Second International Festival "Khan Tengri 2003"

July-August, 2003 Tien Shan (Kazakhstan)

by David D'Angelo (The Editor of

Aug 2 - 2400 hrs - A Russian snowman

This is an authentic Russian/Kazakh snowman. Just like the climbers themselves, complete with the bottle of Vodka and cigarette. You see, different cultures have different habits upon arrival in Camp.

The South Koreans arrive in large groups and even before pitching tents whip out the cameras and video.

The Americans, well I guess we immediately start making and pounding water.

The Russians pull out the cigarettes and Vodka bottles, no joke. At Camp I empty bottles reside next to the tenyd, and even on the trail up to Camp II, above 16,000 ft. there were butts on the trail. At first you're rather disgusted that such a pristine place is marred by such a foul thing. But then you're impressed, kind of like if you were to find a used condom on top of Everest.

Anyways, the past two days have been great. After Chad won yesterday everyone was partying. The hot air balloon was inflated, silhouetted against Khan Tengri, an inter camp, inter rescue squad snowball fight erupted, Turks and Icelanders versus the Kazakhs, and after dinner, the music and the Vodka started flowing. Different speed climbing strategies were discussed, and boy was it just a good time.

I continue to be impressed by the Kazakh and Russian hospitality. What fun loving people! Yuri, the BC manager left to guide some clients yesterday and was so stoked to hear that Chad won (he was packing when Chad passed the finish line - check out the sound bite)

Today the party didn't stop. This morning there were group pictures on the glacier as we all readied for the heli pickup. The weather didn't clear, however, and there was a mid morning pow-wow in BC - complete with Victor belting out on the accordian, and bottle after bottle of Vodka being poured. These guys and gals all climb hard and party hard.

Khan Tengri has been very tough this year, with very bad weather. Only some Krgy guides and the Turks have summited so far. The Russian have been relentless fixing ropes up the Kuzmin, and just returned today after about a week of being up high.

Tonight things were pretty mellow, and most went to bed fairly early. As I lay awake and write this tonight, bound for Akkol tomorrow I can't help but simply be amazed at this experienced. I didn't even go for a summit attempt, but am so happy I came here. I think there was one key factor that made this, and that's the people

From all over the world, a whole crew came together for a mighty fine time. Hey, it just ain't that bad.

- 'Til from the green hills of Akkol tomorrow, a very well rested, content, a somewhat thinner Dave D

Peace out, and good morning USA

Aug 1 - 1219 hrs - 1984 = 2003
Absolutely incredible. Chad was in second and caught up just near the bottom of the route to win.

We had no idea until we saw his head pop up over the horizon. The Iceland boys were further out on the glacier to congratulate him as he came in.

A whole gang of Koreans came by and after cleaning out the camp store of titanium equipment became Chad's biggest fans. Autographs, pictures, posing, you name it.

We're all just chillin' at the foot of the glacier waiting for 3,4,5 to come in.

5 hr 11 min 46 sec - Chad Kellogg - 'nuff said

Aug 1 - 1035 - A race to the bottom
Ropes only fixed to 6800m - Climbers turned around:

Serguei Brodsky - 1015 hrs
Andrew Puchinin - 1021 hrs
Chad Kellogg - 1025 hrs

It'll be over soon, they're on their way down!

Aug 1 - 0958 - Place shifting

Camp III, 5900m:
Serguei Brodsky - 0845 hrs
Andrew Puchinin - 0900 hrs
Chad Kellogg - 0901 hrs
Rychkoff A - 0937 hrs
Serguei - not yet at CIII

Andrew P has dropped back from the lead. In a race where half hours or more separate finishers, the top three are still very close. As Chad is now neck and neck with Andrew, there is a possibility that the former leader might be running out of steam.

You never know though, he could be slowing down to conserve. This race is a long way from over, still a couple hours to the summit!

While you are waiting for the next update, check out fellow Base Campers Nikolay's website for some pics of the Tien Shan region and Khan Tengri (I think)

Pic: I can't help but not poke fun at this VIP (he's been known to wear a badge that says so around his neck.) I guess word is that he's a US citizen, but he's about as American as I am Asian.

