By Liv Sansoz
In August 2013, Mike Libecki, Ethan Pringle and I left for the unexplored Tian Shan Mountains near the border of China and Kyrgyzstan, some 3,300 kilometers from Beijing. There are no comforts of civilization here. No springs rolls or rice noodles. No cell phone service or internet connection. There is only the wilderness of staggering glacier valleys and snow-capped mountains waiting to be conquered.
[Bags on bags. Mike Libecki shuffles through gear at the airport en route to China. Photo by Keith Ladzinski.]
[Strolling on a layover day in Beijing. Photo by Keith Ladzinski.]
These valleys and mountains remain nameless. The summits have yet to be measured. There are no paths to follow, no mapped out topography, and no climbers. There are only the small communities of Kyrgyz families living together in traditional yurts.
[Mike Libecki, Ethan Pringle, and Liv Sansoz share a meal in a yurt with a Kyrgyz family.]
The goal of the expedition was simple. We set out to chart a new route up one of the region’s many virgin and unknown summits.
We had to deal with unexpected weather conditions, political resistance, and distances that were far greater than we anticipated. Mike, Ethan and myself did not hesitate to make the commitment to the expedition despite the challenges. We knew that all the hardships, all the suffering, would make the trip that much more worthwhile in the end.
[Rock hopping near base camp in the Tien Shan Mountains, China. Photo: Keith Ladzinski]
We didn’t know what we would find. We didn’t know where we would climb. But we did know that we had to be ready. And that if we approached the trip with a strong team, everything would work out well in the end.
[On route. Run For the Bolder 5.12 R]. Photo: Keith Ladzinski]
[Jugs away. Liv Sansoz cruises up the route]. Photo: Keith Ladzinski]