Earlier this summer, CAMP USA athlete Ben “Shaggy Alaskan” Erdmann went halfway around the globe with fellow Alaskan alpinist Samuel Holmes Johnson. They were looking for unclimbed walls and peaks in Kyrgyzstan’s Kokshaal Too range. The two completed the first ascent of a towering granite peak called Panfilovski East, via line they named “Flight of the Zephyr”. Ben writes about their expedition:
The Kokshaal Too is illusive and remote. Repulsive storms rip through those mountains which is part of their magnetism. It’s way out there… that’s why I go. We took these 4WD old Russian tank trucks from Bishkek (in Kyrgzstan) and spent 3 days offroading to get to the base moraine below the Komarova glacier. Sam and I spent a week and half ferrying loads, with full ski setups and sleds in tow to establish our basecamp up and over the border into China where we spent 4 weeks.
Our kit was extensive and we had to leapfrog loads up the glacier. We climbed with a standard full rack setup in anticipation of maneuvering all terrain from rock to snow to steep and sustained ice. We carried a double set of cams to #3, double set of wires, 15 screws, 15 pitons, double ropes, 100ft of 6mm tat. A fat rack of Cassin iron made for a secure and efficient descent as we slammed pins for anchors. I climbed with the X-Dream tools for steep ice and techy mixed terrain.
The weather cycles of this region are super difficult. Daily storms would cover the walls and flush the features, opening just enough to entice and lure us in. We established the FA of the granite tower Panfilovski East by a 2,000′ ice and mixed line (the Flight of the Zephyr- AI4R M7), climbed in a day, all free and clean, rapping the line and with no bolts. We also tried a new line on Kyzyl Asker, spent 3 days on the ice line getting bouted by apocalyptic spindrift avalanches and full firehose choking.