However, the jogging pants up to his neck (has earned him the nickname 'highwater' in some BC circles), the stars and stripes K-Mart special jacket (You should see the Atlanta '96 he wears on special occaisons), buckaroo cowboy hat, and the South Beach Miami white lip sunscreen, all add to the complete American persona. Geez, at first glance I though he grew up in Sweden.

He's an immigrant who's done well for himself in the US, gone from nothing to something, and makes sure that his old countrymen know it. The funny thing is that coming from an Italian background we have our same versions too. Maybe not quite as bad.

Anyways, back to the race!

Aug 1 - 0845 - Out of sight

They boys are out of sight, over the hump, and should be nearing Camp III, around 6000m. Positions last appeared to be the same. From now until they summit and reappear it'll just be sporadic radio contact confirming positions.

What all five of these competitors are doing is absolutely incredible. For instance, it takes a normal person about 5 hrs to make CI, 4900m. Within just 3.5 hours, they are nearing the 6000m mark. Hats off to all these guys just for taking place in this event.

People are starting to wake up and stir around BC. Pic is of spectators peeping the action. The Kuzmin route is all fixed, and mixed rock and ice.

CII, 5500m Times:
Andrew Puchinin (Krgystan)- 0733 hrs
Serguei Brodsky - (Kazakhstan) - 0737 hrs
Chad Kellogg - (Americanski) 0745 hrs
Rychkof A (Kazakhstan) - 0803 hrs
Sergei (Moscow) - 0817 hrs

Aug 1 - 0800 - hrs
Ok, so they've just passed CII, 5200m. The veteran Andrew P is in 1st, Sergei in second, and Chad K, 3rd. They are neck and neck in that circled area. Click video clip for close up. It's only been 2.5 hours, less than 1/4 over. The gap in the front runners is close! The air is starting to get thin and the sun is starting to peek through.

Aug 1 - 0530 hrs
- And they're off
The 5 racers started off at 0530 hrs across the glacier. The last winner, Denis Urubko, made the summit in 7 hr and 40 min, on the classic route. He was also the first one down - that's the winner BC - Summit - BC.

This year the comp is on the Kuzmin route - shorter and steeper than the classic. The catch is that the last part is being fixed as I write this. Hopefully it will be done when the racers get there. If not, they turn around however high the ropes are fixed. Pic of Kuzmin route in previous dispatch. More details as it becomes light and the camps radio in positions.

Aug 1 - 0415hrs
- Wake up call

0500hrs breakfast. It's dead calm outside - time to race. Pic of Chad warming up inside the tent. Game on - time to kick some commie ass. The Cold War is back in effect, literally, it's freaking freezing outside.

Stay tuned for the start.

Aug 1 - 0415hrs - Wake up call
0500hrs breakfast. It's dead calm outside - time to race. Pic of Chad warming up inside the tent. Game on - time to kick some commie ass. The Cold War is back in effect, literally, it's freaking freezing outside.

Stay tuned for the start.

July 31 - 1800hrs - Interesting day

Tomorrow is the big day, weather and route fixing permitting. Last night Chad tried his hand at the Contact 2.0 system and showcased the BC night life. Us Americans were in poor form last night as the Turks, Kazakhs, and Icelanders showed us how to party, however, we had the breakfast table all to ourselves. Hey, Kelloggs in training and now that I've lost 5 lbs, gotta keep em off :)

In other news; there have been 2 rescues. Several days ago a Polish woman fell into a crevasse while skiing down from CII. A big rescue effort got her down from CI. Some possible broken bones, a possible concussion, and overall in bad shape. It took the intervention of the Polish Embassy to convince the team to helicopter evacuate out. There's no liability here, you make those decisions for yourself.

Today she was joined by a fellow countryman from another Polish team on a chopper to Almaty.

So the story goes for this guy that he and his mate went up to C2 a little too quickly. This morning one of them didn't wake up. The helo landed at CII, 17,600 ft and picked the duo up. Then it came to BC, picked up the Polish woman and flew to Almaty, never a dull moment. The guy was still breathing, just not responsive. No word on how he is doing currently.

They tried to get the hot air balloon going, but it was a bit windy and we had to deflate it. I say 'we' because I got to act as human ballast to help keep the basket down. Went for a little ride across the glacier.

Stay tuned tomorrow for live coverage of the speed climb, starting at 6 AM local time - About 10 hrs. ahead of US time. It was delayed a day.

