An International Expedition - ditch's before hurdel's!!

 Mount Alarm is defined by early winter ice at dawn during the ascent of Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku

Mount Alarm is defined by early winter ice at dawn during the ascent of Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku

An International expedition!!

"First, you must cross the ditch before you can mount the obstacle", so wrote French missionary Pierre Vittoz some 65 years ago before leading an international expedition on the first ascent of Nun 7120m in the Kashmir .

 Nothing much has changed during the interim, indeed the bureaucratic ditch of organizing international travel is much greater now than 20 years ago in the heyday of easy international travel. Currently, the international political climate is one of fear, suspicion, mistrust and the closing of borders making trip planning rather more complex than it recently was. This is particularly true of the mountain areas of the World who have resisted the “civilizing” and colonization efforts by the lowland mass's the longest. As the opportunity has come up to take a trip once again to Central Asia this July and August the difficult political climate has equal challenges with a difficult meteorological climate. July and August are the middle of the summer monsoon for most of Asia making the Western areas, sheltered by the Himalayas the only suitable areas for travel.

Planning lightweight, fast and highly mobile exploratory Central Asian expeditions in the style of Longstaff a century ago and then brought to its pinnacle by Shipton and Tilman over 50 years ago remains my objective. Originally this year I had the plan to ride south on my bike  from Xining in Qinghai  (China) south going to close to the Tibetan border (Tibet is closed once again to independent foreign travel as it has been in most recorded history) where there is a mass of almost totally unexplored glaciated mountains and take go take a look . These mountains are low by Central Asian standards with none exceeding 6000m.  Although this area is sheltered from the worst of the monsoon it has become clear that in July and August it rains most days and that will be exceptionally cold rain mixed with snow on the vast Tibetan plateau where the lowest elevations are still above 4000m. Being a large watershed meant there are many river crossing just to get in there and with September being the only month of the year giving any real “easy” travel one quickly realizes why there are not even any photos of these mountains yet alone accounts of travel in them ( the Source of the Mekong is on the western perimeter and has seen a visit and a Japanese group claim to have climbed the highest mountain in the area somewhere to the East of the major mountains although geographical information does not correlate with their account which only leaves even more mysteries to be solved)  . Certainly, this remains a good project for the future.

My thoughts have now turned further West to a project I have had in mind for sometime, Velo – mountaineering in Kyrgyzstan.  Cycle tourists have waxed lyrical about the great cycle touring there and easy camping and with 158 separate mountain ranges covering 80 per cent of Kyrgyzstan the prospects of some good scrambles are endless. The country has two of the great mountain ranges of the World, the Pamirs and Tien Shan mountains bordering it and two of the largest Glaciers draining into it, the Fedchenko glacier at 77kms long and the Engilchek Glacier at 60kms long.  Although its on well-traveled territory I remain philosophical as in the words of Longstaff – any unguided climb is like a first ascent.

Here In New Zealand winter has begun and it been certainly cold but with only sporadic snowfalls so far. The first local snow fall I managed to catch with Brent and we took our children for a night camping on Mount Arthur . I had a quick run on that familiar range the next day for training before setting off with a couple of young guns for an icy early winter ascent of the giant of the upper South Island - Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku.

 Mount Alarm , Tappys twin sister is most visible on the ascent , Tappy veils herself till one reach's the final ridge.

Mount Alarm , Tappys twin sister is most visible on the ascent , Tappy veils herself till one reach's the final ridge.

 The long slog up Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku

The long slog up Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku

 The final ridge and South face come into view after several hours climb.

The final ridge and South face come into view after several hours climb.

 Looking down the ridgeline

Looking down the ridgeline

 Climbing up between towers of mushroom ice

Climbing up between towers of mushroom ice

 Looking tiny in Icy wonderland

Looking tiny in Icy wonderland

 There was a steep icy step just before the summit which we belayed , a slip there would've sent one off on a 500m free-fall off the South face. I'm not sure if this step is new since the major earthquake last year or the icy conditions had highlighted this piont as danger!!

There was a steep icy step just before the summit which we belayed , a slip there would've sent one off on a 500m free-fall off the South face. I'm not sure if this step is new since the major earthquake last year or the icy conditions had highlighted this piont as danger!!

 Kadins smile says it all as we summit with his brother Ashley

Kadins smile says it all as we summit with his brother Ashley

Back in the rocks on the descent 

 Looking across to Mitre, the third highest peak in the range.

Looking across to Mitre, the third highest peak in the range.

 Ice waterfalls on the way in 

Ice waterfalls on the way in 

 Dusk on The Richmond ranges 

Dusk on The Richmond ranges 

 Walking out down the the Hodder river with it's roughly 80 crossings. Every trip to Tappy is a small expedition in itself with a long walk in and out - not overly pleasant and what one would call a stiff hike but its adds charisma and charm to the mountain. No easy access , no casual tourists , no helicopters - an American visitor wrote in the hut book that the trip up here was the highlight of his New Zealand experince after the disillusmiont of mass tourism on the great walks.

Walking out down the the Hodder river with it's roughly 80 crossings. Every trip to Tappy is a small expedition in itself with a long walk in and out - not overly pleasant and what one would call a stiff hike but its adds charisma and charm to the mountain. No easy access , no casual tourists , no helicopters - an American visitor wrote in the hut book that the trip up here was the highlight of his New Zealand experince after the disillusmiont of mass tourism on the great walks.

 The Inland  Kaikoura mountains recede into the late autumn distance on the way home - one can see from here why the early Europeans thought Mount Tapuaenuku was a volcano.

The Inland  Kaikoura mountains recede into the late autumn distance on the way home - one can see from here why the early Europeans thought Mount Tapuaenuku was a volcano.

 Isabelle on Mt Arthur at dawn , catching the first snowfall of the year.

Isabelle on Mt Arthur at dawn , catching the first snowfall of the year.

 Dawn 

Dawn 

 Leo in the Snow forest

Leo in the Snow forest

 Early winter on the Western ranges

Early winter on the Western ranges