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  2004 Expedition to Kunlun Shan: Update 7


Update August 7:  There was a bit of excitement around camp today as several parties readied themselves for a carry up to 16, 800 feet.  Knowing that the glacier (named Dr. Seuss) comes down so far will make the adventure of route finding a little more exciting.

Ben, Dale, Gerard, and I took a carry up to the tow of the glacier and then split up for more exploration.  Dale and Ben headed up the left (SW) side of Dr. Seuss, while Gerard and I climbed the ridge opposite.

The ridge is comprised of broken rock but we managed to get to 19,000 feet where we could look at the north east and see the 3 peaks we can see from base camp: leftie, the Matterhorn and Nevis.  All names subject to change upon summitting!

We could not retreat the way we came, so we scrambled down 2,000 feet of scree and popped out where yesterday’s reconnaissance ended: the perfect place for our next camp!

-Randall

August 8:  Today most people made their 1st carry up to high camp.  There was some debate over whether to do carries or work alpine style but as we need to acclimatize anyway, carries seem ideal.

Brook, Karen, Toma and Trevor got an early start and explored past high camp along the lateral moraine of Dr. Seuss.  They made it up over 19,000 feet and had great views of all 3 summits and potential routes. 

Ben, Dale and I had a late start and were last to arrive back at base camp.  Toma met us and informed us that the chaos had broken loose again and this time our camp staff had been drinking for hours and had a mutiny in hand for me as expedition leader. 

After putting myself in the most apologetic mood I could find, I wandered over to the nest tent to be faced with 3 charges…. using the ---- word in the morning, having a hard face since arriving in base camp and being a dictator when it came to trash blowing around base camp.

Faced with 3 highly intoxicated people, we were basically held hostage by our own crew.  The verdict was that I would apologize and that we would collectively pay “tips” of $100 each for a ransom of $900 just to ensure that the cook, driver and translator did not run off with our vehicle in the morning…although several members were of the opinion that we did not need a cook, driver or translator anymore.  In the end the money was not accepted and we were able to come to peaceful terms….

-Randall

Addendum: Toma and Brook contributed by drinking late into the night until the translator’s head hit the table and they knew we would be on cordial terms the next day.

August 10: Today is Brook’s birthday (27) and to mark the occasion the 3 musketeers, Trevor, Brook and I left camp at 6 AM in the most bitter cold conditions we had seen yet.  So glad I carried the warmest stuff to the cash last night.  Gus drove us to the base of the mountains to our south and the 3 of us set off for the summit from 14,000 feet.  The climb was cold in the beginning as we were shrouded in the previous nights snow clouds.  We couldn’t see but 100 meters ahead or behind.  The 1st half of the climb was spent with me setting the pace, with Trevor behind and birthday boy in tow.  As we approached 1,000 feet from the summit the skies began to clear, revealing amazing views in every direction.  As we glanced back towards base camp, we were captivated by the view of the 3 mountains we are to climb in the coming weeks…simply magnificent!  Brook now took the reigns for the final rush.  The last sections of the ridge did not give way easily as we worked hard for the finish.  We summited just under 4 ½ hours from the start…better than 1,000 feet per hour pace.  Adding to the celebration was the rest of the team at base camp who we had on radio…they could barely see us with binoculars.  The descent was not easy given the route we chose but we arrived back at base camp to cheers and congratulations some 8 hours after we left.  Happy Birthday Brook!