Back to my story. First things first - Why no dispatches for several days? It was a combination of poor SAT reception and power loss. The IPAQ needs fresh batts to charge, and I didn't have them. My bad. Really disapointing as I missed writing them.

Here's some of the events that transpired. I carried from CI to CII, starting ahead of the Britts, Wyn and James. It is a steep 3000 ft day, with 2 near-vertical sections of mixed rock and ice protected by fixed ropes with their sheaths worn off exposing the core. Very scary, at least for me. We made it up in 5 hrs. and chilled in CII for a bit before descending back down. All of us agreed that it was one of the toughest days of our lives. Felt good though.

Have to give big ups to Wyn and James. The descent on the fixed lines and the rappels were a bit harrowing and they were nice enough to give me some helpful tips and go out of their way. It was nice to know as a solo and independent climber that someone else was looking out for you as if you had a partner here. They even invited me to join with them on a climbing schedule and summit push. That meant alot to me as it meant they trusted my skills and ability. It is important to be self confident, however, it feels good sometimes when others have faith in you too. Either that, or they didn't want to feel bad if I killed myself all alone :) Just kidding.

Anyways, the next day all three of us went up to CII for the night. Cut off 1/2 hr off our time and motored up quickly. I felt very strong, even over the steep and technical sections where I was swinging my ice axe above my head. The pre-trip sporadic training was paying off.

Regards to the Iceland boys - they let the 3 of us crash in their tent. The following day the Britts went down, and I pitched my tent and stayed up there. Planned on acclimatizing high for a summit push, while they were going to rest below.

more tomorrow....hopefully the weather will hold for the speed climb - coming to you live!

July 31 - 0013hrs
- base camp late nite

We have the international celebration in effect. The crew consists of the Turkish team that is celebrating the summit of their team mates this afternoon. The Icelandic team is enjoying the Vodka and Turkish women.

Yuri the camp chief is representing the Kazakhstanis with Sophia and Olga. The breakfast scene should be a special sight. Dave is back in the land of cold beer and enjoying the 13,000 foot buzz. I am enjoying the scenery and live entertainment. Twentynine hours until the speed climbing competition on April first.

July 30 - 1900hrs
So, long time no hear. Well, I'm back down in BC, and yes, there is no summit picture. Not much of a story to tell, but will tell it nonetheless.

First, however, gotta go Red, White, and Blue. After several days of poor weather, tomorrow is the day for the Khan Tengri speed climb. If possible, which it should be, this correspondent will bring play by play, live action of the event.

There's about 9 athletes, all Russian/Kazakh with one American, Chad Kellogg, representing. I wanted to snag Old Glory from the fake American team, but it's in C1. (more about them later)

Not since the 1984 Olympics have Anglo/Soviet tensions been so high. (the 1984 reference is from my friend John Saalwachter. I would say 'good friend' however, he refused to join me on this once in a lifetime trip to start a job working for the man so he could fit in better with the 6 o'clock happy hour crowd at Chilis, Bennigans, TGI Fridays, and other such fine dowtown Denver establishments.) Just kidding John, I'll join you for an Onion bloom anyday.

So back to 1984 'dream team.' Chad has some heavy competition with the home team advantage, but if you saw the way he has been running up this mountain, this guy has a good chance. It's not that he runs or even seems to move that quickly, it's just that he never stops - like a machine.

There has been word that the normally reserved and nice Kazakh/Russians have been talking smack in the dining tent. We can't tell what they are saying, but my best guess is something like, "Two-toed sloth, capitalist, Backstreet boy something or another."

The Westerns reach of their language is somewhat limited, so don't hold me to that.

Chad is strong and he'll have the one other American (me) plus a rowdy crew from Iceland cheering him on from BC, and two Britt's on the mountain. So, if the weather holds tomorrow morning, about 7 or 8 PM EST stay tuned to the web for as complete coverage as possible. It's a 7+ hour event. You never know what is going to happen here.

So here's my scoop. Last we left off I was boastins about my aim, which I assure you continued to be in top form.

Climbed to Camp I, slept, came down. Back up to CI, then carry to CII following day, with same night in CI. Then up to CII where I stayed for 4 nights before coming down to BC today.

