Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Walk

The past weeks have passed quickly. With the departure of Dr. Sarah Halvorson, I accepted a new companion, Ben Logan. He will be joining me for the summer as my mountain partner. His presence will facilitate the ability to travel freely and safely throughout the At-Bashy Range and the country. Since his arrival we spent a few days rock climbing at Chong Kurchak, a canyon outside of Bishkek before heading to Ala-Archa National Park for a week. The referendum and a venomous snake bite (foreign country, unknown snake species… who wouldn’t want to pick it up?) prevented me from joining Ben and some friends on a climb of Corona Peak. My hand has resumed a normal size and the referendum passed with an overwhelming majority so we were able to spend the past week climbing, brushing up on our crevasse rescue skills and helping with the Intern Training with the Alpine Fund.

Next up, we are headed south to the At-Bashy Range. On foot we will walk the length of the range on the high and remote Ak Say Valley which holds some of the most remote herding pastures in Kyrgyzstan. I have travelled on the northern side of the range, but am looking forward to the adventure of the unknown.

Intern Training Trip

The Alpine Fund, a non profit I have been volunteering with throughout the year, organized a two day Intern training trip to the Ak Say Glacier in Ala Archa National Park. Ala Archa is located just an hour south of Bishkek in the Kyrgyz Ala-Too Mountains and is Kyrgyzstan’s most accessible and popular hiking and mountaineering location. The Alpine Fund works to promote youth education and connect local disadvantaged youth with the mountains in Kyrgyzstan.

Volunteers Maik, Anuska and Margreet acted in place of unassuming tourists while Salavat and interns Abdybek and Aidylet acted as the guides and porters. The group was rounded out by David, Ben and myself (Ann) who were already spending the week mountaineering in Ala Archa. Numerous requests are directed towards the Alpine Fund regarding guiding and hiking especially around the Bishkek area. The purpose of the trip was to provide interns with the necessary skills to fulfill basic requirements if they wish to pick up additional employment through future inquiries.

We selected the Ak Say Glacier trail for the training trip as it is the most popular destination in the park and a likely trail for future trips. The trail to Ratsek Hut and the Ak Say Glacier winds up through a beautiful green valley bypassing a large waterfall before climbing straight up a glacier moraine for several hundred meters to series of small flat benches just above the tongue of the Ak Say Glacier at 3200m (10,560 ft).

Our hike up went smoothly, light summer clouds kept the temperatures pleasantly cool. Abdybek and Aidylet hoofed up a majority of the weight in their packs refusing to redistribute any weight. We stopped near the large waterfall to enjoy a hot lunch of noodles and tea which was not disrupted even by stove malfunctions and a small gas explosion. With full bellies we scrambled our way up the steep scree of the glacier moraine for another hour and a half.

We set up camp just beyond the Ratsek hut, pitching our tents beneath the incredible collection ice glazed summits. Even though temperatures in Bishkek have been sweltering hot, in the mountains nighttime temperatures had been dropping below freezing. The interns prepared an incredible dinner of gretchka and veggies as a small rain squall moved through. The weather cleared for dinner. After eating everyone’s gazes turned skyward to witness the sunset. Peachy clouds were set alight against a deep blue sky as each peak took on a fiery pink alpine glow that grew more intense by the moment.

As darkness fell everyone retired to their tents. Morning came faster for those that stayed warm through the night, a few had underestimated the amount of clothing to bring. A hot breakfast and tea cheered us all up in the morning. Half of the group ascended a ridge of Uchitel Peak while other relaxed in camp before reconvening for lunch and descending back to the trailhead. Beyond just being plain fun, the weekend was good preparation for the interns for mountain adventures and potential future work as guides and porters.

Descending Teke-Tor after an unsuccessful summit attempt.

Korona Peak (4860m) viewed from Teketor