Friday, 19 October 2012

Final Report

Well despite the delay in this post everyone got home safe and sound. ALek and Vlad are back in Keele, Bradley living the climbing hobo dream in the Lakes, Az back to uni in Fundee, Rónán working in a nuclear power station on the west coast of Scotland and Conor generally trying to justify not getting a job yet.

Anyway, the ridiculously extensive final report can now be viewed here.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

        Right, so we've returned to Bishkek as planned, even half a day early. Everything went exceptionally well, apart from the weather, which was mostly good. First things seconds though.... everyone's alive, well and healthy (ish). Equipment performed well, food got mostly eaten.
        Travel to Kokshaal-Too went mostly without hitches (Ural in, Gaz out- not exactly as planned, but you can't help availability). Walk in was long, climbing excellent. A couple of suspected first ascents and a number of new routes as well as a few attempts that didn't get as far as would be nice, mostly due to poor snow.

FA-Uigur (4979), Eagle Traverse, Ronan & Conor, (~D)
FA- Peak 4892 (Ice Dragonfly), North Flank and East Ridge, Alek & Vlad, (~AD)
FA (ish) Peak 5102 (Moonlight Arete), Conor & Ronan (~D)
West Ridge of Ice Dragonfly (Butterflies and Hurricanes)Bradley, Vlad, Alek & Azwan (~D)
North Face (mostly) of Pony (Broken Pony), Alek & Vlad, (~D)
East Summit of Peak Ak Bai-Tal by South East Ridge (FA ish), Alek & Vlad (~PD)
Kazalnitsa by North West Face, Vlad & Azwan (~AD)
North Face of Night Butterfly (2012 Route), Bradley & Alek (~TD)
Rock Horse, West Flank and Ridge (Variant of Polish Route), Azwan and Vlad (~PD)
Rock Horse, North Face (Kernan Gilmour Route), Ronan and Conor, (~TD)
(FA ish) Moonlight Arete by 1st Gully, Azwan & Alek, (~D)

All being well a few members of the expedition will be heading down to Al-Archa for a day before flying off home on the 9th. Stay tuned for the report (and more?).

Alek & Azwan.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

So, having arrived in Kyrgyzstan at sometime on the early morning of the 31st and having promptly changed the softshells into shorts and t-shirt, Alek met with the ITMC staff (who were lovely) and having spend around 6 hours on looking around Bishkek's shops for dried milk and smash settled for Pryaniks (look it up) and baby food set off to Al-Archa to sit out mountaineer for the next few days till the main contingent arrived. Having gone up to the Ak-Sai hut (Stoyanka Ratseka), Alek then climbed (walked up) Peak Uchitel (Peak Teacher) at 4540 or so meters. Then realising that there was nothing else that could be walked up there (it's a beautiful mountaineering area, but not much of a place for walkers) headed up to the Al-Archa glacier. Alek would highly recommend this route as the valley is scenic, the bridges memorable and the abandonned ski base, erm... Historic? No the abandonned ski station was in all honesty a bit of a dump, and gave the impression that the ghosts of old soviets would come and take you away in the middle of the night, but the rest of the valley is amazing.

In any case, once Azwan, Bradley, Conor and Bradley Ronan arrived at 4am, in the 22 degree heat, full preparation began. Staring with breakfast followed by sleep. Subsequently, a further three days of exploring Bishkek for the sake of securing enough cheese, chocolate and other camping fares to last the thirty days on the glacier. The result is that they're all fairly acquainted with this lovely city (not sarcastic this time- it's actually a lovely city) and the flat is crammed with not quite enought food to start a small supermarket, but definitely enough to start a revolution (around 180kg of which 25kg is chocolate and 20kg is meat). All in all, we're finished with the preparations!

Tomorrow at 6:30 the Ural (a bigger truck than expected because the GAZ is broken), hopefully along with Vlad, comes to the flat, gets loaded up and then the expedition will truly leave for the mountains and you won't have to read any more of these for at least a month (hopefully)........

Alek, Azwan, Bradley

Sunday, 29 July 2012

A basket, a painting, a card, and a small box...