While this tripp hasn't been life changing, I have learned 2 things. 1, I do not possess that 'summit fever' thing, and 2, that too much of a good thing can be bad.

That 'thing' I am referring to is me, Dave D. I mean God, the same stories over and over again. After that much time with myself I was about ready to go crazy. Now I know solitary confinment is so bad. Another day and I was going to start counting the squares in the fabric of my tent.

You know how in Alcatraz there was the 'bird man' whe painted birds to keep himself sane? Well I was the 'Shovel man of CII' Armed with the black diamond collapsible, I awaited new comers to camp to start shoveling tent platforms, hoping that some words would be exchanged, possibly some pleasantries. No go - no one speaks english. I eventually resigned myself to leave the shovel as bait in front of the tent.

All that came of that was some tent shaking, digging motions, and a 'no problem' from me.

Some other exceptional exchanges were when several of us would point to the summit, blow hard to simulate wind, and smile at one another.

More about my experiences up high including, fixed ropes (lines keeping you attatched to the mtn) I wouldn't hang a tire swing from, a white out during my descent today, me thinking I was going snowblind, but really wasn't, and more later.

Stay tuned for the speed climb - tonight!

David 'I swear I'm not exaggerating' D'Angelo

July 23 - 1600hrs - That ain't lemonade

In my formative years I was oft yelled at for having 'bad aim'. Well Mom, you would be proud - On the side of a mountain, with much less O2 reaching my brain, in a tent you can't even sit up straight in, and with a pee bottle that has a neck of less than 1 in. in diameter; laser guided, ballistic, nano-micron precision isn't a luxery, it's a necessity - missing is not an option. Neither is going outside in the freezing cold. Hey, you guys wanted to know what it's really like out here. These are the challenges and triumphs that I face on a daily basis.

Now, why not use a Nalgene with a big 3 in. neck, you ask? The answer is: It takes years of weathering, scratching, and sticker application to make a Nalgene look 'cool', like you're outdoorsy and stuff - that painstaking devotion could easily be ruined in one fell swoop!

Anyways, now onto something that can be put on the website. Sorry about missed dispatch yesterday - a combo of poor sat reception and a thirsty calling card.

Now it should be noted my parents got kind of worried when there was no news and called into headquarters to find out what was up, especially since I had been doing these pretty regularly. That's the thing with doing these, when you stop, people might think you dead, or in really bad shape. Especially when your last dispatch says you are going climbing, and the one before about how bad this mtn is kicking you ass.. The question is, did any of my friends call my 'rents? I could have been dead for God's sake - just kidding.

Now onto the actual reporting. I ran into Scott Woolums, and American guide with whom Exweb has been working with (He's been doing dispatches too) while in the middle of a squall on my way up to Camp I. Pretty cool, considering that we've been corresponding via email since before Everest season about tech and weather and such.

So, I actually spent a night up high, 14,500 ft - woo hoo, only 8000 or so more feet to go! Today I moved up to the higher Camp I, and then returned to BC. A special treat for everyone out there today, video! Walking down was such a bore that I decided to do a bit of glissading. Had to be careful not to go too fast and rocket over a cliff a the bottom. The vid is short, has no sound, and is supported by just about every computer out there, so you can play it at work.

Tomorrow, back up to C1 - if I make it Before 4 will be able to send a dispatch (The sat tends to disappear in the evenings.) Right now on the Kuzmin route teams have reached Camp III, above 6000m, but there are no fixed ropes above. The helicopter tried to drop some up there, but it fell into a crevasse. On the classic, teams wilk be up in Camp II, 5500m, in the next couple of days.

I'll leave the phone on between 9 and 10PM Almaty time if anybody would like to give a shout. The # is (011) 88216 5020 5496 - That's morning NYC time.

July 21 - 1421hrs - Anchors Away
Some executive decisions today. Woke up around 6ish and headed up to retrive my stash of gear at 4300m. I felt 100 times better, maybe because of the light pack, maybe because I was more familiar with the terrain.

Anyways, I noticed that several anchors holding the fixed lines in place had pulled - not a problem as there are plenty of back-up. Also, on the Kuzmin route, there's a bunch of hanging seracs above the route. Yuri says, "No problem," and obviously, from his track record and the fact that he's old enough to have white hair, he's probably a pretty good judge.

