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  2004 Expedition to Kunlun Shan: Update 5

Update - Sunday 1 August - Nothing like a rough day at 16,000 feet, especially after a close call on water the night before.  Everyone slept in, and aside from the ubiquitous headaches, all felt better.  As a plan of attack materialized, it became clear that we would need another day before attempting base camp at all.  The rest was interrupted by unrest from the drivers.  Two wanted to continue the journey, and the drivers were looking for bribes.  It quickly became clear that the drivers would get their way, as one started emptying his land cruiser of all expedition gear. 

            We asked for 30 minutes to come up with a plan and to see if we could pin point the mystery peak our selves.  The drivers nixed that plan, and after a bit of yelling from both sides, we broke camp and headed back to the road before we were abandoned. 

The drive back to Dahongliutan was dusty and bone shattering on the dry roads.  The highlight was seeing beautiful peaks to the north, where they shone like pyramids at 22,000 feet.  We rolled onto town to catch the truck and feed ourselves, at the last outpost this side of Tibet.  Our cook was sent in to assist with dinner and after we supplied our own cooking gas, the process for preparing dinner for 18 commenced.  We thought soon the chickens would be beheaded with a cleaver would be exciting, but we were wrong.  The excitement was when Jimmy Wong, our liaison officer, picked up the cleaver and made a run for Johan. I disarmed Jimmy with the knife before he could throw it, and someone managed to take away the rock he picked up next.  We separated the two and managed a nice meal be fore headed toward the peaks.  One last bribe of 1,100 RMB and we were on our way.  We followed the West Side of the valley and set up base camp there.  Forming a fire line, we unloaded the truck and watched as it sped away into the darkness with our money.  Tents were set up and a path to the stream was found.  I shook hands with Johan, and we all looked forward to making our new base camp home.  What a long day! – Randall. 

Monday 2 August – Last nigh did not end so peacefully as hoped.  After Johan was all set to leave, none of the drivers would take him back to Kashgar.  Scared out of their wits, they made up feeble excuses like poor headlights and a rattling radiator so they could not drive.  Johan flashed his own knife, screaming about how Jimmy would get 7 years for armed assault when they got back toe Kashgar.  Our driver then threw the knife into the darkness.  Johan threatened to walk back to town and take care of Jimmy, if one of the drivers did not take him away.  “ I am leaving now…do not make me walk. I am not a coward, I will wake him up before I kill him!”  Johan slept in on e land cruiser; Dale and Thoma kept watch in the other.  In the morning Johan and the remaining driver were gone.  We were finally free from the psychotic adventures of our ground crew.   Celebratory fireworks from Akram, our translator, then drew us from our tents.  – Randall

Tuesday 3 Aug – Today we decided to start moving base camp farther up the valley.  Exploration yesterday showed that the other side of the valley Alluvial Fan reaches more than a kilometer further upstream, and that the land cruiser should be able to make it most of the way.

            We started with carries and our driver Tom made it right down next to the river on his first try.  After a little trouble finding a way back up through the sandy surface, Tom made it back down to Base Camp 1.  Two more runs in the truck tomorrow, and a few more carries to shift cam from 14, 300 feet to 14,800 feet.  Everybody is healthy and happy. – Randall. 




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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