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Ascents of Virgin Peaks in the Tien Shan Mountains, Kazakhstan
Jul 20 – Aug 4, 2005

Supported by:

South Col Adventures Diplomatic Mission of the Republic of Kazakhstan

Photos:

David and Wilfred on the summit cornice of Singapura I Peak, 4589m, AD- L to R: Rozani, David + Shani
Temasek Peak, 4374m, PD ( first summit)
Rozani on the steep bit, Singapura I Peak
David on Ong Teng Cheong Peak( 4743m, PD ). Photo: Wilfred Tok Climbing Routes on the Peaks Above, L to R: Mr D. Lim, Mr George Yeo, Mr W. Tok, Mr M. Rozani (not in picture – Dr. Shani Tan). The team at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, briefing Mr Yeo, the Expedition Patron on the expedition’s progress

“I hope this interesting and unconventional endeavour will inspire other Singaporeans to follow their hearts and blaze new trails. We need a greater spirit of adventure and discovery in our society,”

Mr George Yeo, Expedition Patron, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Singapore and Expedition Patron

“On behalf of my country, I wish the expedition success. I also would like to welcome all Singapore adventurers to follow the trail set by these intrepid mountaineers in their quest to climb some of our many beautiful mountains.”
Mr. Adil Tursunov, Head of the Kazakh Diplomatic Mission in Singapore

“This is a bold and extremely challenging attempt, even for expert mountaineers. The adventurous spirit of challenging the unknown epitomises the philosophy of Food Empire, and we share in the mountaineers’ excitement of exploring exotic and ‘untamed’ peaks/markets where few dare venture.”
Mr. Tan Wang Cheow, Chairman and Managing Director of Food Empire,

“Together with Food Empire, we are delighted to support David and his team and hope that many others will emulate his passion and spirit to achieve their dreams! We believe that our firms venturing abroad can be likened to scaling new heights and charting into unknown territories. They need vision, guts and determination. They also need to study the terrain and climatic parameters, build up their own fitness before attempting the adventure. We are proud to be a part of this adventure!”

Mr. Lee Yi Shyan, CEO of IE Singapore


DESPATCHES:

23 Jul 2005, 0600hrs Basecamp

We are in Basecamp now. Flew in by helicopter yesterday which was spectacular. Weather was good until we reach basecamp. It became very foggy soon after. Basecamp is at 3850m and some of us have a bit of altitude sickness. Probably due to the rapid ascent to this attitude. We should acclimatise in a day or two, for now, lots of liquids and asprins. Otherwise, all are fine. Today’s itinery includes breakfast, acclimatising and going for recce hikes to see what potential peaks we can climb.
Dave

24 Jul 2005, 1700hrs Basecamp Siemionova Glacier

Pop the champagne!!
The team climbed our first peak today! Weather was ‘iffy’ the last 2 days. Tien Shan’s weather is warm at night and that causes soft snow which makes it harder to walk on. Today’s weather was perfect, all team members summitted a 4,374m peak, which is not even on the map. It is part of a snowy ridge next to the glacier. We have yet to figure out what to call this peak, but for now we need hot teas, soup and some eats.

Everyone’s in good health but tired after today’s achivement. We are planning to rest tomorrow. We might do a recce for another peak which we might attempt the day after, weather permitting
Dave

25 Jul 2005, 1710hrs Basecamp Siemionova Glacier

Today was a good day of rest. We did some recce. We hope that the weather will hold up. The plan for tomorrow is an early start, at dawn. We will attempt a 4,500m peak. A beautiful mountain. This is definitely a virgin peak. Everyone is feeling good. Breathing fresh air and getting hungry. : )
Dave

26 Jul 2005, 1940hrs Basecamp Siemionova Glacier

Today, Roz, Beng Cheong and I summited another virgin peak. Our altimeter reads 4,589m at the summit. We began at 2:30 am in the dark of the night. The first few hours were very cold and dark. Even with our recce and planning yesterday, this was charting new ground. The new ice crunch beneath our boots. As we suck the cold air, we kept moving one step at a time. Out headlights kept us focused on the ice and rock, and kept the dark away. Shani opted out of this climb today because it had some steep sections she was not comfortable with. It was tough going, the climb and the uncertainty of the untrodden terrain kept our adrenaline pumping. The dawn opens to a murky morning. It was then that we could see the path that we had took, a challenging route. The summit was in sight. The sun appeared much later, giving us a bit of blue skies and bright light. the last bit before the summit was a bit steep but manageable. The views at the heavily corniced summit is as always, wonderful. Didnt go to the very lip in case it might snap off! It started to snow later in the day on the last leg of our return to basecamp. We reached basecamp at about 3:30pm. It was an exhausting day. We are tired but elated that we have submitted another virgin peak.

