kyrgyzstan is a group of superb ‘alpine’ peaks which are well-defended on every side by chains of slightly lower mountains.

MEMBERS: Pat Littlejohn, Adrian Nelhams, Vladimir Komissarov (guides), Ben Box, Dr Jane Whitmore, James Bruton, Peter Kemble, Bill Thompson, Mark Samuels.

The central area of the Borkoldoy range in SE Kyrgyzstan is a group of superb ‘alpine’ peaks which are well-defended on every side by chains of slightly lower mountains. It has been travelled by a few trekking groups in recent years but the only known mountaineering expeditions were an attempt by a Russian team on the highest peak (5171m) in 2003, and the ISM expedition of 2004.

In '04 we had to work hard to re-open an old geologists' track to access the area by 6wd vehicle. This year we were pleased to find our work intact and were able to quickly reach the broad river delta which is easily driveable for 20km to base camp at 3570m. From here glaciers radiate like spokes of a wheel, around 8 of them being within easy walking distance. As each is surrounded by great peaks this is an exceptional expedition venue.

An ABC was set up at 4240m on Ilbirs Glacier West. Nelhams, Thompson and Samuels climbed the north ridge of the big peak on the L side of the glacier - Pik Tansovsitsa (4911m, AD) while higher up the glacier Littlejohn, Whitmore, Box & Bruton made several attempts and finally succeeded on the west ridge of Alpinistka (4959m, D). After a spell of rock climbing on the 150m limestone crag above BC, Nelhams' team, with Komissarov and Kemble, turned their attention to the previously untouched 'Hidden' glacier north of BC. Over the following days they climbed 4 fine peaks, the highest and most difficult being Pik Koldunia (4895m) by the S Ridge at AD+.

The main objective for Littlejohn's team was Pk 5171m, where he, Bruton & Box had been turned back at 5000m on the E ridge the previous year. This year in better snow conditions they were able to try the snowy NE flank, picking the safest line through big seracs. The S ridge was gained at 5000m and followed on perfect névé to the summit. Though very arduous the route was technically straightforward at PD+. As the highest peak in the range it was given the name of Pik Borkoldoy. Clear weather on the summit gave stunning views of the West Kokshal-Too and the unexplored peaks in the eastern sector of the Borkoldoy, some of which look very inviting.

The trip was rounded off with a brief stay at Lake Issyk-Kul, where the swimming was still found to be pleasant in late September and our stone-built hotel gave good training for keen rock climbers in the team!

Pat Littlejohn

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