Tajikistan

I’ve had some serious downtime since Lenin, and am slowly getting back into the climbing rhythm now that I’m at base camp. On the 26th, we crossed into Tajikistan by the seldom-used Karamyk Pass, formally closed to foreigners. We definitely got some laughs from border guards, who were surprised to see seven alpinists show up with perfect paperwork. After a few hours spent at about eight checkpoints, we were finally in, and drove down the road to Jergatol. Nestled in a narrow mountain valley, Jergatol is beautiful, but things in Tajikistan are more than a little chaotic. After a few days of eating rice, carrots and bread, it started to feel a little more like purgatory than paradise. We waited a few days for use of Tajikistan’s only helicopter, an old Soviet Mi-8, which seems more to be at the disposal of the president than anything. There’s also been fighting with a radical Muslim group in southern Tajikistan, so maybe it was diverted for that reason. In any case, the 70 or so climbers eventually got shuttled to base camp a few days ago. Things here were off to a funny start—food was a bit off which has been hard on my stomach, and organization was a little loose, but it seems that everyone’s hitting their stride now. Yesterday I soloed the beautiful Peak Vorobiova (18,700 ft) above base camp and was blown away by incredible views. Now I’m resting and resting and working on a manuscript a bit before camping up a bit higher than 14,300 ft base camp. I’ll wait until after the next set of storms to try anything really high. The helicopter will return no earlier than the 18th, so there’s really no reason to rush things. I lost a bit of acclimatization during my long stay at Lenin base camp and Jergatol, but I’m feeling quite well around base camp. I’ve haven’t been too burnt out or tired so far on this trip, but I’m definitely looking forward to good food and visiting with friends and family when I head home in a few weeks.

Take care,
Hari