Satellite communications from the glacier is not too stable, perhaps because we are surrounded by high mountains. We had problems calling out.

Upon returning to basecamp, we have been melting snow and making loads of tea. We are all feeling good, tired and thirsty but other than that OK. Dinner is heating up and soon we will be celebrating with some noodles and jerky (which does taste nice when you soak them in the soup)… For now, food.
: ) Dave

27 Jul 2005, 1935hrs Basecamp Siemionova Glacier

It is good to rest after yesterday’s 20 hour day. We climbed up PEAK 2 through gullies and deep snow. Often, we did not know whether the snow underneath hides the big crevice that could mean a plunge into a deep and dark place… The final ascent to the peak was spectacular, at parts, it was a 55 deg steep slope. Almost at the top, we had to crawl up a 10m overhang. It was excruciating but also very challenging. PEAK 2 did not give up her pride easily. Shani decided not to climb yesterday, taking a bit more rest after our first peak.

It will be an early night for us. We will be waking up at 2:30am again and will attempt our 3rd virgin peak. This mountain is about 4,600 – 4,700m. The peak is capped with snow and ice. Two potential routes are possible. One is a long hike up ice and glaciers, and the second is via rock gullies and scrambling across some boulders. We will take the gully route.

It is raining and snowing right now. I cooked an egg honey omelette for the team. Got to do the necessary to keep spirits up!! We didn’t carry eggs here, just the dry powder stuff that changes into mushy orange stuff when you add water to it. Tastes almost like egg…
: ) Dave

28 Jul 2005 2130 hrs Basecamp, somewhere on Siemionova Glacier

At 2:30AM the four of us attempted the 3rd peak but turned back after about 2 hours. There are 2 ways up this mountain, the fast but more risky or the longer and seemingly safer route. We tried the faster way today but came to an area with lots of loose rocks. The loose scree and ice made this very difficult for all of us, for me, it is even more of a challenge. I cannot imaging wobbling and scrambling up the mountain on this terrain. The risk is a fall down the side of the mountain, definitely not fun. We agreed that it’s way too dangerous and decided to turn back.

We will be trying the same mountain again tomorrow, this time using a the longer route. I estimate that it will take us at least 14 hrs to climb and return safely. We will begin at about 2AM again. Waking up at dawn to climb is a norm for climbing mountains. The mountains here are amazing beautiful. Even in murky weather, the mountains still peek at us. As if they are saying, come climb… higher ground. New paths… In sunny weather and at dusk, the colors are amazing. And camping on a glacier, it is never quiet. The soft creaks of the glacier is always present.

We are also trying to get off the glacier a day earlier. We have confirmed our heli rides out on the 1st.
By the way, we are cooking rice and tuna tonight. At this altitude, it does take a long time for rice to cook. At the moment we are all sitting around staring at the rice cooking. It does seem to take a long time…
: ) dave

29 Jul 2005 2110 hrs Basecamp, Summited PEAK 3 !!

We made it up Peak 3 today. This is perhaps the highest mountain in this area. It is not named and there are no height markers of this peak. It took the four of us, 8 hours of serious climbing to reach the summit of over 4,700 m. We began at 2:30AM again. The path was lit only by our headlamps and the few stars above us. The route up was a long climb with many interesting slopes. As we approach the summit, we climbed over a small crest… thinking that we had reached the summit. Only to realise that there was a even higher hump further away. This is what we face on an unclimbed mountain. We do not even have knowledge of what lies ahead and we just had to make do as we climb. The summit is an overhanging cornice. The highest spot is on an icy edge that falls off down the side of the mountain, We stood a few meters away from the edge. Not a good idea for us to fall off the mountain if the snow and ice decides to move. The climb back was equally challenging. Even then, we managed to catch some sights. The mountains surrounds us, the icy glacier below looking much like a quiet river.

