North Face Athletes Go Ice Climbing in Kyrgyzstan

Way back in January, before the coronavirus took over our lives and upended travel, a team of athletes sponsored by The North Face traveled to Kyrgyzstan in search of ice climbing routes. The group included climbers Jackson Marvell, Drew Smith, Jack Cramer, who went looking for a grand adventure in a far off destination.

What they found however, was not only great ice climbing, but a wide-open land to explore that is mostly untapped by western visitors.

The team arrived Kyrgyzstan by flying into the capital of Bishkek, where they rented a four-wheel drive adventure vehicle. This sturdy and dependable van, known as a UAZ or “Bukhanka,” became their base of operations throughout their stay, dutifully carrying them along mountain passes and remote roads.

The trio were driving the Pamir Highway, which holds the distinction of being the second highest road in the world. That route would take them as high as 15, 272 feet (4654 meters), chugging along at an average pace of just 35 mph (56 km/h).

The van may have lacked modern amenities, but it provided the team with access to some hidden gems when it came to climbing. They would spend their days—often without seeing another soul—driving and looking for places to ply their trade.

The weather was often spotty and temperatures were routinely frigid (routinely -25ºF/-31ºC), but the trio would ford rivers, hike for hours, and wander into places few humans ever see just the chance to climb a spectacular patch of ice.

In the end, they would complete seen different ice lines, with some being as short as a single pitch. The longest, and most spectacular however, was a 900 meter (2952 ft) route that was every bit as challenging and demanding as they had hoped.

Recently, The North Face shared details of the expedition, along with some great photos, online. This may be one of the last TNF sponsored adventures to wrap up before the pandemic began to spread. You can read about it and check out the amazing images from Kyrgyzstan by clicking here. At the link, you’ll also find a complete rundown of the TNF gear used on this expedition.

Kraig Becker