Fly to: Almaty Kazakhstan
Internal Transfer: Almaty (Kazakhstan) to Karakol (Kyrgyzstan) in minibus (9hrs 30mins)
Karakol, Kyrgyzstan - Inylchek (9hrs) in an Ex-Soviet off road Military Truck
Ex-Soviet military helicopter flight up the Inylchek glacier (35mins)
Visa required: Yes if British for both Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan
Currency:Tenge (Kazakhstan) & Som (Kyrgyzstan)
Time Zone:+6hrs GMT
Day 17, 04/08/08: Tien Shan
We awoke at 3:45am & started our regime of snow melting; I rushed out of the tent urgently needing a wee & got absolutely blasted by the freezing blizzard conditions - It certainly adds a new dimension to an abrasive skin exfoliate! Oh how I long for those bombay-zips!
The wind gusts were extreme (yep still talking about the weather) & I could hardly see my way back to the tent. In my mind there wasn't an ounce, hint or shadow of a doubt that we would be making a summit attempt today!
Our guide revised the set-off time by an hour allowing for another weather check; the weather was appalling & I was hoping our guide's decision wasn't going to be influenced by heuristics. Eventually, after much deliberation the summit bid was postponed until tomorrow.
During the early afternoon the weather broke slightly (though still snowing & extremely windy) so a few of us harnessed up to try & gain some more height to further aid our acclimatization. Heavy snow fall meant the first section (before the fixed lines) involved punching deep into the snow - tough on the lungs! One of the guys had to turn back as he'd lost all feeling in his feet (there have been a lot of complaints about those double purple Boreal boots); with the snow being so deep the temperature on the ground was bitter. Three of us continued up the fixed ropes and onto a massively exposed arete (or areeeeet, as I keep calling it!). It was here that the guide asked, 'if the weather is like this tomorrow will you 3 still be prepared to go for the summit?' After a glance up at the 1st huge vertical ice/rock wall & a big gulp the answer was of course, 'yes, we're going to do this' - a fool & their heuristics! The climb to the arete took us to approx 5800m, hmmm only a small 400m off the summit! (Though that 400m does seem to involve some technical; vertical & heavily exposed climbing). When I reached our tent I had great concerns as one team member had only single skinned Boreal boots; there was a very real risk of them developing severe frostbite.