Somewhere along the Tien Shan range, on a glacier that divided Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, a man named David Lim decided to name a peak, after Singapore’s late president, Mr Ong Teng Cheong, in July 2005. It would take 11 years for another fellow Singaporean team to venture out to the Semenov glacier to see for themself, a mountain named after their father. They were Mr Ong Tze Boon, Mr Ong Tze Guan, Mr Lim Kim Boon, and Mr Leow Kah Shin. Check out their journey here: Summit With Your Heart 2016
I have never met Edwin Siew and Kim Boon in my time with the club. The hearsay legends piqued my interest when I found out that they would be tagging along this climb. So I decided to take on another TMC. Along with fellow second timers, Jonathan Yee Chen Xin, and Pang Hui En.
Training schedule was tight, we only had 2 and a half months to train. Being that this trip was announced late in the semester, there was not much buzz and we had trouble recruiting members. Ultimately, things fell in place, and we started the training phase as fast as we could. We ran, we climbed stairs, ran some more, and put ourselves through a shortened MIR challenge.
Kazakhstan TMC was going to be short, and a few of us planned our R&R before the trip and we headed for the Charyn Canyon. Won’t say much about this, just that it was gorgeous.
We had to land in Almaty, Kazakhstan. It was where we met the rest of the team on 4th August 2017. It was a short-lived experience in the city, but honestly I would not have changed it at all. (It is quite a boring place.)
We drove to Karkara base camp. This time we sat in a luxurious Mercedes van. We were pampered kids. This camp was owned by Kan Tengri Expeditions, they were the tour agency that was hired.
Check them out here: Kan Tengri
We were welcomed by Kazbek Valiyev, a revered mountaineer in his time. He had a well trained dog.
Here we were outside the city lights, the night sky was littered with shimmering stars but unfortunately we were blinded the full moon. This was a recurring problem for the rest of the trip. Our sleep was lightly disturbed by the river that separated Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, it was a pleasant reminder that we were at the edge of civilization. The following day we stamped our passports and crossed the river into Kyrgyzstan, this in itself was an unforgettable process.
For many of us here, the helicopter ride was an eye opener. It was an attraction of the trip to some. But I was pretty sure the novelty of it wore off 5 minutes into the 45 minutes flight.
We landed on the Kazakhstani side of the Semenov glacier, and directly across us was Ong Siew May Peak. In this photograph below.
Due to the geographical nature of this region, the valleys are wider than in the Nepalese Himalayan range. This vastness actually makes every thing here look smaller than it seems.
Ascending almost a 1500 metres in altitude within 45 minutes was not a regular phenomenon. We dealt with this through ‘active-rest’. We took our time to pitch our tents, find our water, and cook our food. First afternoon, we had our first case of AMS-merlion. He received all our pity, for it seemed like undue suffering. But we were wrong! #diamox
The next day we trekked around 8km on the glacier to refresh our crampon work, rope up techniques and basic knowledge about the terrain we were in. All day we only saw the white of the ice, and the blue in the sky. The barrenness of the land struck me as the greatest difference from that of Nepal.
We made for Ong Siew May peak (4500m) on the third day, we with our AMS team mate fighting his way up to the top. Where there is credit due, credit will be given. Our Kazakhstani guide, Saken was in awe of his determination to make it up in spite of his condition.
Ong Siew May peak was flat and we even had time to set up a camera on a tripod, fly a drone, and take several flyby shots before we called it a day. That evening, we celebrated amidst the greatest sunset we have seen, sat together in an expensive Redfox tent filled with the aroma of Koka’s greatest noodles and tapped to tunes of Pink Floyd. Not a sentence that could be put together every day.
As part of the ‘Technical’ aspect of the course, the guides squeezed in traversing on ice, a little ice climbing to introduce some other aspects of mountaineering to the team. It was National day that day, and celebrations were mandatory. What greater way than to fly a drone at 3900m, across a campsite on a glacier in the middle of the wilderness while flying the Singapore flag?
We rested that night, because the following morning we headed to Ong Teng Cheong peak (4900m). It was a long walk with some steep sections. The summit ridge was so flat and wide, it was probably possible for someone to get lost on it. We made summit fairly early, and we all gathered to perch atop the peak just for that grand summit photo. Once again, mandatory drone shots too!
That night was our last night on base camp, and luckily for us, the weather turned for the worst that night. The snow hammered our tent, and the temperatures dipped just enough to feel a chill. This time we whipped out the best dish we had up our sleeves in the tent, spaghetti in tomato soup, and the Semenov glacier echoed Oasis.
We met the legends and the stories told inspired this site you are reading today. This may not be the most technical trip of all our TMCs, but we did form a great team, made great friends and took some really awesome photographs. I guess it would be a great stepping stone for those still on the fence about this sport. It is more forgiving than the grueling 3 weeks in Nepal/India. Ultimately, if the initial vision of this club was to introduce and spread the word “Mountaineering” as a sport to public, we certainly made that real.
MIR 16 Kazkah TMC consists of: Lim Joel, Jonathan Yee Chen Xin, Leong Chi Yang, Jovi Loo, Nur Hazirah Hassan, Pang Hui En, Dmitrii Kharkovskii, Lim Yi Xiang.