Climbing the Kuiluu Range
Old Soviet trucks, spicy noodles, and jagged peaks... what's not to like?
Have you ever wanted to achieve a first ascent? Our friends, Sebastian, Annick, and Felix went on a 4-week expedition to the Kuiluu mountain range in southeastern Kyrgyzstan to attempt a first summit of ‘Dragon Peak’.
Their goal was to keep their environmental impact to a minimum, befriending local drivers to take them across the Kuiluu river, and from there, traveling unsupported into the valley. As on any remote expedition, half the journey was getting to base camp; where the adventure really began.
Read about their story below, from planning the trip, to gear lists... also check out the Heron Glaciers worn on this expedition.
In Conversation with Sebastian Kegreiss
How hard is it to find unclimbed peaks, and what made you pick yours?
It begins with a lot of planning and research. Surprisingly, finding unclimbed peaks isn't as challenging as it may seem. There are many remote regions across the world that boast thousands of mountains, most of which nobody has ever heard of.
By delving into past expedition reports from these lesser-known areas, you can begin checking out areas suitable for what you are planning.
You traveled with one bag each, what were your packing essentials?
Oh man, it was more about what not to pack, given our 20 kg limit for checked luggage. Traveling light really is the way to go for climbing expeditions and backpacking alike.
My top three essentials? A good book, a trusty towel, and good spoons- (yes, really, we managed to break all 5 spoons we brought by the end of the trip) -and of course, my Heron Glaciers!
How did you plan your journey to basecamp?
Thanks to Burgess and Reynolds' expedition report from 2018, we knew it was possible to reach the end of the Oroy valley. What we did not know was how close we could get to its entrance.
We hired an old soviet GAZ-66 truck from a local fixer to get us there, setting off at 2AM. This truck was basically a tank with more than 1 meter ground clearance. We needed every inch to cross the large Kuylu river in the valley.
There was definitely a fair amount of "we'll figure it out when we get there" vibes, especially when it came to crossing that river. We had no idea how far the truck would get us, or if we could safely cross at all. Google Translate was a real lifesaver, and when the drivers kept their Russian rap music blaring, we knew they had the situation under control!
"Doing anything outdoors is fun, but to do it with some of your best friends makes for an unforgettable journey."
- Climbing Helmet
- Ice Axes (2x for steep ice, 1x ordinary)
- Crevasse Rescue Kit (Micro Traxion, Tiblock, Pulley)
- Thin Static Rope (30m in total)
- 10x Ice Screws
- In-Reach (satellite phone)
- Walking Poles
- Backpack 90l
- Backpack 30l
- Solarpanels (2x)
- Tichu (any card game will do)
- VALLON Heron Glaciers
- Down Jacket
- Rain/Wind Jacket
- Thermo Shirt & Bottom (2x)
- T-Shirts (2x)
- Mountaineering Boots
- Approach Shoes
- Cooking Gas 200g (12x)
- Cooking pot (5L)
- Spoons (5x)
- First Aid Kit
- Sewing Kit for Humans
- Sewing Kit for Clothes
- 1-Person Tent (for equipment+food storage)
- 3-Person Tent
- Tent Repair Set
Journal Extract: Summiting Dragons Peak
Under a stunning sky filled with stars, we embarked from our Advanced Base Camp (ABC), located at around 3,800m. After an hour of navigating the initial part of the snowless glacier, we encountered our first challenge: a labyrinth of crevasses. In this initial section, most crevasses ran parallel to our path. As the glacier became more complex, we chose a route along its left side, avoiding a snowfield that blocked our vision of underlying crevasses. Several substantial crevasses tested our flexibility and jumping abilities, leading us to utilize ice screws for belaying during our first and second attempts.
As the sun rose, we reached the saddle, ‘Dragons Neck’. From there, we followed the ridge, securing the route with a couple of strategically placed ice screws. Navigating the ridge was complicated by the unseen crevasses, which required careful consideration. Before the second challenging section, we constructed a T-anchor to ensure a safe final ascent over the steep snow and ice.
Despite the biting winds, we were overwhelmed with happiness - having then successfully passed the section where we had previously had to turn back twice. The remainder of the journey involved roughly half an hour of ascent to reach the summit - a moment filled with an indescribable sense of accomplishment and awe-inspiring views. Woohoo!
Spicy Noodles & Bottomless Crevasses
What was it like to successfully summit?
It was definitely a special feeling getting to the top. The expedition had involved one reconnaissance trip, and two attempts to reach the summit, and we finally nailed it on the very last climbing day of our expedition. Getting along as a team is incredibly important for long expeditions like this one and is essential for success. I think we did a pretty good job of that.
How did you choose the name ‘Dragon Peak’?
The decision to name it Dragon Peak was inspired, in part, by the glacier beneath, which resembled the scales of dragon skin, but mostly because we had indulged in incredibly spicy noodle soup for lunch the day before our successful summit!
VALLON Heron Glaciers have been tested on the world’s highest peaks, including K2, Annapurna, and Everest. With leather side shields and Cat. 4 lenses, they are the perfect go-to pair for any high-altitude adventure. Add them to your collection now!