From Cambridge To Kyrgyzstan

Harvard Mountaineering Club to travel remote peaks in August expedition

At a meeting of the Harvard Mountaineering Club (HMC) last Thursday, President Lucas T. Laursen ’06 demonstrated his skill in opening a beer bottle with a carabiner. But in just four months, he will use the same tool to safely summit peaks in southeastern Kyrgyzstan that, until now, have never been visited by an American expedition.

This August, Laursen and several other mountaineers will trek into the Central Borkoldoy Range of Kyrgyzstan, an area that had been closed to foreign climbers until the fall of the Soviet Union. Since then, only five expeditions have reported visiting the range.

Eight others climbers will join Laursen on the expedition, six of whom are Harvard affiliates: Alexander P. Cole ’08, Corey M. Rennell ’07, George H. Brewster ’03, Graduate School of Education student Kelly J. Faughnan, physics graduate student Adilet Imambekov, and Harvard Medical School Psychology Instructor Bjarne M. Holmes.

Cole, who is “Gear Czar” for the club, says he appreciates the diversity and experience of the group.

“Some of us have climbed in several international expeditions, and there are also people (like me) who haven’t done any international climbing trips,” Cole writes in an e-mail.

The club is currently seeking corporate sponsorship for the expedition, and a grant is pending with the American Alpine Club (AAC). The rest of the expenses will be paid out of pocket.

THE NEED TO EXPLORE

When asked why he wished to embark on such a risky expedition, Holmes says the opportunity to be the first visitors to a region is unparalleled.

“To challenge ourselves,” he writes in an e-mail. “To learn. To honor HMC past expeditions. To set an example for future HMC expeditions.”

Members are hoping that this expedition, which will include climbing unnamed peaks, will help rejuvenate the club.

“In its heyday, the Harvard Mountaineering Club was possibly the strongest undergraduate climbing club in the world,” Cole says. “Climbing has really been growing in popularity in the past years. With Lucas’ leadership, especially, and a really dedicated group of officers and climbers, the club is definitely on its way to a renaissance. I see this expedition as a sign of this rebirth.”

Laursen says the expedition members have not made a final decision on what they will name the new mountains they encounter. He says they are considering using names of Harvard buildings or corporate sponsors.

“One thing is for sure, we aim to put the Harvard flag on top at least one untouched peak,” Holmes says.

KEEPING IT SAFE