The Kokshall Too “Forbidden Range”
, is located on Kyrgyzstan’s Chinese border. It was a closed military region until the late 1990s when the first western expeditions visited the region. The Soviets had climbed the highest peaks, Dankova (5982m) and Kizil Asker (5842m), but the region as a whole had not been well explored by climbers. This will remain a region of unclimbed pearls for some years to come.
In 1997 a foreign expedition, led by Christian Beckwith, the late Guy Edward and Lindsay Griffin traveled to the region to bag peaks and claim new routes. Guy put up a solo first ascent of peak Butterfly, while others in the party climbed others giving names to peaks such as Jerry Garcia, Ecstasy and Unmarked Soldier. Pat Littlejohn, a British guide, brought large groups of paying clients to claim all the last remaining unclimbed points in the Dankova group to the east.
Arriving by vehicle to the region entails a two-day drive from Bishkek. Although the region is a military zone the border guards are now accustomed to climbers and there are no difficulties if the paperwork is in order. A final 10km of off-road travel over wet grass and rocky river beds takes you to the tip of Komorova glacier where a base camp can be established. There are no services available here; the local population was long ago removed by the Soviets as a way to protect the border. In the future, as the popularity of the region increases, local tourist companies will no-doubt set up makeshift tent camps that provide basic services such as radio communication and meals, but for now be prepared to bring all of your own supplies.
Kizil (or Kyzyl) Asker (5842m) and its surrounding peaks offer the best new route potential. One waiting challenge is the main couloir on the southeast face of Kizil Asker, where the wall rises 1300m above the glacier. To reach this wall approach via the Komorova glacier, climb over the 4700m ‘window’ col just east of Unmarked Soldier, and down into Chinese Sinkiang. This wall was attempted alpine style by a Scottish team led by Edmond Tresidder in 2002. After acceding 500m on steep ice this attempt was thwarted due to thawing conditions but they are reported to be planning another attempt in 2004. On the Kyrgyz side the northwest face was climbed only once in 1985 by a Kazak team led by Kasbek Valiev. The north ridge of Kizel Asker, accessible from the Kyrgyz side, has a dramatic high point of 5400m that has been attempted but remains unclimbed.
Much of the new route activity of the last few years has been on the more accessible granite Ochre Wall where in 2002 Sean Issak and Scott Decaprio put up the 600m mixed route Beef Cake (IV M5 WI4) , and a Spanish team put a rock route named Ak Saitan
, “White Devil” (A3+, 6a+, 600m) on the wall’s main pillar. This wall has several obvious lines still waiting to be climbed.
Unfortunately there seems to be no good season to go to Kokshall Too. Most expeditions come back with tales of many tent bound days waiting for good weather. Mandatory expedition gear includes board games and playing cards. The best weather window seems to be near the end of August to the middle of September. Ideally arrive early/mid August and stay as long as possible. The access road closes in October.