Wednesday, 21 December 2011


Going out to the middle of nowhere self-supported for a month means a lot of organisation - especially the little things. We've been working away the past few weeks at grant applications and researching. We found out that QUB will cover insurance for student members, which is excellent.
We're also working on a thorough gear list - which may take some time. It turns out that there are a lot of things you need to be self-sufficient whilst mountaineering for a month.

 Today I even bought these:

Snowshoes! Only £31 in Decathlon - I'll try them out this winter in Scotland. They could be very useful.

We've been in contact with the logistics company, ITMC. In Alek's words:

Today Vladimir phones the ITMC! Since he's marking the work of unfortunate undergraduates and I'm not, I'm writing what he found out (and he isn't!). Apparently the ITMC people made a very positive general impression.

-So, how stable is the country? Stable. The parts which we're visiting are the stix so are generally quiet.

-Overland transport? 350km to Naryn (7 hours). 200km off-road to Kokshaal-Too (6 hours in good condition- conditions are unpredictable).

-Can it be sped up? Question not asked, but if conditions are good, it looks like a yes from the numbers above.

-Availability of supplies? Gas, mainly of Korean or Chinese manufacture, 250g and 10kg canisters. As far as food goes, it appears that most of everything can be bought. French, German, Russian, Kazak and local brands are most common. [Vladimir's commentary: Western brands may be more expensive while local equivalents would be cheaper]. They are happy to lend a "warehouse shop" card (think macro or metro) and intern to help with the shopping.

-Hostels, camp sites etc for Bishkek: The ITMC appears to be affiliated with "the Alpinist" which is $35 per person per night. [Alek's commentary: there are cheaper ones about]. If staying for 3 nights or more a flat can be hired, but apparently it is often easier to avoid the faff.

-Gear Storage: The ITMC will store gear free of charge.

-What day to leave Kokshaal-Too if flying out on the 9th of September: It is sensible to start out on the 6th. This gives the 6th, 7th and 8th (spare day) for getting out. The driver should arrive at the drop of point a day before the departure day.

-Expected response time to Rescue: The Kyrgyzstan mountain rescue is proud to announce that it has three helicopters [Alek's commentary: Which is more than Northen Ireland]. Rescue teams can be despatched immediately [Alek Addendum: I presume that means on the same day].

-Snowshoes: One of the local guides says that he has never needed them in the area in August. [Alek Addendum: I'll see how the weight (and Ronan's snowshoes) pan out before going yay or nay].

Additional Non Question Answers:
-Base camp tent can be hired [but it's probably cheaper and lighter to buy one].
-ITMC would like a copy of expedition report as it would be good both for them and the Kyrgyz Alpine Club.
-What ascents have actually been made and routes have been done is always a little unclear because not every group makes reports.


Tuesday, 29 November 2011


So, in the interest of us all, you know, eating, I have created a little nutrient guide (which actually needs more data from past expeditions as to be a little more convincing- working on that), and an expedition nutrient calculator, which allows diets revolving around a few food items which work well in expeditiony circumstances to be planned. Most things we should be able to get over there, but I am informed that dried fruit over there might not be so good, and from my memory, soviet cheese is dire.


Now to go climb something.... Or eat something...

NB: The calculator is at -400Kcal with 0 food because when there is a link between energy balance and protein intake for which I have crudely accounted.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Expedition Plan

We've been working on the official Expedition Plan. For anyone who's interested it can be viewed by clicking here. Rónán

Monday, 21 November 2011

Flights booked!

THe wheels are in motion... the flights are booked (£600 worth... ouch. Belfast - Gatwick - St Petersburg - Bishkek). FLying out 4 August and back 9 September. Alek will already be there form 31 July... The first (of many) grant applications was submitted today also... Here we go! Rónán

Saturday, 19 November 2011


Where to begin?
This is a blog about the expedition being run to the Dzhirnagaktu valley of the Western Kokshaal-Too range of the Tien Shan in Kyrgyzstan in August 2012.

You've never heard of it? Neither has anyone. That's the point. It's an entire glacier with 4000m and 5000m peaks surrounding it that has only had one confirmed visit (a Polish team in 2010 - see here)
If all goes to plan we will be standing on top of peaks that no-one has ever climbed before, in an unspoilt valley in a Central Asian Republic most people haven't even heard of. An amazing privilege.

But before then there's a lot of work to do...

This expedition has been in the pipeline for a few years. It's being run by Queen's University Belfast Mountaineering Club and all members are involved with the club. It doesn't, however, start feeling real until the money is on the table, and it's come to that time. AN expedition plan has been created, the trip has been costed, and grant applications are being filled out. It's time to get ready. And when the snow comes, it'll be time to practice, and get fit. I can't wait!

The Team
Team members are being finalised, but as it stands the expedition will be composed of

Conor Gilmour, Expedition Leader Mountaineering Officer of QUBMC and 'jack of all trades' climber, he has tried it all, gotten frustratingly good at it, survived and come away with a good story. Despite the fact that he tends to injure himself when let anywhere near civilisation, he is the safest pair of hands (and crampons) in the mountains. Fun fact: His laugh can be heard for miles.

Rónán Kernan President of QUBMC and has shared too many most of his climbing experiences with Conor Gilmour. Has climbed in Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, France, Switzerland, Spain and Italy (climbing the frontier ridge between France and Italy counts!) and tried most styles of climbing, deciding that Alpine and Winter climbing is his favourite, despite them both terrifying him (they give you the best stories though). Likes to think he's getting good at it by now.

Alek Zholobenko Former Mountaineering Officer of QUBMC and has just finished a PhD in killing mice inventively microbiology at QUB. This mad Russian enjoys nothing more than a back-breaking march good walk uphill. He's not a bad climber either, and as such has huge hiking and Mountaineering experience throughout Europe and South America. Fun fact: Alek could happily live on cheese and tea forever.

Vladimir Zholobenko Father of Alek and Lecturer in Chemistry at the University of Keele. Vladimir has extensive experience of caving expeditions throughout Europe and the former USSR as well as being an excellent mountaineer and climber. Unlike the rest of us, he can keep up with Alek. Extremely dependable and knows how to run an expedition. Fun fact: there is no better way to be woken up than to be offered tea by Vladimir.

Bradley Morrell Lake District based mountaineer who met the QUBMC guys in the Alps. As well as a solid grounding in rock and winter climbing in the UK, this lucky sod had a full summer season of mountaineering in Chamonix in 2011, ticking off some of the classics and climbing the Matterhorn and Frendo Spur, amongst others. Fun fact: He cannot attempt an Irish accent to save his life

Azwan Iza Former member of QUBMC who defected to Dundee (but we're not too bitter).  Extensive rock and Winter climbing experience in Ireland and Scotland - another lucky sod who gets to play in the snow more than the Belfast based guys! Fun fact: he had the word 'GOLA' shaved into his hair on a climbing trip to Gola Island (Donegal)

So that's it for now. Back to the grant applications, and I think I've a degree or something like that to be studying for...

Until next time, check out at the video made by the guys who went to Dzhirnagaktu in 2010

Nocny Motyl (Night Butterfly) from Jakub Gałka on Vimeo.