expedition handbook

This Handbook contains everything you need to know about this epic Secret Compass expedition to Kyrgyzstan.

Read on to discover our ethos and team-centered approach and for the nitty gritty like flight and visa advice, insurance requirements and kit recommendations.

Use the buttons below to ask questions or if this handbook answers all of your questions you can request a space on the ​team by completing the booking form and submitting a deposit (bound by our T&Cs).

We will then be in touch by phone or email​ ​to hopefully approve your place on the team!

Upcoming Expedition Dates

  • 22 August to 4 September 2021.

Key Facts

  • Arrive: at the team hotel in Bishkek by 11am on Day 1.
  • Depart: leave Bishkek any time on Day 14 onwards.
  • Insurance: Ensure you have comprehensive cover.
  • Docs: send your flight, insurance and passport copy in.
  • Balance due: 90 days before departure.
  • Find FAQ and Testimonials online.


Targeting Kyrgyzstan’s unclimbed summits, we believe this expedition will be the first to explore an untamed, isolated region within the Inner Tien Shan mountains. Setting out on new routes from basecamp each day, the team will endeavour to claim their own first ascents on peaks in the range of 4800 m.

Enriched by the backdrop of remote, jagged wilderness and the passing encounters with local semi-nomadic Kyrgyz shepherds, this expedition presents an ideal opportunity to achieve the ultimate goal in alpine mountaineering.


  • Aim to summit unclimbed peaks.
  • Experience a base-camp style expedition.
  • Breathtaking scenery; with passes at around 3500 m and surrounding mountain peaks rising to 5000 m.
  • Practice and improve mountaineering skills, including competency with ropes, crampons and ice axes.
  • Chance encounters with Kyrgyz shepherds en route and small villages of semi-nomads.
  • Finish the expedition relaxing on the beautiful shores of Lake Issyk-Kul.


You need to organise your own international flights. It is advised that you book a flexible flight ticket that can be changed or refunded if the expedition dates are changed or if it is cancelled for any reason. See our online Terms and Conditions.

You need to be at the team hotel in Bishkek by 1100 on Day 1 and the expedition officially ends after breakfast on Day 14, the final day of the expedition, although you are free to depart anytime as many flights depart early in the morning.


Travel insurance which provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all expeditions. You should be aware that many standard insurance policies may not cover you adequately for all aspects of a remote expedition and so we strongly recommend that you purchase a suitably designed insurance policy. Secret Compass cannot comment on the suitability of your cover so if you are in any doubt please contact your policy provider and ask them to confirm that you are covered to our minimum standard (below).

  • Emergency medical repatriation (to home country) including any associated expenses abroad of at least $500,000.
  • Activities: ensure that any expedition activities are included, this includes, trekking and mountaineering at altitudes over 4000m.
  • Geographical region: check the geographical region you are going to is insured (often the US and Canada or countries such as Afghanistan are not insured).
  • Foreign Ministry advice: check your insurance is not sensitive to any travel warnings issued by your respective foreign ministry. In the UK, many insurers will not insure you when the Foreign Office warns against travel to this area. Foreign Office advice will not necessarily mean we cancel an expedition or do not travel to a particular area. Please check @FCOtravel and the Travel Aware site.


  • Dates: make sure the period of cover begins at the departure and ends at the return to your home country. Many flights take a day or two and time zones vary. Insurance companies may prejudice your claims due to this.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions: disclose these to your insurance company and to Secret Compass.

Prior to travel Secret Compass will require the name of your insurance policy provider, their 24-hour emergency contact number and your policy number. For full information on travel insurance and links to suggested companies, please visit the insurance page on our website.


Visas are your responsibility. British, US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and most EU nationals can visit Kyrgyzstan for up to 60 days without obtaining a visa. If you think you may spend more than 60 days in Kyrgyzstan, you should get a visa from a Kyrgyzstan Embassy before you travel or on arrival at the airport in Bishkek. From 1 September 2017, e-visas have been made be available for tourist and business visits of up to 90 days from the e-Visa website. These visas can’t be extended within Kyrgyzstan. They can only be used at Manas Airport, Bishkek, Osh international airport and at the Ak-Jol border crossing point into Kazakhstan. Please check with your nearest embassy or consulate on the latest advice.


Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 3 months from the date of entry into Kyrgyzstan and must have at least 1 full blank page if you are applying for a visa. Please send a clear, colour copy of your passport to Secret Compass ahead of the expedition and carry photocopies with you on the expedition in a safe place.


