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.
- Good Morning Kyrgyzstan! – An overview of the whole trip
- Kyrgyz Cowboy to the Rescue – A raging glacial river blocks our path until a local horseman comes to our aid
- The Death Slide – A terrifying night spent on a tiny ledge dug into the snow
- Return to Peak Gorky – A rematch with our 6,000-metre target
The expedition also features in the following posts:
- 11 Memorable Bivi Spots
- Top 10 Expedition Dramas
- Some Touching Expedition Memories
- Freedom (Or: Why cycling to work is the answer to all of your worries)
- How To: Climb An Unclimbed Mountain
- Top 10 Expedition Highs (and Lows)
- 5 Tips on Fundraising (RGS Explore Conference Special)
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.
A team of three travelled to the Tien-Shan (Tian-Shan) mountains of Kyrgyzstan, hiking up the Inylchek Valley to establish a base camp on the northern side of the Inylchek Glacier close to Khan Tengri (6,995m). Two unsuccessful attempts were made at the first ascent of Peak Gorky (6,050m).
Our expedition took place between July 14th and August 12th of the year 2003. The team comprised three young climbers, two of which were undergrads at University College London (UCL) and were awarded a grant by the ‘UCL Expedition Committee’.
This report contains details of our team’s attempts to climb Maksima Gor’Kogo Peak (Peak Gorky, 6050m) via its southern ridge. There are also detailed notes on our trek into the Central Tien-Shan, where Peak Gorky is to be found, our equipment and our accounts.
Although we were unsuccessful in summiting we feel that our efforts weren’t without merit, and we all had a grand adventure. We hope you enjoy this report.
Thom Allen, Tim Moss, Ben Trinder
The Tien-Shan mountain-range is found in the eastern most point of Kyrgyzstan (the Kyrgyz-Republic). Kyrgyzstan itself is located in Central Asia and borders Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. It is a small country, covering only 200 km2 of land, with an average altitude of 2,500m.
We flew to Bishkek (Frunze airport) and made our away across the north of the country, to Karakol. We were then driven into the mountains in a hired 4×4 to the end of the last road. At this point we had to start trekking, up a huge glacial valley and onto the mammoth South Engilchek Glacier, for 5 days. Our destination was an organised based camp at the base of the Tengri-Too Range in the heart of the Central Tien-Shan. For more information on our journey see ‘The Diary’ below.
- Explore remote regions
- Possible first British ascents
- Mountaineering experience
- Experience different culture first hand
Peak Gorky (6,050m)
A stunning pyramidal peak with steep slopes rising just over two thousand metres from the northern edge of the South Engilchek Glacier. It is part of the ‘Tengri-Too’ range and the second summit due west of Khan-Tengri. Its southern face is split by a steep ridge that forms an obvious line to the summit. As soon as we saw peak Gorky we knew it would become our objective.