Still, seracs on other parts of the mountain continue to fall daily. So, I collected all my gear at the stash and headed down to BC - tomorrow I'll start on the more tried and true classic route, heading up to C1, 5000m.

I started to think about death, and how much it would suck. I just didn't feel right on the Kuzmin, no doubt that it is probably pretty safe, and there are many other climbers on it. Just not in the mood to take chances.

Anyways, ran across Victor, one of the base camp staff, on the route. He was probably wearing 1971, limited edition Messners. His boots were so old, but man, he just came truckin up as I came down. Russians.

For all the Cascade Climber fans out there, Chad Kellog arrived in Base Camp today. Haven't spoken to him much yet, but he is currently the only American competitor in the speed climb event. He's up against a bunch of Russians and Kazakhs. Chad just broke the Denali speed record this past Spring, and has some other US speed records as well. Judging from the Russian and Kazakh climbers here, though, Kellog's got his work cut out for him. Go USA!

A friend of mine emailed me and wondered if I had brought up 1984 and hockey to any Russians. I haven't, nor did I see that game, but I'm hoping I get to see something similar happen in the upcoming competition. Also, the race will be on the Classic route, so by now taking that route, I'll have a better vantage point to do some live reports from the event.

July 20 - 1628 hrs - Rest
Took a break today in BC and read most of the day. Lots of teams spent the night above 5000m, and even set tents at 5300m.

I will attempt to wake up super early Mon morning and move that stash up to C1 and then will return to BC. The second time up should be easier, I hope.

July 19 - 2147hrs - F'n A
I missed dinner tonight, but joined a guy named Gila for some tea, "Zee moan-ten must invite you," he said about climbing. If that's the case, then I crashed it's party today.

Mentally and physically this was perhaps the most difficult day of my life. My goal was Camp 1, 5000m, on the Kuzmin route, the new 'Classic' route. BC is about 4000m, a difference of about 3000ft - very big, even dangerous by some acclimatization standards. Lots of people were going up the steep and mixed terrain of snow, ice, and loose shale.

I had never climbed on a fixed rope before, and at a very steep and near vertical ice section I stopped and let a slew of folks pass - resigned to head down and take the other route. Until a friend named Danier passed and said it wasn't so bad. So I pushed, and man was it hard and steep and draining.

I thought to myself, 'Why am I here? Why am I here alone? What the F was I thinking, I'm not even at 14,000ft, and I want to go home. I hate hiking, why do I want to climb a forkin' 7000m mountain?'

I had no answers, but there was no way in hell I was going to give up this early. I b'tch out on Aconcagua, I'm going to try on this one. So I remembered a trick. Pick a point just ahead, and say that is as far as I am going to go. But, when you get there, you just do it again.

Sure enough, several hours later I was at the top of the rocks at 4300m. There I stashed my gear, and decided to head down - far enough for me. Only one problem, I had a device that could ascend a fixed line, but not a device to descend. I left it in Almaty thinking I wouldn't be climbing any thing steep enough to warrant it.

What to do? I remembered previously T&T (bosses) talking about using a carabiner on Everest to belay. Basically what a belay device does is create friction on the line, letting you control your descent with one hand holding the line, a gravity transmission if you will.

I can recall seeing a way to use a carabiner to descend in a book too. So, for 45min I kept trying to twist the rope in the metal loop (carabiner), and testing it, using my ascender as a back up. It just kept unravelling, until somehow I made - the Munter hitch. It was like finding gold.

So, cautiously I started the descent, very proud of my ingenuity. I really had no other choice, but make this work.

My head was throbbing down in BC and the weather made a turn for the worse on the way down, and I was glad I didn't go to C1 today, the Teams that are up there must be battling some massive headaches, but we'll see in day or so when they come down how they fare. Tomorrow, rest. Picture is of me at 4300m, figuring out how to get down.

July 18 - 1539 hrs - Russians rule
Turns out that Yuri, our BC manager is a very experienced climber, quite famous in these parts. He won the Piolet d'Ore - (Golden Ice Axe award), a very prestigious honor, for an ascent of Makaku's West Face. (I think, the language barrier made things a bit confusing)

A coach of his from a 2002 Everest expedition runs another BC just a short walk down the glacier. Stopped by to see if our friend, Scott Woolums was there, but was told that he was on his way to Camp III.