So having got my visa in advance, I was very pleased (not) to find out that on the 24th of July the visa-free regime became official and will gradually come into force. So probably good news for any expedition members who don't have their visas yet (which is probably no one)....

So, at least for one expedition member, everything is packed and ready to go (semi-true)- for Alek flies tomorrow, to be joined by everyone else later in the week. With the base camp tent (lets see how Higear tents fare at 4k, eh?), the base camp first aid kit (which is a little bit overstocked) and most of mine and Vlad's kit, I somehow managed to get everything within the weight limit (30kg).

On a final note, we printed off and laminated 7 copies of an Alek-modified 1:50k map of the region. Then we printed off another two 1:50ks and a large 1:50k at 1:100k for approach and scribbling. The meteo and medical (M&M) journal is all formatted and ready and waiting its first observations, and all in all I think we've prepared fairly well.

Anyhow, on Tuesday morning I should, fingers crossed be in Bishkek and in the evening in Alarcha till  the main contingent arrives and we have the manpower to lug our 130kg of provisions from shop to truck....

Alek Out.

PS. Alps was cool. Weather was Irish, climbing was good. Long, and long and obscure routes were climbed, kit was tested, ropes were kinked and 'good craic' was had. I'll let whoever can be bothered fill in the gaps there....

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Monday, 11 June 2012


Rónán, Conor and Alek spent the week climbing and sitting out rain on Gola, an uninhabited island off the coast of Donegal. As well as allowing us to do some new routes and get in the right frame of mind, this and a weekend at Fair Head beforehand proved a great opportunity to test out the gear,  solar panels, radios and camera charging facilities. All are working well.
Rónán and Conor also spent a day with MIA Jonny Parr in the Mournes a couple of weeks ago covering advanced self-rescue techniques (here's hoping we don't need to use them).
With less than two monts to go, there's still a lot to do.
Conor, Vladimir, Alek and Bradley are off to the Alps later this week for a 'warm up'.
T minus 2 months...

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The grand gas experiment...

So we have funding (yay)! Now for something far more trivial. This one concerns the grand stove experiment (which wasn’t really that grand). The whole thing is rather flawed and incomplete as an experiment and the data collection was shoddy (I am a bad scientist), but otherwise confirms a couple of things and gives us something to think about gear-wise.

                Firstly, the heat of combustion of butane and propane, if the units are converted to Kcal/g (which is much more convenient for our purposes) is about the same- 12Kcal/g. As such if a perfectly efficient system is used, it should take around 6.7g of gas to bring room temperature water to a boil (from 20˚C to 100˚C). Now keeping this in mind, the experiment:
                Four stoves, the Hi-Gear Blaze (50g), Primus Gravity (269g), Primus ETALite (242g) and an Old Primus (398g) of mine were tested with a half full cylinder of butane (75%/propane 25%- thus only butane left). The test was the amount of time- and gas- needed to boil a litre of water under room temperature and pressure. The old primus was tested with a normal stainless steel pot (1.5L) and a 1.2L titanium heat exchanger pot (see- an unfair comparison already as the dimensions aren’t the same). Now the results: The old primus took 5min and 14g (~50% efficiency) with the normal pot and 3.45min and 10g (~67% efficiency) with the heat exchanger. The Gravity took 4.50min and 10.5g (~64%) with the heat exchanger. The ETAlite took 5 minutes and 9.5g (~71%) with the heat exchanger and the Blaze took 4.30min and 10g with the heat exchanger, although the pot did not sit well at all. In any case, this basically means that with a heat exchanger roughly 30% less fuel and took 25% less time. My tentative conclusion for this shoddy experiment is that it may be worth investing in heat exchanger pots (of a diameter that will fit on your stove) or using using Jetboils (which are theoretically even more efficient with smaller quantities of water). If we use only jetboils/heat exchanger pots, we can take 30% less gas (1.8kg in real terms) and not have to wait for quite so long for tea after/before a long route. All this taken into consideration, it should still be theoretically possible to save another 3g of gas per litre of water boiled, possibly by boiling smaller quantities of water at a time. When it comes to picking a stove, If I was thinking of a rational compromise on weight (Oldy>Gravity>ETA>Blaze), efficiency (all about the same) and power (Oldy>Blaze>Gravity>ETA) I’d go with the Blaze. Sadly I’m rather attached to the old primus, so we’ll see.

