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Posted on: December 1, 2005
Less than a year after the tragic expedition to Shishapangma that resulted in the death of Anthoine de Choudens, the Groupe Militaire de Haute Montagne decided it was time to start again. This year we chose the West Kokshaal-Tau area in the Tien Shan range in Kyrghyzstan, though our real dream was to climb on the big walls on the Chinese side. Unfortunately the necessary permit to cross the border was refused by the Chinese only fifteen days before our departure.
On the Kyrghyz side the virgin, steep, 700-meter west face of Peak 4850 (a.k.a. Peak Sabor) commanded our attention. After our first night in base camp a two-day storm deposited one and a half meters of fresh snow, transforming camp into a white nightmare. During our three-week stay we would have only two days of good weather.
As soon as it stopped snowing we made the fifteen-kilometer hike to the base of the wall and started fixing pitches. The rock was really nice with some Corsica-like formations but the main problem was that the wet cracks were frozen, and to clean them of ice required a lot of time and energy. After three days at six-hours-per-pitch speed we had fixed seven pitches and Guillaume Baillarge, Francois Savary and I decided to leave the ground.
The first day we hauled the portaledges to the end of the fixed ropes and climbed two more pitches. The next day—our first sunny, warm day—we climbed another two pitches up to A2 5c. Our bivy that night was approximately halfway to the top. We were a little suspicious of the strangely nice weather, and within an hour our doubts were justified: the cracks started dripping and after a few minutes became real streams. When our clothes transformed into sponges we had no other choice but to escape as quickly as possible. While the pigs on-sighted a base jump, the humans—lacking experience and proper equipment—chose the slower way down. We arrived at ABC that night shivering and a bit disappointed, even though we knew we had just made the highest canyoneering descent in the world.
On July 30 Thomas Faucheur and Lionel Albrieux gave the north ridge of Pic Sabor a shot, summiting after a long day. After one rest day we tried this line as well, and in ten hours of climbing reached the summit on August 1. The climbing, which we completed in the usual poor weather, was about 500 meters long and mostly mixed (up to M5). On the way back to France we spent two days in Bishkek, the capital of the country. The local restaurants, parties and night clubs inspired our new motto: going to Kyrghyzistan with your wife is like bringing your sausage to Frankfurt!
Manu Pellissier, Groupe Militaire de Haute Montagne, France
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