The planning and execution of the expedition was split between the members as soon as we decided on our location. This allowed Dave to concentrate on the in-country logistics and mountaineering while things like communication, food and medical details were worked out by other team members. The size of the team meant we also had a dedicated environment manager, web master, publicity guru and treasurer, which meant these jobs were done very thoroughly. The split of tasks was far from equal, and there was room for adjustment through the planning stages, but the splits made logical sense so were stuck to fairly rigidly. We had bi-weekly meetings during October- November and January - March by which point most of the planning was finished in time for the students' exams. A final push around a month before the expedition then prepared us before the team split up at the end of the university year. In this way the team made most decisions as a team with advice from the person responsible for the area.
We flew Aeroflot as the 23kg baggage allowance was greater than the direct flights operated by BMI (route stopped in Autumn 2012), and it was also much cheaper (£628 return). The stopover in Moscow was manageable, and the flight reasonably comfortable.
ITMC were recommended to us by Pat Littlejohn, who runs frequent expeditions in Kyrgyzstan with the International School of Mountaineering. They organised travel from the airport, accommodation in Bishkek, and travel to our expedition area. We also bought gas from them, and could have hired satellite phones and a variety of other things from them. They were highly organised, professional and helpful; it was very reassuring having their support. The same company also runs the Kyrgyz mountain rescue services. They spoke excellent English, and we got by without any real knowledge of Russian or Kyrgyz. We used the ITMC offices as a base while buying food and supplies as soon as we got to Bishkek. We were then taken to two apartments for the night, which were adequate and cheap. It should be noted that accommodation in Bishkek is fairly Western in price, especially for large groups. ITMC supplied us with a ‘truck-bus’ – literally a Russian truck (Ural 375), with a coach compartment on the back. As ITMC hadn’t been to our valley for a while they promised this would take us as far as possible – and it was definitely the best vehicle for this. The track was actually better than expected, so on the return journey we had a slightly less enormous truck. Both trucks were in very good condition. ITMC also offered to organise our trip around the country in the last week, although we chose to do it ourselves.
Access to Basecamp
From the road head we walked the final 5km and 600m of ascent over 2 days. The first day we started walking at 1200 and finished around 2000. On the second day we started around 0900 and were finished by 1800. We carried our kit in two loads of around 25kg each. To prevent animals eating our equipment or food we always left two people with any kit store. The transit camp was at around 2700m and 2km from the road.
We split ourselves into two teams of four. Each team of four alternated between climbing on the mountain and doing duties around camp. The four on the mountain kept together, acting as a rope of four the majority of the time, but with the option of splitting into two pairs for technical sections. Given the terrain, this was a sensible option. This plan worked out very well, with everyone getting just enough rest between mountain days, and the camp duties being rotated as well. The only issues were when someone was ill and missed a mountain day, they had another enforced rest day to get themselves back in sync. There wasn't quite enough flexibility to change teams of four around (no-one wanted to have two days on the mountain consecutively). Similarly, 2-day routes would have been slightly annoying to fit into the system, and bad weather could also disrupt the system. So although our plan went very well, and pleased everyone, there was potential for complications.