From our snow leopard volunteering expedition in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/tienshan)

It was after midnight when we arrived back in Bishkek this Sunday morning.

When we left on Friday, we did not expect the unexpected when driving up the mountain pass road well in time according to the timetable set for preparing base camp. Road construction work was going on in the darkness of the tunnel, so it was closed for trucks, including ours!

Loaded truck
Loaded truck
Roadworks
Roadworks

Phil, Volodya, Emma, Isma & I passed in one of the expedition cars while Aman and Bekbolot stayed back in the truck on the other side. No information could be gained about how long the temporarily closure would last. So we just sat and waited, and waited, and waited, watching dozens of trucks piling up in front of us probably half way down the pass road. Four hours later, at 18:00, the worker’s finishing time, finally the orange & white NABU truck appeared out of the dark of the tunnel!

We drove on in convoy until about half past eight until we reached the place of a herder friend of ours, where we pitched a few tents for spending the night in.

In convoy
In convoy
Fuelling up
Fuelling up
Traffic jam
Traffic jam
Stopping overnight by the herder's yurt
Stopping overnight by the herder’s yurt

But we did not go to sleep before having a very basic but good dinner.

Dinner
Dinner

After another three-hour drive on Saturday, we reached last year’s base camp location and finally we scouted out a beautiful location close to Talant’s (another herder friend) yurt, about two km further up the Karakol Pass. The spot is at an altitude of 2,950 m and beside a stream supplying us with water and the opportunity for a very refreshing bath for the very brave. You may feel some shortness of breath when arriving, but don’t worry, we will take it slowly, and although altitude sickness can occur from 2,400 m onwards, medical evidence shows that it is not usually a problem below 3,500 m.

Base camp
Base camp
Unpacking at base
Unpacking at base

Talant and his family are good friends with the NABU staff and they have also been hosting expedition teams every year in their yurt for a traditional Kyrgyzs meal on the day off. Talant’s sons will also look after the camp during the week between slot 1 & 2, when everyone will go back to Bishkek.

I would not call base camp set-up a routine, but now in our third year, we are a well-oiled team. So the truck was quickly unloaded and the kitchen tent & cooker were set up first, so that Emma start weaving her magic in the kitchen. Because of the delay, we only had part of the day to set up and did so without allowing ourselves a break. By 18:00 base was set up sufficiently so that Phil, Aman, Emma & I could leave for another six hour drive back to Bishkek. Volodya, Bekbolot and Isma stayed back to finish setting up for our return on Monday. Team 1: We need lots of people to set up the yurt, so this will be our first activity after the long journey from Bishkek and before I’ll talk everyone through the risk assessment.

Whilst I write this, Phil has gone for some last minute shopping with Emma. It is sunny and warm in Bishkek and the 14 day weather forecast looks promising. The second expedition vehicle has just been delivered, I have printed some more paperwork such as a Russian translation of the interview datasheet, etc. and will finish up with office work today.

I hope you are as excited as we are, now that preparation is over and we are all ready to go! We are looking forward to meeting the first team tomorrow (Monday) morning at 08:00 at Futuro hotel.


From our snow leopard volunteering expedition in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan 

2 Replies to “From our snow leopard volunteering expedition in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/tienshan)”

  1. Eagerly following your posts and wish I were there with you again this summer. I am also glad that you are using Futuro Hotel as the joining point, as it is a comfortable stay and they were very helpful to me there last year. Can’t wait to hear more – wishing you luck to find more evidence of snow leopard in the Tien Shan Mountains. Best wishes to everyone!

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