The expedition is heading to Kyrgyzstan. The Tien Shan mountains lie mainly in Kyrgyzstan and China, the name meaning 'Celestial Mountains'. You can find more on the Geography and Geology in our area by clicking the links.
Shami Tuyuk, Kyrgyz Ala-Too, Kyrgyzstan
Base camp coordinates: 42⁰N 28’28’’, 75⁰E 10’48’’, 3050 m
The Tien Shan, particularly in Kyrgyzstan, have become increasingly popular with mountaineers over the last few years. Many head to more remote and higher peaks of the Kokshal-Too in the South, or the Inylchek in the East.
We headed to the Kyrgyz Ala-Too range, which runs east-west from Lake Issyk Kul to the border with Uzbekistan. "Shamsi Tuyuk" means the gorge of the Shamsi area; the gorge snakes south then west then south again. The Shamsi pass is a horse-trekking route to the east of our expedition area.
The valley is roughly five valleys and 50km east of the well-developed Ala Archa range, which is just south of Bishkek. The valley is just four hours' drive from Bishkek, and has peaks ranging from 4150m to 4450m.
There are no previously recorded visits to the valley. Russian mountaineers were well known for climbing hard routes in majestic locations and leaving small ‘less worthy’ objectives unclimbed due to the competitive element involved. The area has been well surveyed (along with the rest of the world) and it is highly likely that a simple peak in the area was climbed for surveying purposes. Pat Littlejohn of ISM and Vladimir Komissarov of ITMC agreed that the area was unlikely to have had any exploration in recent times.
As there were no photos, we had to make do with the accurate but old Soviet maps and Google Earth satellite photos. We chose this area over other similar valleys close by because of the better resolution and less cloud on Google Earth. Near one of the peaks (Peak 4383), the Soviet map has an inscription that translates as ‘Visibility up to 20km’, which suggests that this may have been previously climbed by surveyors.
We found signs of little-used paths to base camp and over a snow-free pass to the west, which we used to access the western glacier. We found no sign of any human presence on any routes or summits. We hope to have left no trace ourselves.
Google Earth Satellite photos and old Soviet mapping were our major source of information about the area - you can find both below, with our base camp, and some potential peaks highlighted.