-Toma

August 10: Today is Brook’s birthday (27) and to mark the occasion the 3 musketeers, Trevor, Brook and I left camp at 6 AM in the most bitter cold conditions we had seen yet.  So glad I carried the warmest stuff to the cash last night.  Gus drove us to the base of the mountains to our south and the 3 of us set off for the summit from 14,000 feet.  The climb was cold in the beginning as we were shrouded in the previous nights snow clouds.  We couldn’t see but 100 meters ahead or behind.  The 1st half of the climb was spent with me setting the pace, with Trevor behind and birthday boy in tow.  As we approached 1,000 feet from the summit the skies began to clear, revealing amazing views in every direction.  As we glanced back towards base camp, we were captivated by the view of the 3 mountains we are to climb in the coming weeks…simply magnificent!  Brook now took the reigns for the final rush.  The last sections of the ridge did not give way easily as we worked hard for the finish.  We summited just under 4 ½ hours from the start…better than 1,000 feet per hour pace.  Adding to the celebration was the rest of the team at base camp who we had on radio…they could barely see us with binoculars.  The descent was not easy given the route we chose but we arrived back at base camp to cheers and congratulations some 8 hours after we left.  Happy Birthday Brook!

-Toma

Dispatches

 

As last minute packing and preparations are underway in London, Tokyo, Anchorage, California, Colorado, and Connecticut, team members are getting ready to fly to Kashgar via Beijing and Urumqi, arriving on 25 and 26 July.  After final preparations in Kashgar, our convoy of three Toyota Landcruisers and one 6x6 rugged military vehicle will head southeast on the Silk Road towards Yecheng. 

From there we will head south onto the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, through Mazar, to our last outpost of civilization in the military village of Dahongliutan.  We expect to pass through on 01 August, assuming there are no issues with our military permits, and no vehicle trouble on the climbs through the 5000m passes of the Kunlun West.

Last minute information is trickling in from Kashgar… A Japanese expedition just came back after an unsuccessful attempt on Aksai Chin I, which had an unconfirmed summit by the Japanese in 1997.  They report that the military road we hope to follow does indeed exist, and though in rough shape, should get us within 10km of Base Camp.  By the time we set up Base Camp, we expect to have been on the road for five or six days.

Armed with coordinates and advice from previous expeditions, we will have to take our chances discovering the differences between the maps and the actual terrain. Thin blue hairlines on the map can easily turn out to be impassable glacial runoff. The maps also neglect to indicate the difference between surfaces such as mud and quicksand, both of which will eagerly swallow any vehicle up to its axles.

While exploring the unknown peaks of the Aksai Chin West, the team will have limited contact with the outside world.  A decision was made to leave the laptop behind, so while there will be no live coverage with photos and video, we will be sending messages from our Iridium satellite phone for text coverage right here on EverestNews.com

 

 

2004 Expedition to Kunlun Shan

It is with intrepid spirit of adventure and respect that the Kunlun 2004 expedition is being planned.  What started out as a harebrained idea discussed over breakfast in the English Lakes will become a reality when we drive across the edge of the Taklimakan Desert to be dropped off for almost a month's worth of unsupported exploration.

For nearly a year, we have been researching the possibilities of an expedition to more remote regions of the world to summit unclimbed peaks. Research has shown that there are 230 peaks over 6000m in the Kunlun Shan and that fewer than 50 of those have ever been climbed!

The goal of the Kunlun 2004 expedition is to explore several unknown peaks of the Aksai Chin plateau with the motives of first ascents of 6000m peaks and scientific research in the form of geological survey data collection.

After purchasing several political maps of Xinjiang Province, eventually the correct aviation charts for the area were found. These Operational Navigation Charts (ONC's) are at a scale of 1:500,000, and Tactical Pilotage Charts in the same series are at 1:250,000. Though one would never consider such a scale for something like Denali or Rainier, it the best information that is publicly available for such an unexplored region. The charts are quite detailed but meant for aircraft flying over the region rather than mountaineers on the ground. As they are based entirely on satellite data, they have disclaimers that peak heights may be off by as much as 1000 feet!

Our project is original because of our climbing style, and the remoteness of the goal. We will drive overland nearly 1000km from the nearest airport in Kashgar, and once we are dropped off at base camp, we will be completely unsupported for nearly three weeks. Because of the altitude and isolation, there are no options of retreat, and though we will have communications, any rescue would be nearly a week away.

 
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