We are all back safely and will be tucking in some dinner soon. It will be a rest day tomorrow and maybe we will start thinking for some names… for the peaks. Peaks 2 and 3 have been very tiring and many stretches during the climb were very exposed. All these puts a lot of physical and mental stress on us. We are utterly tired after today’s climb but the feeling is good. We have arranged for our helicopter pickup and am waiting for confirmation for our move down to a lower base but this is some days yet. For now it’s rest and food.
: ) dave

30 Jul 2005, 1735 hrs Basecamp

We slept for almost 12 hours after yesterday’s climb. I think it was something Beng Cheong did to our dinner… hrumph!! Our plans for today depends on whether we will be flying out tomorrow. We are waiting for a message via sat-coms sms to confirm flight. If there is no flight due to some reason or other, then Beng Cheong and Roz will likely go climb a mountain. From basecamp, Shani and me will try and take some shots of them climbing. If the helicopter comes tomorrow, then we will be going out. We had spent some time today on deciding on the names of the peaks…

Looking back, the last 8 days has been challenging. We virtually did 3 marathons over 8 days, lost a bit of weight, ate loads of mushy stuff, drank tea and shared many bad jokes. Not bad eh… : )
for now, Dave

31 Jul 2005, 1335 hrs Karkara

We took off on the helicopter at 10AM. The heli came in a bit early, we had a fit and a bit of a rush stuffing our gear into bags before trooping into the heli. The flight to Karkara was great, we had a good look at the mountains that we spent the last few days climbing. The sun was up and the views were great.

Civilisation… the first thing I did was to have two baths. The water runneth over rather murky. It was 8 days of grime and sweat. We just had some eats, hot teas and more eats. Everyone is happy. An interesting thing we heard, horse sausage is in season now. We will go check this out at the market tomorrow. Hope no one is pulling our leg.. Thanks for tuning in : ) Dave


The Team:

David Lim, team leader: Singapore’s most prolific mountaineer, with over 50 alpine ascents and expeditions including leading the 1st Singapore Everest Expedition in 1998, and the second (from the north ridge, 2001) Singapore Everest expedition. Partially disabled from Guillain Barre Syndrome since 1998, he continues to inspire thousands through his seminars and presentations. Made the first all-Singapore ascent of Aconcagua, the highest peak in North and South America in Feb 2000.

Mohd Rozani, climbing instructor
A member of the 1st Singapore Everest Expedition in 1998. Summitted Cho Oyu ( 8201m ) in 1997. He set an oxygen-free record when he climbed to 7950m on Everest’s North Ridge in 2001. In 2004, he led an alpine skills development team to the Paldor Peak region in Nepal

Wilfred Tok, mountaineering instructor and corporate trainer
Arguably Singapore’s most skilled technical alpinist, he has made difficult ascents in the Alps including the Gervasutti Pillar on Mt Blanc du Tacul, and climbed Aconcagua (6962m, Argentina) with David Lim. Member 2001 Singapore-Latin American Expedition

Dr Shani Tan, anaesthetist
The team’s only lady member, Dr Tan has a long climbing resume which includes summits of Aconcagua, Elbrus and Mont Blanc. She made the first Singaporean female attempt to climb Mt McKinley in Alaska in 2002. She was the official basecamp doctor for the 1st Singapore Everest Expedition in 1998.

Semionova Glacier

Stretching across large tracts of China (Xinjiang), Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the Tien Shan range contains one of the highest concentrations of unclimbed peaks in the world.

Climbing virgin peaks embodies the boldest and most imaginative of mountaineering spirit, for it takes the climber into a realm of uncertainty, risk and unknown dangers.

While the slopes of famous peaks like Mount Everest may have 40 – 50 people actually queuing up for the summit on some days; and where the trail is staked with marker flags and thousands of metres of rope, climbing virgin peaks exacts different demands on climbers. The team will be attempting peaks in th area marked in red.

Food Empire Holdings, a Singapore-listed company, and their flagship MacCoffee range of fine instant beverages is powering the MacCoffee Tien Shan Expedition 2005

 

Singapore mainboard-listed Food Empire Holdings Limited (“Food Empire”) is a leading food and beverage company that manufactures and markets a wide variety of regular and flavoured coffee mixes and cappuccinos, instant chocolate, instant breakfast cereal and flavoured fruit teas. Food Empire also markets a refreshing range of confectionery, snack food and an assortment of frozen convenience food that includes Asian delicacies. Food Empire’s’ products are exported to over 50 countries globally in markets such as Russia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and Indochina..Food Empire has been ranked among the top three most popular instant 3-in-1 coffee brands in the Group’s core markets.

Below: Map of Central Asia and the location of the Tien Shan mountains (circled), bordering Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Chinese Xinjiang

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