RX 100 Kyrgyzstan X

 The morning was a cold one. Concerned about the weather already forming up glacier, we made a decision to rappel back to the ground. It's always a hard decision to bail, and I've made a career of bailing in big places, but it's especially difficult when the next pitch begins with a true 5.10 hand crack. I knew the climbing got much more difficult soon after, but as a devotee of the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other school of thought, I needed to at least try the next step. I stuffed my hands inside the icy crack and climbed. I soon couldn't feel anything below my wrists, but I could see the rough grain inside the crack cutting into my skin. Once the climbing started getting harder, I leaned back, took in the view, and down climbed.

We got snow at our camp on the valley floor that evening, and when Asan finally revealed itself after the storm, its faces were white. In the picture above, Asan is the shrouded thumb on the left side of the frame.


RX 100 Kyrgyzstan IX

After taking a couple loads of gear, food, and water up to the base of the wall, Kevin and I began climbing up the lower angle bottom third of the route. The rock was generally good, but cracks often bottomed out, and splitters were rare. We had also been been hearing loud rockfalls booming throughout the valley during the entire trip, which never seems to soothe the soul. The weather held throughout the day though, and we arrived to a bivy below the steepest section of the route. 


RX 100 Kyrgyzstan VIII

When we arrived in the Karavshin, a guided trekking company was taking down its camp for the season, but Kevin and I weren't the only climbers still hanging out in the Kara-Su. We camped next to an international group of four, hailing from Canada, the Czech Republic, and the United States, and we often shared time together. It was cool seeing how they approached a big-wall expedition, and how they appeared to be more comfortable committing to the big lines in less ideal conditions. Still, they had arrived before us, and had planned to spend several more weeks in the valley after we left. While we climbed the Yellow Wall, we could see their portaledge across the valley on the Free Aussie Route, on a peak called Asan. It seemed to be relatively accessible and its summit less wintry than the slightly higher peaks, so Kevin and I decided to make moves to attempt it.


RX100 Kyrgyzstan VII


The main climbing in the Karavshin is split between two massive valleys, the Kara-Su and Ak-Su. Kara-Su translates into dark or black water, Ak-Su means clear or white water. The water in the Kara-Su was thick with glacial sediment, so we had to find our drinking water from spring-fed tributaries, which dried up as the weeks wore on. Our objectives were undecided until we got into the valley, but we were attracted to an east facing (read: morning sun) chunk of rock called the Yellow Wall, famous for an incident in 2000 where some well-known American climbers were taken hostage by militant rebels. Although we had a folder filled with cryptic Russian topos, we climbed one of few routes in the area that had been posted to Mountain Project and was waiting a free ascent. We were stuffed on an overhanging 5.12 corner, although I was able to do the moves on lead with a few heavy hangs.


RX 100 Kyrgyzstan VI

It was a strange feeling to have been in motion for so long, from Portland to Seattle to San Francisco to Istanbul to Bishkek to Batken to Özgörüsh, and to finally arrive at the remote valley where we would be staying for weeks, but hopefully not staying still. Quickly, though, a daily weather pattern emerged that concerned any big climbing plans. The sun peeked over the high walls to our east at just before noon, arriving later each day, and rain clouds formed nearly every afternoon over the valley.


RX 100 Kyrgyzstan V

Karavshin, Kyrgyzstan

We walked past the biggest mountains I had ever seen, crossing over 4 huge passes. Near the end of the second day, we made it to the Kara-Su River, a tributary of the Karavshin, and home to what might be considered the Yosemite Valley of Asia, replacing the 24-hour traffic snaking along the Merced River in California for a herd of sheep on either side of the valley.


RX100 Kyrgyzstan IV

Özgörüsh, Kyrgyzstan

The trek into the mountains took two days. If we could count on anything, it was the steep grades of the trail and the signs of a robust but disparate sheep herding community, visible in the huts and corrals that were connected by zig zagging grazing paths worn over a very, very long time.


RX100 Kyrgyzstan III

Katran, Kyrgyzstan

Although I'm not sure I really learned too much about it, I was interested in seeing if there were any comparisons to be made between the colonization of Turtle Island by Europeans and the colonization of Kyrgyzstan by the Russian Empire. The biggest difference I could tell is that in North America, the Europeans stuck around permanently, while the Russians basically left. Although Russian is still one of two official languages, there are very few actual Russians living in Kyrgyzstan. We both studied Russian a bit before the trip, which became less helpful as we began traveling into less cosmopolitan areas that spoke more Kyrgyz.


RX100 Krygyzstan II

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan


I'm no fan of the original hierarchical take on world that designated the political west the "first world" and the Soviet Union and its sphere of influence the "second world", but I felt like I was in a different world, one that developed with a different set of guiding principles. I quickly realized, though, that those different principles were merely different methods of achieving the same wants and needs as the society that I was raised in. 


RX100 Kyrgyzstan I

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

I went to Kyrgyzstan in the summer of 2018, which remains a singular experience in my life. My travels have otherwise taken me exclusively through North America, and I'm forever grateful to Kevin for bringing me to the other side of the world to climb big walls with him.


Seekseekqua with Timmy

Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, Ore.

This past summer, Timmy asked if I wanted to climb Jefferson in running shoes. This time we hiked up to timberline through an avalanche path I had spotted the year before. Ascending through the mass of fallen trees felt much quicker than navigating around trees that still had full lives ahead of them, and provided a huge shortcut from that route taken by most parties who attempt the southwest ridge. Once on snow, we moved efficiently up to a high shoulder, from which we belayed a few pitches across a steep traverse and up to the summit. 

When I compare my experiences on Seekseekqua, it's like I was on a different route. Climbing in running shoes is such a pleasure, allowing me to move through a variety of terrain with as little friction created by gear as possible. Yet, despite the relatively frictonless ascent, the mountain didn't let us off without a little thrashing.


Seekseekqua with Tommy

Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, Ore.

A couple springs ago, I attempted Seekseekqua with Tommy. Although we didn't get close to the summit, we made it far enough to get a good feel for the mountain, which is among the most elusive volcanoes in Oregon. The approach is long, and for us involved a good bit of bush whacking from the Pacific Crest Trail to timberline. The snow was less than ideal for climbing, always changing from too icy to skin and too soft to walk. I had thought of myself as an adept volcano climber, and was rightfully humbled by the experience. Still, on the hike out, I had a thought that the southwest ridge of Seekseekqua might be better experienced a little later in the year, ditching the skis for running shoes. 



Watering the garden

Portland, Ore.



A cop

Portland, Ore.



Highway 101

Somewhere by the ocean, Ore.