Asia - a place which immediately evokes the legendary Silk Road, the long journey
undertaken by Marco Polo to the court of the Great Khan, and the religious-tribal
fanaticism which, entwining around the secret aims of the greater and smaller
powers, ensure that this "centre of the earth" is far too often the
scene of terrible crises.
deserts, towering mountains and unending steppes play host to what was once a
great and important people, now nomads. Here there are high plateaus and soaring
peaks where, as in the words of Marco Polo, "no birds fly, so high and cold
is it here". In recent times they have suffered at the hand of political
"experiments", but this area is now free of Soviet domination.
part of Central Asia, once not easily accessible or simply out of bounds, is not
without reason described as being the "roof of the world", for it is
from here that the highest mountains on earth branch away - the Karakorum and
the Himalayas southwards, the Hindu Kush westwards, and the Tian-Shan off to the
Pamir is an immense region, dominated by the giant Pic Communism (7495m) and Pic
Lenin (7134m), once the highest mountains in the now defunct Soviet Union. Central
Asia entices those travellers in search of new horizons, tired of seeing the "déjà
vu", as the sheer number of unexplored valleys, untouched glaciers and huge,
unclimbed rock faces is breathtaking.....
having pitched our tents in the Ak-Su valley (valley of clear waters) at the beginning
of August 1996 at the base of the imposing Pie Slesov (4240m), we quickly identified
a magnificent unclimbed spur. Our base-camp, situated in a luscious field close
to shady juniper bushes and yak herds, was just a few 100m from the start of the
"Una stella per Ulughbek" as it was eventually named,
is 27 pitches long (1000m), graded VI+ and ascends up magnificent and often vertical
granite cracks. One third of the route was prepared prior to the actual climb
and the night spent in a freezing bivouac on the summit, gazing at the thousands
of stars above.
King of Samarkand and nephew of Timur, studied astronomy in great depth but neglected
the political sphere. He attempted to govern according to the principles of reason
and tolerance instead of basing his decrees on science and instruction. Whilst
still young he was deposed by a conservative faction and decapitated. Situations
like this continue to exist, not only in remote regions such as the Asan-Usan.
Thanks to an
extended period of excellent weather we succeeded in putting up two other new
routes in the Ak-Su valley, namely "Trenta passi nella meta del cielo",
700m, Vlll- rising up magnificent slabs and cracks, and "Est per Giacomo",
350 m, V which climbs up the crest of a typical pyramidal spire.
rest of our time was spent reading, going on panoramic walks and sharing moments
with the Kirghisi shepherds and their children. Finally, we visited Samarkand,
still profoundly evocative of the journeys to the treasures of the Orient, with
its mosques and navy blue sun-baked majohca domes. It was the perfect ending to