The Last Yurt on the Left

Posted on August 5, 2014

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Exiting Lenin

We awoke in Camp 1 early, anxious to head back to the Achik-Tash base camp and back to the California Cafe for some pizza and orange juice. We would get back two days earlier than scheduled because we were shut down by the weather, so I kept my phone handy awaiting for a signal to come through so we could make the appropriate phone calls for a ride back to Osh.

Author’s Notes: This trip is a continuation from this post: Did You Bring Food? and Let’s Stick to Climbing on the Stones.

For an overview of the attempt of Peak Lenin, Click Here.

There are plenty of extra photos in the gallery at the end of the post.

The Final Camp Break Down. Photo: Bjorn

The Final Camp Break Down. Photo: Björn

Hiking away from Camp 1. Photo: Bjorn

Hiking away from Camp 1. Photo: Björn

We crossed the frozen snowbridges at the toe of the glacier, which had significantly less snow compared to when we arrived. After following one of the many well-cairned trails that spider-web the moraine below Camp 1, we found the main creek to cross before a one hour traverse and climb up a scree field. On the way, we encountered a group of three Swedes, who listened in awe of our exploits on the mountain and the horrendous weather we faced.

On the scree field during the hike out. Photo: Bjorn

On the scree field during the hike out. Photo: Björn

We carried on, wishing the Swedes good luck. After ascending and descending the pass, I found cell phone service just before the Onion Field. We made a series of phone calls before we got a hold of the people who would eventually be our drivers. They wanted us to walk almost all the way to Sary Moghul, which we blatantly refused since we had already paid a very high price for the ride to and from Achik-Tash, and we just walked for eight hours from Camp 1.

After some deliberation, the driver told us to go down to the “Last Yurt on the Left” at Achik-Tash. We had no idea what he meant, as Achik-Tash was empty when we were there ten days before. This was the start of a number of eccentricities we would face all the way back to Osh.

We decided to follow his instructions nonetheless, as there were few other options available. It was another hour from the Onion Field to Achik-Tash, during which I had to stop several times as I was having toe-related problems. Sure enough, there was a group of yurts, and the last one on the left was occupied by a very friendly Kyrgyz family who invited us in for bread and tea.

Standard Kyrgyz Transportation

Standard Kyrgyz Transportation

The mother of the family told us the protest at Sopu Korgon had ended, but there were “other troubles” on the road which we would find out about later. After eating, we followed the man of the family to his horse, and then loaded our packs on the horse and followed him down to the river. The rolling green foothills of the Kyrgyz Pamir were simple incredible after ten days of glacier travel, but Björn and I were so tired from the trek that it was hard to appreciate it.

Donkey Stand-off in the Kyrgyz Pamir Foothills. Photo: Bjorn

Donkey Stand-off in the Kyrgyz Pamir Foothills. Photo: Björn

The man on the horse did not speak Russian or English, so we were confused when he led us down to the river, and did not hesitate before crossing on horseback with our packs. He dropped the packs and came back across. I watched Björn mount the saddle behind the man awkwardly, and he too set off across the river. I was so exhausted that I did not think twice about hopping aboard the back of the horse behind the saddle and holding on as we crossed a raging river of chocolate milk.

Bjorn making the crossing

Björn making the crossing

My turn! Photo: Bjorn

My turn! Photo: Björn

We walked up the hill on the other side of the river, laughing at how ridiculous the situation was, and hypothesizing about how much more insane this situation would be if we had just flown out from Stockholm or Denver rather than living in Almaty for the past few years.

Standard Kyrgyz Transportation Exchange in the Pamir Foothills

Standard Kyrgyz Transportation Exchange in the Pamir Foothills

At the top of the hill, a van was waiting for us to drive us back to Osh. By the time we finished loading the van, the man on horseback was already one hundred meters away, riding back to his home. I yelled “Thank you!” in Kyrgyz, and he gave a polite wave to acknowledge it, but otherwise he just kept continuing to be a complete bad ass.

Entirely blown away by the experience so far, we made the drive to Sary Tash without issue, and started the ascent of Taldyk Pass as it began to rain. The drivers had mentioned something about a “problem” along the way, which we soon discovered was a huge landslide blocking the road just after the summit of the pass.

Walking over the landslide on Taldyk Pass

Walking over the landslide on Taldyk Pass

Following instructions, Björn and I grabbed our packs and followed the driver and his friends over the landslide. The men working the construction equipment stopped to let us pass, and I made eye-contact with the drivers to ensure they saw me in my bright techno-color dream hoodie.

As soon as we were on the other side, a podgy Kyrgyz man in a crowd of other men watching the clearing of the slide started screaming at me in Russian, too quickly for me to understand. He approached me with his hand raised, as if he weas going to hit me in the back of the head. I flinched and got out of arm’s length as quickly as I could. The rest of the crowd, which included military and police officers, didn’t even give the situation a cursory glance despite an obvious foreigner about to be whacked in the head. We continued to walk to another taxi, where the driver told me in Russian that I’m a “lucky idiot” or something along those lines. Too tired to care, we settled in for the two hour drive to Osh.

After a day of relaxing in Osh, Björn and I would head back to Almaty on June 24, a little bummed we did not make the summit, but stoked to have shared such an insane experience, capped off with one of the craziest days either of us had had in Central Asia.

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