The other thing we tried was squeezing all of Vlad’s personal Kit, plus half of a team rack, plus the 4 Man Base camp tent (7kg) into his 50L rucksack and 30L daysack (this assumes that I, or someone else, take the light tent the rope and the other half of the rack). Apparently it is. The weight was 22kg. So it’s nice to know that our gear list gives a similar weight on paper (between 18-25kg) and on actual scales. That gives 14kg of luggage allowance (9kg for most of the rest of everyone) for unaccounted “stuff”, a fairly safe margin of error I think.

-Alek out

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Grants and Snow

More news... Conor's trip to London was successful, and I am happy to say that we are now being supported by the Mount Everest Foundation.
This organisation was set up in the wake of the 1953 Everest Expedition to support expeditions in the greater ranges and has been behind most of the great expeditions of the past 50 years. It's a privilege to be supported by them!

Rónán, Conor, Alek and Vladimir met again last week in Llanberis, North Wales on what was intended as a QUBMC trad climbing trip. The previous week of glorious weather and tops off climbing at Fairhead gave way when this happened:

heavy snows destroyed one tent and collapsed another. Midnight damage control ensued, with many retreating to a barn. Unusual for April, but perfect training - with the expedition tents surviving and those in them remaining nice and toasty. Yaaaay.
Perfect conditions followed, allowing for some excellent alpine-style days int he hills, moving together and linking up classic ridges such as Sub-Cneifion and Cnefion Arete and scrambling on Tryfan and the Glyders. Perfect!

We also got to test stoves, and discuss gear. Getting there, slowly but surely!

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Annual Fund

I'm excited to say that we have been given a grant of £2000 by the Queen's University Belfast Annual Fund.
The Annual Fund raises money for projects that have a positive impact on the student experience, and we are privileged to receive this support.

Elsewhere, Conor had an interview last week with the Mount Everest Foundation for a grant, and an equipment list is nearly ready.
Vladimir has also prepared a draft diet for the trip - something we should probably test out beforehand!
It's available here, for anyone who is interested.

Finally, for some inspiration, below are some photos (courtesy of the 2010 Polish Expedition) of some of the  peaks in the Dzhirnagaktu valley. The unclimbed face in the first picture particularly stands out to me...


Saturday, 4 February 2012


5 of the 6 of us (Bradley's currently in the Alps) have just returned from a very productive week of Winter climbing with QUBMC in Scotland.
Conditions were amazing, with good weather every day, and 'full' Scottish conditions on more than one occasion. Last time we were out, there were whisperings of a rescue on the Ben... but not this time!
It was a perfect chance to test out gear and systems, and a couple of lessons were learned.
The primacy of the tricam as the king of gear was re-established, and a few of us got to use pegs for the first time (very handy for when you're bricking it).
Cornices are evil and can only be negotiated with a combination of tunneling and swimming.
Dubious gear is still gear, although the only thing it protects may be your state of mind (briefly). And ski-goggles and face protection are a must to prevent hot aches in the face.
Old school woolly mitts and jumpers as well as pile jackets work whatever the winter weather, and hand hot aches are something that has to be tolerated!
And of course, sometimes the right thing to do is turn back and admit defeat rather than push on in unideal conditions, time and confidence.

We discussed a menu for the expedition and some basic inventory, something we're going to look into more in the next while.
We also learned that Vladimir once got lost in the Caucasus for three days with nowt but a tin of dried milk and a jerrycan of petrol, and was rescued by a beekeeper...

                                                                                 Hot aches...

Anyways, some of the routes that got done included Twisting Gully (III 4) and Raeburn's Route (IV 4) on Stob Coire Nan Lochan, Left Twin (III 3), Aquafresh (IV 4), White Shark (IV 4) at Aonach Mór, North Buttress (IV 4) and Curved Ridge (II) on Buachaille Etive Mór and Castle Ridge (III 3) and an abortive attempt on Northeast Buttress (IV 4) on Ben Nevis that had to be bandoned because the entrance chimney was in horrible mixed condition.

All in all a great week, and great practice. There's a chance of some snow in Ireland now as well. Here's hoping!