All relevant tourist permits will be organised by Secret Compass. This process usually takes 5-6 weeks. You will receive a request for information from Secret Compass in late June/ early July at the latest. This will include a passport copy, work title and address and home address.

Day 1 – Tamga village

Morning arrival in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan. Meet the expedition leader at the team hotel by 11am and leave Bishkek by midday. Transfer to Tamga village on southern shore of Lake Issykul where there will be a welcome meal and expedition briefing.

Day 2 – Basecamp

After breakfast you will drive in 6WD soviet trucks, via Barksoon pass, to the basecamp location.

Day 3 – Acclimatisation and recce day

Today will be a chance to recce the area, highlight potential peaks and routes and run through some all-important mountaineering skills to make sure everyone is ready for the summit days.

Day 4 to 10 – Potential summit days

Seven days of climbing, alpine trekking and mountaineering, leaving from basecamp and advanced basecamp with the aim to summit as many peaks as possible. Depending on weather conditions, route difficulty and group capability, the route each day will be chosen by the expedition leader .

Day 11 – Tamga village

Time to pack up the basecamp and head back out to the guesthouse at Tamga village for dinner and relaxing traditional Kyrgyz banya.

Day 12 – Tamga Village

Today is a rest day after a week of hard climbing. It can be used to explore the village, swim in lake Issykul, head over to Karakol to explore the town or just relax at the guesthouse.

Day 13 – Bishkek

Today you will say goodbye to the basecamp crew and switch from 6WD to mini buses to head back to Bishkek in good time. There will be an afternoon to explore Bishkek before a final celebratory meal.

Day 14 – Bishkek

The expedition officially ends after breakfast although many flights depart early in the morning. You are free to depart anytime today or make arrangements to extend your stay.

About Secret Compass Itineraries

Please remember that this itinerary acts as a framework plan. It provides guidance as to our intentions but may not be followed religiously. This is an adventure and by definition the outcome is uncertain. The leadership team will adapt, flex and change the plan depending on the numerous frictions you may encounter along the way.


All our expeditions are achievable by people with an active and healthy lifestyle. However, this is an arduous expedition that will test you and at times you may be sore, tired, hungry and wet. You must be prepared physically and mentally for the expedition and for living in basic conditions for the duration. Please ensure that you train for the expedition and arrive fit and ready to go. You will be required to be fit enough for the following.

  • Grade: 360º.
  • Daily activity: around 30% trekking, 70% technical mountaineering for up to 8 hours.
  • Walk: up to 10km a day at altitude.
  • Carry: up to 20kg.
  • Terrain: rocky and uneven trails below the snow line. Above the snow line expect snow, ice and often steep, exposed terrain which may be glaciated.
  • Climate: temperatures ranging from 25ºC to -10ºC at night.

Previous Experience

Previous experience of alpine conditions is necessary to join this expedition. Teammates are expected to have knowledge of basic alpine skills including the use of crampons and ice axes and should ideally have experience operating at altitudes over 3500 m. Anyone who has not done this before is invited to train to achieve this in advance of departure as proof of experience is required on this epic expedition. This is an opportunity for those with previous alpine skills to further develop their skills in a challenging expedition environment.


Please seek advice from your health professional on recommended vaccinations. The NHS Fit For Travel site and Travel Health Pro are both useful.

It is strongly recommended that you have a dental check up prior to departure. Dental problems far from help are very unpleasant.


Banks and licensed moneychanger booths (marked obmen valyot) exchange US dollars and other major currencies. Local currency is called SOM (which translates in Russian to ‘Catfish’). Trying to get change for a 5000 SOM note will likely be met with a look of horror even in cities, however, changing money back out of SOM is not problematic. ATMs are increasingly common in Bishkek and other major towns. Many dispense both US dollars and SOM and work with Visa, but for Mastercard and Maestro look primarily for Demir banks across the country.

This expedition is all-inclusive so you won’t need much money, just enough for a beer in the town and some souvenirs on the way or for (discretionary but always appreciated) tips.

Secret Compass always suggests carrying an emergency fund of $100-$200 in cash.

The following is Secret Compass’ recommended kit list for our expedition to Kyrgyzstan. Although this is a basecamp style expedition, you may be required to carry all of your own kit along with a share of a technical mountain tent, group food and cooking equipment and the medical and communications pack in order to establish advanced base camps. Secret Compass will supply tents, stoves, crampons, ice axes and helmets.

