Muzkol 2015 Expedition – Tajikistan
In 1940, a Soviet military officer visited the Muzkol range’s AkBaikal valley, gazed up at the five peaks of the ridgeline and declared “the passage of this route would have done credit to any master mountaineer”. In the intervening years just one expedition had attempted any of the peaks and so our team of five set out to try and prove ourselves as master mountaineers. As it turned out, 75 year old Russian climbing beta is not always of the highest quality and whilst we successfully climbed four new routes, a traverse of the ridgeline itself eluded us. For its chossy, fractured mess was more suited to master levitators than climbers.
With only two and half weeks for the trip we eschewed a traditional approach to acclimatization and instead adopted the policy of “climb very high and then sleep there”. For the most part this gamble paid off although we were sad to part ways with Al after only a few days as he was unable to shake off a bout of traveller’s diarrhoea caught in Osh. We flooded our 4x4 in a river on the drive-in and then established a basecamp at 4700m followed by an ABC on the glacier at just over 5000m. James ticked off a solo repeat of the 2014 Latvian team’s peak via a new route and then a few days later put in a sterling effort to summit on the main ridgeline at 5700m, soloing across the serac threatened face on hard, brittle ice and then completing the 10+ abalakov abseils on the descent in a twelve hour round trip.