Interestingly enough, the coach Alex, is going to Everest next spring and will be getting weather from a company located in Manhattan. I told him that was us and we all smiled and shook hands. Small world.

Everyone here continues to be very nice and last night I stopped by the cook tent after I heard an accordian. Most of BC was there and everyone motioned me in and cramped so I could sit. The Russians are very affable, and we spent the night singing Russian folk songs; I just listened and accepted the shot of Vodka graciously. They say it helps w/acclimatization - I know otherwise, but one shot wouldn't hurt.

Today scores more folks arrived, mainly more rescue teams. This camp as a whole has some strong climbers, and Yuri and his crew have done a good job organizing things.

Tomorrow I head up. BC is at 4000m and Camp I is 5000m. I would like to climb alpine style, but 1000m is too big a jump. So I'll either carry to C1 and descend to BC or camp out at an intermediate C1 at 4700m. It seems likely that I'll be in BC tomorrow - don't want to push too hard.

Just a heads up. The Sat phone might not have reception, so there might be a day or 2 skipped while on the mountain. Also, I'll leave the phone on from 8-9 PM, Almaty time, if anyone wants to ring.

July 17 - 1641 hrs - Kz - Yeah, it's pretty big
"Veelcome to baize camp," says Yuri, the manager. He's got 2 front teeth done up in 24k and ain't afraid to show them off, this guy's smiles all the time, and very nice! In case anything should happen to me on the mountain, I guess I should feel some comfort that this place is swarming with rescue teams from all over.

They are all here for the festival that kicked off this morning. A lot of people arrived last night via bus, including a whole swarm of Kazakhstan press. They survived their 14 hour bus ride with the help of lots of Vodka - the stuff must come out of vending machines or something.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, these guys drink it like it's the cure. No mixers either, that's for sissies, straight up only

The festival opened this morning amidst much fanfare, including an opening ceremony complete with models walking the runway in stunning traditional garb, a 'hip hop' dance crew that was surprisingly great, and also traditional horse games.

One of them was described to me by a British couple as a game where a guy has to chase a girl on horseback ano try to kiss her. The part I become a bit skeptical about is if the guy doesn't do it, he gets roughed up something nasty.

I unfortunately missed the games as I was able to catch an early helicopter to base camp. With the exception of the Akkol BC manager attempting to jostle me around to another tent at 1 AM, this has been very well organized by Asia Tour. The events and entertainment this morning were great.

So tomorrow I'll rest in BC and then start up. Feeling pretty good here at 13,000ft so far.

July 16 - 1638 hrs KZ
- In the mountains
After one of the coolest expereinces of my life in an old Russian helicopter I'm here in Akkol - a staging area for....Well, this dispatch started being written on a beautiful hillside that I hiked up to at 8300 ft. Note to self - If you hear lightening in the distance it's safe to assume that its coming your way and not around you.

Needless to say you have never seen me run so fast down a mountainside. I got into my Russian military barrack not a minute too soon, just before the heavy stuff came down.

Dry and safe now, I'll continue. This morning, WOW. We loaded up in the heli along with a bunch of supplies at 7 AM. It was me, some Czechs and 2 Russians. There is zero regard for safety here and it's great. No seatbelts, cargo everywhere, including our laps, the extra fuel tank is inside the cabin, and AC/DC thunderstruck blaring in my headphones on take-off. I was in heaven.

It got even better when we started to open the windows and stick our heads out. I couldn't stop laughing the whole way. None of use could - we just trapsed around the cabin checking out the different windows and climbing over suppliesvand luggage.

We arrived and I got squared away at camp - thank god for the interpreter. Akkol is a staging area before Khan Tengri. Not a lot of others are here yet and I am the only American.

Had a bit of a headache upon arrival from the 13,000 ft heli ride, but some water and a long doze took care off that. Had no problems on my hike, well, if you don't include almost getting caught in a thunderstorm on an exposed ridge.

The plan is to bust out of here on the 18th for Khan Tengri. You never know though - the Czechs I flew in with were supposed to continue on to Khan Tengri So. side, but got bumped off. They are pretty pissed as they had been waiting in Almaty for several days so far.

