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News 1997/98

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Virgin Summits | Rwenzori | Kilimanjaro| Mt Kenya | Fann | Elbrus| Georgia | Romania | Programmes 1999 | News 97 | News 96
Once again we come to the end of our EWP year and it is time to look back on this last twelve months . . . and to look to the future.

Muzkol Pamir
In 1996 an EWP expedition was the first West European group to visit the Muzkol, a little explored range in the south-eastern Pamir of Tadjikistan. Several unclimbed summits were conquered and many more exciting future possibilities discovered. In 1997 and 1998 EWP again visited the Muzkol. The base camp for both these trips was established on the Zartoshkol river, at the north edge of the range, on account of the easy vehicle access. In 1997 several virgin 5000 meter summits were climbed together with two six thousanders (both over 20,000 feet high).

The 1998 group comprised 3 American, 9 English, 2 Welsh and 3 Russian climbers, together with a Russian cook, her son and a Russian doctor. Part of the journey from Osh in Kirgizia to Muzkol follows the Chinese border and it is also the main road leading to the sensitive Afghan border areas. For these reasons there is a high degree of security along the route with many checkpoints. Luckily this year one of the checkpoints was abolished (at Kyzylart Pass, 4280m), also the group was not searched once. As a result the journey in both directions went very smoothly. During the first few days the whole group made the first ascent of "Four Nations Peak", 5501m. A few of the group continued, to ascend two further points on the same ridge. In the second half of the trip an advanced camp was established at 5050m on the Zartosh Glacier. From here the group explored the beautiful Zartosh glacier cirque. On the 21st August thirteen group members ascended "Leopard's Tooth", 5520m, by it's elegant, snowy, north ridge. This unique "island peak" is located in the heart of the cirque and it provided a fine view of the main objective - the west summit of Zartosh - subsequently named the White Pyramid (c6060m). Sixteen people made the first ascent of this on the 23rd August by its snowy north ridge. All the summits mainly involved climbing on snow and were generally non-technical. A few steep snow slopes and occasional crevasses required us to rope up on the ascent of the White Pyramid which we graded Alpine AD. Elbrus & the Caucasus.Detailed account
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Caucasus and Elbrus
This summer we had four scheduled and six private groups in the Russian Caucasus. The main attraction as usual being Mount Elbrus - the highest summit of Europe. The weather was unusually good and as a result the glaciers lost a lot of their fresh snow cover and many crevasses lower down were uncovered. Mineralny Vody experienced temperatures of 40+ C (over 100 F) for days on end. As a result of this good weather our first three major scheduled trips achieved a record 95% success rate.

On the 16th August a group of climbers in the Priut 11 hut were cooking on a stove that went out of control. They attempted to put it out, but accidentally poured fuel onto it rather than water. Luckily nobody died in the fire but the Priut, after 59 years of valiant service, was reduced to a smouldering ruin. Those of you who have visited it will be sad to hear that the toilet survived the inferno! Unfortunately, the last EWP group encountered bad weather on Elbrus in early September as well as the disadvantage of not having the Priut Hut. In all they made three summit attempts. For their third try they took a snow cat as far as to Pastukhova Rocks as they had to make it down in time to catch the last cable car that day. After almost an hour in the snow cat they arrived at the rocks stiff and unable to move - bitingly cold winds and deteriorating weather convinced them that there are days when Elbrus is best left alone.
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Georgia
In the eastern Caucasus three EWP groups visited Khevsuretia and Tushetia in Georgia, an area virtually never visited before by tourists, in a country with almost no tourist infra-structure. The walking was in beautiful, unspoilt country but proved tougher for some than they expected. One group in particular encountered a variety of logistical problems. However the trip was successful overall, especially since the flora at the time was at its best. We will certainly run the programme in 1999 as the location is so magnificent and we were able to learn a lot for our future trip plans.  * In 1999 this trek will be fully horse supported.

Romania
Over the last few years several EWP groups have ventured into the Romanian Carpathians. All the trips have been very successful. This can be attributed as much to Adi and Andrei, our two Romanian guides, as to the country itself. Our last group to visit Romania was organised with Trail magazine, a Trail host accompanying the trip. After a visit to Sinaia and the world famous Peles castle they crossed the Bucegi and Piatra Crailui mountains and then tackled one of Europe's longest high level ridge walks - the 80 km. main ridge of the Fagaras which includes Moldoveanu - the highest summit in Romania. This proved to be a tough walk in magnificent scenery. Cabanas were used in the mountains apart from one night for which the group split up between several houses in a small village in the mountains.
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Kenya and Tanzania
EWP was born in East Africa and our local experience has allowed us to create some very exciting programs into the remote mountain and wilderness areas. However by far the greatest numbers of visitors are attracted to Kilimanjaro and we can now offer some very competitive and good quality trips up the mountain. We are now planning to 'see-in' 2000 on the very summit of Kili - get in touch with us quickly should you wish to be up there with us!

Uganda
Laurent Kabila took office as head of state of the Congo in 1997 having deposed the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. Hopes that corruption could be reduced and that some form of order would return were quickly dispersed. Eastern Congo and the Rwenzori area remain unstable. Ugandan troops are attempting unsuccessfully to re-establish order on the Ugandan side of the mountains but so far have been unable to track down and disarm the groups of "rebels" who are even now terrorising the Bakonjo communities living in the foothills. We cannot, as a result, organise any groups into the Rwenzori at present, nor can we recommend private individuals going there alone. On the eastern side of the country private groups have visited Mount Elgon. Here all is peaceful and the magnificent walking on dry paths and generally better weather make this a good alternative to the Rwenzori.
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Western and Central Pamir
Our treks in the western Pamir, into the colourful and sunny Fann mountains, have as usual attracted many walkers who enjoy the good weather, their light packs (mules do the hard work!) and the visits to Samarkand and Bukhara. One group visited Peak Lenin which was plastered in snow and which, as usual, lived up to its reputation of poor weather.
 
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ALW 16/6/05