Secret Compass have arranged team members discounts with Cotswold Outdoor, Nordic Life, Outdoor Hire and Expedition Kit Hire, details of these will be sent through on booking.

Baggage and Sleeping

  • RUCKSACK (60-70 ltr): A comfortable rucksack that fits your back, a good outdoor shop will be able to help with fitting. All your personal gear needs to fit easily into this pack and have enough room for a tent, food and share of group equipment provided by us. Attachment points for ice axes would be a bonus. A pack with an adjustable support system or equivalent recommended. This will be used for transporting kit from basecamp to the ABC.
  • DAYSACK (30-40 ltr): To use once basecamp/advanced basecamp is established, should fit inside or clip onto the outside of your main bag. Still needs to be big enough to fit warm layers, crampons, snacks etc.
  • WATERPROOF RUCKSACK LINER: Sealable “canoe” or “dry” bags made by Podsac or Ortlieb. You need a large one to line your rucksack.
  • SMALLER DRY BAG (optional): As above, but smaller bags to put essential items in. The large rucksack liners sometimes leak so anything important needs to be waterproofed individually. This also helps to keep you organised.
  • SLEEPING BAG: Rated to at least comfort -15ºC. 3-season is absolute minimum. Add a liner for extra warmth. Down is good but may need waterproof protection e.g. a bivi bag and waterproof stuff sack.
  • FULL LENGTH SLEEPING MAT: Inflatable winter roll mat required as pitching tents on snow. Bring a repair kit!


  • LONG SLEEVE SHIRT: 2 x quick drying long sleeve trekking shirt or top (not cotton).
  • WATERPROOF SHELL: 1 x gore-tex or the equivalent.
  • WATERPROOF TROUSERS: 1 x gore-tex or equivalent. Consider a bib-style.
  • THERMAL BASE LAYER: 2 x top and bottom. Merino wool or synthetic mix is great. Do NOT bring cotton.
  • TREKKING TROUSERS: 2 x thin trekking trousers that dry quickly and are comfortable.
  • MID LAYER: 2 x micro fleece or equivalent. Prostretch is good for layering. Can be used as pyjamas.
  • THERMAL LAYER (optional): 1 x THICKER fleece or equivalent. Prostretch is good for layering. Can be used as pyjamas.
  • DOWN JACKET: 1 x expedition down jacket or synthetic equivalent. This is a high altitude expedition so warm gear is definitely required.
  • HIKING SOCKS: 4 x well fitting with your boots and comfortable.
  • CRAMPON COMPATIBLE MOUNTAIN BOOTS: Ensure your boots are worn in and comfortable. 3 season B2 walking boots with stiff sole capable of taking C1 “flexi” crampons (sturdy and worn-in). Recommend you visit your local outdoor store for advice on fitting.
  • GAITERS: To prevent snow getting into boots and to keep feet dry.
  • WARM HAT: Must provide ear protection.
  • UNDERWEAR: 4 x (optional).
  • GLOVES: 2 x waterproof cold weather gloves with wind protection. You need a thinner pair and a thicker, weather proof pair. We would also suggest a pair of liner gloves such as running gloves to wear underneath your thick waterproof gloves.
  • HIKING BOOTS/ APPROACH SHOES: To wear below the snow line and in an evening instead of your mountaineering boots.

Climbing Equipment

  • HARNESS (optional): Comfortable and well-fitting for any technical mountaineering sections. Secret Compass can provide a harness if needed, please let us know.
  • CRAMPONS (optional): Secret Compass can provide C1 crampons however you are welcome to bring your own. Please let us know. Note: if your feet are smaller than UK 4 you will need to provide your own crampons.
  • ICE AXE (optional): Secret Compass can provide an ice axe although you are welcome to bring your own. Please let us know what you would prefer.
  • HELMET (optional): As above, this can be provided but you are welcome to bring your own.


  • ROBUST WATER BOTTLES: 2/3 x Nalgene or Sigg are recommended. You need to be able to carry a minimum of 3 litres of water.
  • 0.5l THERMOS FLASK (optional): Great warmth and morale boost on the mountain.

