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  2004 Expedition to Kunlun Shan: Update 4

Update July 30: Expecting a 3 hour drive to Dahong-Liutan.  After 3 hours of bumpy roads and a 5,000 meter pass we had barely made it half way to Xaidulla.  Along the way we saw feral camels, horses and yaks, “referred to by Trevor as mountain cows”.  At Xaidulla we waited as the drivers repaired fuel filters and brake cylinders and we brought out the last of the town naan for road snacks.  Three hours more of driving brought us to a nice grassy valley a few kilometers short of Dahong-Liutan where we quickly set up camp before dark and the incoming rainstorm.  At just over 13,000 feet we celebrated being out of the trucks by flying kites and tossing the Frisbee with the drivers.  The cook made his first meal of ramen noodles and potatoes, apologizing for the simplicity.  Later that night for reasons still unknown, our liaison officer Jimmy Wong began provoking the cooks and the drivers telling them they were in for great danger at Ye-Ching.  He told them to expect wolves, horribly cold weather and raging rivers along the way. -Brook

July 31: By morning the drivers were reluctant to go any further.  Only after hours of convincing by Randall that safety was our top priority were they willing to carry on.  We drove out of Dahong-Liutan over another 5,000 meter pass and on to the Kunlun high desert plateau.  After missing our military access road turn off we spent several hours scouting off road in an attempt to short cut and intersect the road.  As the sun was getting lower in the sky we carried on in search of our lake passing nothing but dried up river beds along the way.  Just as we began entertaining the possibility that our lake had completely dried up appeared a mystical green lake much larger then any of us had envisioned.  Unfortunately we quickly discovered the lake to be brackish and were forced to carry on in search of a fresh water stream feeding into the lake.  After another hour of brutal driving, making it 10 for the day, we found a tiny stream no more than 6 inches across at its widest point.  Again we quickly set up camp in the dark with strong winds filling our gear with a super fine dust.  We dammed up the stream to allow enough water to fill our kettles and bottles.  Most members of the team, including the cook and drivers were feeling ill from the altitude…having gone from 13,000 feet to over 15, 500 feet in just 1 day.  The team went to bed after another makeshift meal…this one including canned fish and eggplant.  Everyone was in dire need of a rest day! -Brook




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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