UCL Tian-Shan Kyrgyzstan Expedition (2003)


Mountaineering and attempted first-ascents in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan


Whilst at university in 2003, myself and two friends travelled to the Kyrgyz Tien-Shan mountains. We hiked up and camped on the Inylchek Glacier at the base of Khan Tengri (6,995m) where we made two attempts on a first British ascent of Peak Gorky (6,050m).

This was my first adventure. My first expedition, my first time outside of Europe and only the third time I’d put on a pair of crampons. It was a complete failure.

We didn’t summit any mountains – stopped, instead, by food poisoning, a temperamental stove and a large lump of ice in the wrong place. We almost died on several occasions – a night spent sitting upright on a 45-degree snow slope, a slip on a rather steep bit of ice and a glissade that went horribly wrong. And we got our food calculations a wee bit wrong to the extent that I had to use my pen knife to divide and share a last remaining boiled sweet on our way to base camp.

In short, it was fantastic.

Those four weeks in the Tien Shan mountains remain some of the best of my life and there is little doubt that I would not be here today, doing what I’m doing now if it was not for this one eye opening trip.

My continued thanks go to UCL Expedition & Travel Committee for giving us the faith and support to take this first, important step.

Diaries from the Mountains

A series of journal entries that I wrote at the time can be found on the travel website Igo Ugo.

  1. Good Morning Kyrgyzstan! – An overview of the whole trip
  2. Kyrgyz Cowboy to the Rescue – A raging glacial river blocks our path until a local horseman comes to our aid
  3. The Death Slide – A terrifying night spent on a tiny ledge dug into the snow
  4. Return to Peak Gorky – A rematch with our 6,000-metre target

Browse all of the diaries here.

The expedition also features in the following posts:

  1. 11 Memorable Bivi Spots
  2. Top 10 Expedition Dramas
  3. Some Touching Expedition Memories
  4. Freedom (Or: Why cycling to work is the answer to all of your worries)
  5. How To: Climb An Unclimbed Mountain
  6. Top 10 Expedition Highs (and Lows)
  7. 5 Tips on Fundraising (RGS Explore Conference Special)

Expedition Report

Below is the report that I wrote immediately proceeding the expedition. You can view the original report (more content, nicer layout) in the window below or download the PDF.