Outside Online Archives

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine

Reaching the Untouched Wall:
The Kok Shal Tau Climbing Expedition
Summer 2000

The Climbing Calls
Mike Libecki
Jed Workman poses in front of another inviting, unclimbed wall

It is about 32 degrees in the shade with the sun out right now; my hands are almost too cold to type.

The snow and wind blew its fury throughout the night. Heavy, wet snow. We had to get up several times to shovel the snow from the tents so they didn't collapse on us. The tent poles proved their worth.

We awoke in the morning to sunny skies and about a foot of the heaviest snow I have ever seen. The sun played with us as we sweated and shuttled for another day. The climbing calls intensely now; there are just so many incredible options.

Back at camp from the shuttling, the snow has come out of nowhere to tuck us in. Hot green tea, milk and sugar, Chinese soup, and lots of cheese and salami for dinner, and for breakfast most of the time too. The constant nature of time proves itself a lot out here, though boredom is hard to come by. We lay down for another night on the huge flat boulder, the size of a couple cars, that our tents are on. We are located in the middle of the gigantic dry glacier covered in talus. The frozen terrain moans and creaks our bedtime song while boulders and seracs crash in the distance.

We have seen, up here in the glaciers, marmots, brown and white striped birds about the size of peregrines, big lanky spiders, and pika-like beasts with huge porcupine spikes and mouse faces.

Starting tomorrow, we will be climbing a huge peak, probably around 17,500 feet, that lies on the border of China and Kyrgystan. We are learning so much from each other, and feel fortunate to have such a tight team of people. I think the partners that were against shuttling without porters are now psyched on the situation and its rewards.

by Mike Libecki

Mike Libecki
A 17, 500-foot peak on the border of China and Kyrgystan marks the expedition's next step

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