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 18, 05/08/08: Tien Shan
Up at 4:10am melting water; still a lot of spin drift about & it's pretty windy but we've decided we're going to give the summit a shot (today is our last spare day so it was an all or nothing decision). By the time we were ready to leave camp the wind had cleared & the sun was rising; it was looking like potentially a clear day. The climb was a hard slog, due solely to the altitude, 4 steps & you were left completely breathless.
We crossed an amazing arete which I loved, a few members of the group however seemed to struggle with this; there were also mixed sections of vertical ice/rock which were very exposed. One rock/ice section was an absolute killer, it went on & on; my legs were trembling (Elvis style) and I was taking all of my body weight on my jumar & ice axe. In places it seemed to require some pretty technical maneuvers & having short legs was clearly working against me! When I reached the top of the wall my whole body was shaking; well impressed for hauling myself up there but didn't quite know whether to laugh or cry because I knew I'd have to get back down!
As I continued onto another vertical rock climb my goggles steamed up, I removed them & as I was looking down wiping them a huge boulder came crashing down whacking through my backpack. Thank goodness for steamy goggles otherwise that would have been my head! I was a little stunned but ok, I heard shouts from below checking my status; the rock had bounced off me & had hit one of the others' in the leg. The climbing continued to be grueling and there was no let-up in the gradient of the slope. The guy in front of me was getting slower & slower so eventually I made the call to pass him on the rope. As I passed him I said, 'Hey, would you be able to pass me my water bottle?' as I turned back to him it was like a scene from the exorcist - projectile vomit everywhere, even pouring out of his nose! Damn & I was so looking forward to that dehydrated chicken korma tonight! He said afterwards that I'd made him smile by saying, 'you know I'm not actually that thirsty anymore' & waltzed off up my rope.
I was 2nd to the summit and man what a summit it was! A gorgeous, gorgeous blue sky day with loads of pointy jagged white peaks. Strangely I had quite an emotional moment when I stepped onto the plateau like I'd achieved this massive feat, 100% by myself for myself - it was an amazing buzz that sent shivers down my spine. We bummed around taking photos, reliving the dramas of the vertical sections for 2 hours before we were then joined by the rest of the team.
1st time on this trip that the whole team has successfully reached the summit - awesome, good show guys; oh yeah and Giraffie also made the summit!
After phoning a friend, myself & another guy headed down first off the summit; one word describes it...'Grueling'. The ropes were too thick & too frozen to fit through my belay plate so I borrowed my compadres figure of 8. I was only on my 2nd abseil down when I dropped it...sh*t! It hit the snow right in front of me & then in slow motion gained momentum as it tinkered its way off the side of the mountain. F*ck I couldn't believe I'd just done something so damn stupid.
The majority of the descent to camp 2 was on abseil so it wasn't too demanding physically. The section down to camp 2 was off-rope & I was really enjoying myself so I said, 'I'll go first' & off I went attempting a mini heel-in run; first I began punching in knee deep, then to the thigh, by this stage the top half of my body was going too fast for my legs; then in-to my waist & as I pulled myself out I fell in a mini crevasse! Haha this time to bust level! So funny all's I can remember seeing is my fellow climber come crashing down towards me, he grabbed the top of my pack & I flew out onto the snow! A classic maneuver!
On arrival back at camp 2 we were welcomed by endless congratulations from the other Russian/Belgium climbers, it was amazing the fact they knew exactly what we were doing; there really is a great sense of camaraderie out here. We drank hot tea with them and then melted snow for when the others returned (again they were about 2 hours behind). One of the Russian climbers had severely frostbitten feet after his Khan Tengri attempt. Absolutely horrific, the poor guy just looked sick with pain.
An exhausting day but an absolutely fantastic one. The summit leg was definitely the most technically demanding but the carry from camp 1 to 2 & back was still by far the hardest & most challenging. We've done it - made the summit, now the real concentration begins...to get down safely!