Tomorrow there's supposed to be some opening ceremonies. I'll try that hike again to try and acclimatize. Even though I am early, I'm realizing that it's a tight schedule, and the weather has been super fickle.

July 16 - 9PM (Kz) - Rock on!
Tomorrow I check out at 5 AM and hopefully the weather holds for the early helicopter flight. Its raining right now outside, which isn't a good sign, but we'll see.

The good news is that this morning at 1.50 in the AM my equipment arrived. How do I know the exact time? Because my sorry ass was at the airport to pick it up. They don't deliver here. It was all fun though because I got to spend some QT with Adym, the security guard.

Adym was an interesting character, he would call each passing woman (all 4 of them there) 'Madame', give the thumbs up, and then start humping the air like Ace Ventura. Incredible.

Spent the day wandering around and soaking in the city. This place is surprisingly modern and the people continue to be extremely nice, pointing me in the right direction, and helping out when I'm lost.

As you can see by the 2 youngsters in the pic, they are into the Metal here. As far ahead in fasion as this city is (the women are dressed to the 9's and there are very nice stores all 'round - Versace, Prada, etc..) the kids are way behind in the trendy Western music. Metallica and Scepultera shirts way out number Eminem and Brittney Spears. Tried to barter my sick John Mayer acoustic CD to the Iron Maiden kid for his shirt, but no dice - his loss really :)

Later on I visited the Bath house and within the next couple of weeks will have a difficult decision to contemplate. Will it be a Turkish, Finnish, or Russian bath upon my return to Almaty. So far, it just ain't that bad!

The day ended with a stroll through a Russian amusment park. Now these guys know about fun rides - there is no liabilty here. One ride, which was unfortunately closed, is a zip line that's easily longer than a football field.

And Boris the Bear had no qualms about walking around with his giant stuffed head tilted back, exposing his face. The kids didn't seem to mind though.

All in all a very exciting day. Hopefully I'll be coming at you tomorrow from Akkol. The link below goes to a pic of my gear all spread out.

These dispatches will undoubtably get more serious when I actually see this rather large mountain face to face in the next couple of days - 'till then....

July 14 - 1 out of 2 ain't bad

Wow....where to begin? Well, I arrived at the Almaty airport this morning at 2 AM. I had 2 checked bags - 1 with all my equipment, the other with all the food. 1 made it. If the other doesn't, I guess I can sit around BC in shorts and sandals selling tons of Lipton soup and Sardines in tomato sauce.

Today I visited Asia Tour, the organizer of the festival, to square away. Turns out I'll be able to leave a day early with a Russian/US crew of other journalists - in a chopper instead of a truck. Woo-hoo!

I half walked and half used the buses - it got me kind of where I was going, and I guess Americans get a free ride. I tried to give the girl who collects, my fare, but she just smiled and then moved past me. Everyone I ask directions from insists that I take the Taxis instead - and Konstantin at the Asia Tour office laughed when I asked about a bus map. I can't stand Taxis though.

This place is very cool. People are friendly, no one speaks English, and they combine go-kart tracks with nightclubs. I'm watching tonight's perfomers warm up as i eat in the cafe. There's going to be sick dance duet to 'lady in red' where the dude takes his shirt off at the end.

My cell works here, but no data on it, so it's on to the SAT phone from here on with the pics and all. I'll go back to the hotel and try to send this one through.

Just in case I forgot how to call, grabbed this shot of a crew of Kazakh youngsters, one of which had NYC dialing instructions on his shirt. They couldn' have been over 12, but they were all smoking butts - chucking them away for the pic. Marlboro Reds cost a buck fifty here.

Tonight I'll make another trip to the airport at 1 AM to hopefully collect my bag. Keeping my fingers crossed!

email is now online at: - no pics or attatchments though. Would love to hear from y'all!

July 11 - Tomorrow is the day

Well, it's go time. Tomorrow I board a flight from New York to Amsterdam, and then on to Almaty. Today I spent the day biking around New York gathering together last minute items for my comm setup.

After several years being on the other end of these dispatches, I'll finally be the guy writing them. Should be good fun. Anyways, time to go out and grab brew with the NYC crew and then an early train ride to CT to finish packing!


The whole story published on with many pictures by David D'Angelo

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