Friday, December 11, 2009




Snow Profile

Click on image to enlarge.

My first snow pit of the year!



As U.S. Fulbright Student Scholar, my main funding is from a Fulbright Grant through the United States Department of State. My research is also supported by an American Alpine Club Research Grant and a Nikwax Alpine Bellwether Grant. I have research affiliations with The University of Central Asia and Dr. Sarah Halvorson of The University of Montana. Numerous other companies and organizations have provide invaluable support and assistance.



1. Interdisciplinary Study of Glaciation in the At-Bashy Range
This research is a unique combination of local physical data on climate change, exploratory mountaineering objectives, and a social analysis of climate change knowledge among the semi-nomadic Kyrgyz livestock herders utilizing the range’s high mountain pastures. The social research will be a field Based assessment of traditional knowledge of glaciers and contemporary perspectives of climate change. This research will be conducted in jailoos (summer grazing pastures) and small mountain communities around the At-Bashy Range, a constitute range of the Tien Shan. These communities rely on snow melt and glacial melt to sustain their semi-nomadic, livestock-based livelihoods. Despite numerous studies dramatic decreases in the Tien Shan systematic studies of what local people know and think are lacking from scientific literature. This research will then be paired with historic precipitation and temperature records, satellite imagery analysis and photography to provide an interdisciplinary approach for evaluating climate change. Exploratory mountaineering during the summer of 2010 will allow for detailed observation including collection of photographs and GIS data to enhance the research and highlight the area.

2. Inventory Work
I am organizing an inventory of information including maps, historic records, climate information and photographs of the At-Bashy Range. The entire At-Bashy inventory will be cataloged with The University of Central Asia, the American Alpine Club and several non-governmental organizations for use in future research. I currently in the process of searching across Kyrgyzstan for historic photographs suitable for use in a repeat photography project to complement ongoing investigations based on remote sensing. This work will be across the Tien Shan and will not be limited to the At-Bashy Range. Photographs will be submitted to the Global Photograph Collection at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.

3. Community Involvement
From a personal and professional level I am interested in becoming involved in local organizations and community projects. My current involvement is:

  • Volunteering with The Alpine Fund in Bishkek - a local organization that works to connect local youth and the mountains
  • Teaching avalanche safety classes: Winter recreation is in its infancy here, but developing quite rapidly. I am not interested in the tourism development aspects of this progression, but I am interested in increasing awareness of locals who work as guides. At this time I am planning to spend a couple weeks in Arslanbob, Kyrgyzstan teaching basic avalanche awareness classes to local CBT (community-based tourism guides) that will include terrain management, assessing instability and rescue skills.
  • Collaboration with The Kyrgyzstan Plan to explore ski-touring possibilities and grassroots development of ski lodges in multiple regions in Kyrgyzstan.
  • Volunteering with local and international research institutions and individuals: There are many projects currently ongoing in Kyrgyzstan regarding glaciers and mountain geography. This summer I will be assisting with research regarding biological activity and dust retention on glacial surfaces in Ala-Archa Park.
  • Development of a "Mountains and Glacier program" encouraging interest in geography and the local mountains. I will present the program at elementary schools around Kyrgyzstan including The International School in Bishkek and public schools in At-Bashy and surrounding communities.

4. Contributions
I will be documenting my final inventories, research and expedition reports with The University of Central Asia, The University of Montana, the American Alpine Club library and the National Snow and Ice Data Center. I am also interested in sharing information and increasing general awareness about Kyrgyzstan with the public through the publication of articles in magazines, newspapers and other sources, such as this blog. Although I am most interested in promoting knowledge about the mountain places and people of Kyrgyzstan, I also look forward to sharing information about daily life in Central Asia. On my blog, I will be posting information ranging snow observations to the local gastronomical delights. Following the completion of my research I also expect to submitted articles for publication in scientific journals. Upon return to the states, I will present my work and experiences to whomever is keen to listen.

5. Mountain Goals
From a personal level I am very very excited by all the mountaineering and skiing possibilities that exist in Kyrgyzstan. Some of these excursions may benefit my research specifically and some may be purely recreational. I plan on sharing these adventures through my blog and other alpine related publications.

  • At-Bashy Range Mountaineering. I will be joined by Ben Logan for the summer of 2010 to pursue mountaineering objectives in the At-bashy Range. The range is approximately 120 km long and 30 km wide, with dozens of 3000 and 4000m peaks. The first documented expedition to explore the area was by Pat Littlejohn and a group from the International School of Mountaineering in 2003 (American Alpine Journal, 2003). Since then several other parties have climbed in the area, including repeat trips by Pat Littlejohn and ISM. However, most the range is not well explored and many of the peaks do not have documented ascents. Our multi-month commitment will involve multiple trips. The range and the nomadic nature of the Kyrgyz living around the range allows the opportunity to use small villages and jailoos (summer grazing pastures) as rest and resupply locations. All climbing will be alpine style. Due to the little know nature of the range, it is expected that most ascents will be Class III to Class V, often involving steep snow travel and some glacial travel. More aggressive mountain objectives with harder technical requirements are expected to develop as we learn more about the range The mountain objectives will highlight scientific research that I currently have underway.

6. Language Skills
A personal goal of mine is to develop a working proficiency of the Kyrgyz language and develop a basic knowledge of Russian. I am currently studying Kyrgyz with hopes that by spring I will be able to engage in conversations and communicate my needs.

Monday, December 7, 2009


After three weeks, I am finally starting to get a bit of a grasp on my goals for my time in Kyrgyzstan. I am currently living in Bishkek and just acquired some office space (see above photo) with one of my collaborators, University of Central Asia. I am taking Kyrgyz language classes in the morning. I spend my days getting lost and found again as I make my way around Bishkek in search of historic photographs, old maps and key informants on glaciers and mountains. I have also been making many new friends and getting out experiencing Kyrgyzstan (check out the photographs). It is amazing how quickly I have already developed a sense of community. The first snows are settling in the mountains and I am looking forward to skiing. In the near future you can expect to see a more outlined plan for my time here.



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