Health and Hygiene

  • WASHBAG, TOOTHBRUSH & TOOTHPASTE (optional): Ensure it breaks down small. You do not need a large travel washbag – small dry bags or sealable sandwich bags work well.
  • SOAP (optional): Anti bacterial and BIODEGRADABLE.
  • TRAVEL TOWEL/SARONG (optional): Quick drying is ideal.
  • WET WIPES OR BABY WIPES: To clean yourself with.
  • TOILET PAPER (optional): Travel tissues are ideal.
  • SANITARY PRODUCTS (optional): Bring nappy bags to remove used items from the mountainside.
  • LIP SLAVE WITH UV PROTECTION: This is essential. Chapped lips are painful.
  • VASELINE: Keep readily available to prevent chafing skin ad heel friction blisters.
  • MYCIL FOOT POWDER OR EQUIVALENT: Very useful for keeping your feet and other sweaty areas dry at night.
  • VITAMINS (optional).
  • AFTER SUN / MOISTURISER (optional): Try and avoid water-based moisturiser.

Small First Aid Kit

  • WATERPROOF BAG OR TUPPERWARE BOX: Keep kit fry and safe.
  • PAIN KILLERS: Ibuprofen and paracetamol.
  • ZINC OXIDE TAPE AND SMALL SCISSORS: Leukoplast is great if you can source it.
  • COMPEED BLISTER PADS: Please note that Compeed produce several similar-looking blister packs for corns, etc. Please ensure you purchase the standard / original item.
  • DIORALYTE SACHETS OR SIMILAR REHYDRATION PACKS: Nuun or Zero tablets work well as a preventative measure.
  • PIRITON TABLETS (optional): For allergies.
  • ANY MEDICATION YOU NORMALLY USE: It may be useful to find out the generic/chemical name for the medication in case you need to source more in-country. Please also check whether your particular medication is legal in your destination.


  • WATCH (optional).
  • WALKING POLES (optional): Collapsible trekking poles with snow baskets are great if you have sore knees or ankles or for extra security on steep ground.
  • GOGGLES: Ski goggles for whiteout conditions.
  • PENKNIFE: Remember not to pack in hand luggage!
  • LIGHTER: Storm proof for lighting stoves (and burning loo roll).
  • GAFFA TAPE (optional): For emergency repairs to your kit, you can take some off the roll and wrap it around something else in your kit like a water bottle.
  • SPARE BOOT LACES (optional): Also handy for fixing gear, creating washing lines, etc.
  • RE-SEALABLE PLASTIC BAGS (optional): For dirty washing, wrappings, etc.
  • WATER PURIFICATION TABLETS (optional): Secret Compass will purify all water and these will likely not be needed, they are a back up in case our systems fail.
  • PHOTOCOPIES OF YOUR PASSPORT: Don’t keep this in the same places as your original passport.

Our Approach

Secret Compass organises expeditions, not sightseeing tours. Our expeditions are team-centred, flexible and dynamic. Teams are managed on the ground by Secret Compass staff: industry-leading professionals and guides of the highest calibre. They put the structure in place for your team to have an incredible experience while achieving your expedition’s aims. Our people are as passionate as you are about achieving the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places. Secret Compass teams often go to places that others don’t. This makes our expeditions truly different, taking you beneath the skin and beyond the headlines. You’ll be set ambitious goals and will overcome similar hardships to those experienced on the audacious journeys of the past.

Remember this is not an organised tour. It is an adventure. More often than not expeditions don’t run smoothly! The nature of the areas we operate in mean that we will encounter a number of challenges that we expect everyone to meet and relish. Friction and hurdles are all part and parcel of an arduous expedition and also to our success as a team. These make the journey more interesting and are often the best and most amusing parts when looking back. Each expedition is thoroughly reviewed on its return and team members will have the opportunity to provide feedback which helps to inform planning for future expeditions.

Local Partners and Bureaucracy

Our teammates can only achieve the extraordinary with the help of people in the communities we travel through. NGO and aid workers, guides, fixers and interpreters all work extremely hard and are generous in their hospitality to us and our teams: visitors in their land. They are crucial to our success. Please remember and respect that their perspectives and concepts of time, environmental responsibility and customer service might differ to yours. Occasionally there is no established protocol for outside visitors which means we encounter local power struggles or disagreements. Our leaders have years of experience in delicate negotiations like these and conversational chess – especially through an interpreter – and these interchanges are often memorable parts of any expedition.

Infrastructure and Natural Events

The areas we travel to often especially remote. Transport infrastructure can be ageing, inadequate or non-existent. Flooded roads, collapsed bridges, fallen trees and vehicle break-downs are all par for the course. Our teams thrive on overcoming challenges like these – be prepared to get stuck in and push occasionally! Natural phenomena like desert sand storms, early monsoons, landslides across key routes, winter coming early, gale force winds and driving snow can all make for a more adventurous set of challenges on the expedition.


