RX 100 Kyrgyzstan XVI

 After just a day and a half of walking, we arrived at a small community called Sarydzhaz. From there, we rode in the back of a sheep truck with wheel issues to a house in Samarkandyk. It was the family house of the woman who sold us bread in the Kara-Su, pictured a few posts ago, and of the guides who led us out (they're related!). It was a wonderful evening, in a very special place.

The next morning we drove back to Batken, where Kevin and I would board a plane back to Bishkek. We already had our tickets, but they were sold out when Alix tried to buy one. She would get a ride in a van back to the city, and thus ended our travels as a trio.


RX 100 Kyrgyzstan XV

I had gotten used to the small routines of camping in a remote valley in Kyrgyzstan for weeks, and became endeared to the tiny island in the Kara-Su we pitched our tents on. I wouldn't miss cooking with gasoline, but it warmed up the canned cow and ramen just fine and was all I really had to complain about.

Alix decided to leave with Kevin and I, and we hiked out via a different route than the one we used inbound. The trail was specked with the ghosts of ancient villages, shepherd huts long out of use, and skeletons of Soviet infrastructure- military, mining, or otherwise. It was slightly eerie at times, and at all times beautiful. Rather than going up and down many passes, we mostly stuck near the bottom of the steep gorge of the Karavshin River. At one point, the trail disappeared into a loose slope that had slid straight down into the river, before appearing on the other side. Our guides grabbed a pick-ax and a shovel from their horses and got to work cutting a new grade above where the slope had slid. We could see then the many previous grades, softened with age, cut into the slope below the one that had very recently fell. I was fascinated at the age of this route, and with the readiness at which our leaders repaired it. How many iterations of this riverbank have been known? After crossing the slope ourselves, we watched the horses, laden with haulbags, unhappily stumbling across a line that is certainly no longer there.


RX 100 Kyrgyzstan XIV

With time running out on our trip, Kevin and I recruited Alix to try free climbing the crux of Everything is Normal, the route we climbed earlier on the Yellow Wall. It was really nice to stretch out a bit in the sun, but when morning became afternoon, we put on all our layers and still had to shiver off the frigid air blowing from the glacier below. 


RX 100 Kyrgyzstan XIII

When I think of wild places in the United States, I think of rugged land, largely untracked by trails, and inaccessible to industry. I understand this solitude from humanity is contrived directly from the forced removal of indigenous people, and their original practice of maintaining healthy, productive relationships with the landscape is well known.

It was inspiring, then, to see the shepherds who daily led their herds up and down their respective sides of the valley, surrounded by granite giants. We interacted with them almost every day in some way, either as their sheep grazed in our camp, or to buy loaves of flat bread or hunks of sheep meat. Once, a shepherd summoned us to help rescue four of his sheep that got themselves stuck high on a cliff. Alix, Kevin, myself, and a Czech friend named Zdenek heeded the call and set up a rope system that gave us access to the errant sheep, fashioning harnesses for them with slings to be lowered, but ultimately just herding them down the faintest series of ledges to the ground. As thanks, the shepherds invited us over for a delicious dinner of sheep stew in their stone home.


RX 100 Kyrgyzstan XII


In the morning we scrambled up the worst scree field (it's always the worst, isn't it?) I've ever walked a haul bag on, to the base of Perestroika Crack. The wall towered over us, cavern like, for several thousand feet, and we were soon exposed to winds that made standing on the approach slab difficult. We could see the shade line inching down the walls on the west side of the valley, but it would be hours before the sun would make it to us. The thought of climbing out of a bivy, high on the wall, in these conditions, was not pleasant. We decided to wait for the wind to die down, and when it refused after a couple of hours, we retreated back to the Ak-Su River, and hiked back to the Kara-Su that day. 


RX 100 Kyrgyzstan XI

For the next route, we joined forces with Alix, the American from the other camp, and backpacked over to the Ak-Su Valley, which parallels the Kara-Su to the east. We wanted to climb what is probably the most famous climb in the Karavshin, Perestroika Crack, on Peak Slesova. We had heard that the weather in the Ak-Su was better, and the water running from the glaciers were clearer. The weather did seem to be better, but the water was thick with sediment so we still had to search for spring water to drink. We camped near a party of two French climbers who were wrapping up their trip. One was sick in his tent and I don't remember even seeing him, the other shared beta and snacks. From what he told us, it seemed that Ak-Su was the place to be, especially this late in the season.