In some areas our teams explore, we rely on local food sources. This can often be outstanding (but can also be very average) and we always make the best out of the resources available. In other cases, we will supply filling and high-calorie dehydrated expedition foods (ration packs)

Part of a Team

Secret Compass fosters a team mentality across all its expeditions and projects. Like all teams you will have a leader who will give direction to your progress. Crucial to your team’s success – especially when the going gets tough – is the attitude of the teammates working together to achieve the aim. You really are part of a team, not a cosseted guest on a tour. We ask teammates to muck in and help out any aspect of the expedition, from fetching water and helping to prepare and cook food, to carrying some group kit and equipment if required. The working language of all teams is English.

Typical Teammates

There really is no typical expedition member, though everyone needs to be fit, healthy and ready to take on the expedition’s aim by the time of departure. Participants range from 21 to 65+ in age and come from all over the world. Backgrounds include contract workers and engineers, IT specialists and students, teachers and literature lovers, journalists and keen photographers and so many more. What bonds our pioneering teams is their shared spirit of adventure and their sense of humour and positive outlook. A good teammate looks on the bright side when the 4×4 breaks down, the rain comes early and when a meal is distinctly pedestrian. Our teammates help each other, look out for each, encourage each other and help each other when needed. Our teams have done us proud in working together to achieve their common goal: the aim of the expedition. If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right expedition company.

Teammate Mentality

You need a robust, spirited and can-do attitude to cope with demanding days and rough camping in rugged and wild places. You’ll cover good daily distances (generally carrying your own kit and equipment), eating expedition foods or relying on local food sources. These elements combine to create the unique character of each expedition. On expedition, challenges, frictions and changes to plans are inevitable. Teammates should meet and relish these as an integral part of any arduous expedition and its ultimate success. Such things make the journey more interesting and are often most memorable parts when looking back.

Risk Management

Secret Compass is an expedition company not a tour company. Expeditions contain inherent risk. This is part of the appeal for teammates. We do not make expeditions safe as, by definition, that is impossible. We construct and implement a three-staged risk management approach to reduce risk to what we perceive as a tolerable level.

  1. Risk assessment.
    We conduct a thorough risk assessment of potential hazards and threats that may be encountered on the expedition and provide recommendations to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring/ severity if it does occur.
  2. Safety plan.
    As part of our expedition plan, we detail actions to be taken to implement and resource the recommendations of the risk assessment. This includes a detailed medical and communications plan.
  3. Delivery.
    The expedition leader is responsible for dynamic risk management on the expedition itself.

Key Risks

Key risks encountered on this specific expedition include RTA’s, altitude mountain sickness and cold injury. If you would like to see the full Risk Assessment for this expedition, please email info@secretcompass.com.

Incident Management and Medical

As part of the safety plan, Secret Compass has a full incident and emergency plan for medical and other emergencies. This will be discussed in full at the arrival brief, so everyone is aware what action will be taken. In summary, incidences are usually managed on the ground by the expedition leader in the first instance with remote support from Secret Compass’s 24 hour Operations Room before evacuation to the nearest appropriate medical centre.

Informed Consent

It is your responsibility to understand the risks associated with adventure travel in remote areas. You also must understand that medical evacuation will take an extended period of time (potentially up to two days) and will require wilderness extraction techniques and long carries by stretcher. In-country search and rescue and emergency services are very basic or non-existent and the expedition will rely on internal resources for medical evacuation. By joining this expedition, you accept the risks associated with the venture. If you require any more information on specific risk management for this expedition, or would like to speak to us about our medical planning prior to the trip, please get in touch.


Read team Testimonials or watch this short video featuring expedition teammates (filmed on location in Ethiopia) for an insight into life on expedition.



Kyrgyzstan is predominantly made up of ethnic Kyrgyz. The largest minority groups are Russian (in the north) and Uzbek (in the south). You can also find Ugyhur, Dungan, Tadjik, Kazak, Korean and Chinese. There are more sheep than Kyrgyz people. Kyrgyzstan is officially Islamic, however it is the most relaxed of the Central Asian Islamic nations. Kyrgyzstan was the last country in the region to be converted to Islam due to its inaccessible mountain terrain and nomadic culture. Kyrgyz also have strong ties with nature as a result of Shamanistic beliefs which pre-date Islam.

Dress in Kyrgyzstan is very relaxed. Bishkek is cosmopolitan and you can see mini-skirts and high heels on the same corner as religious head scarfs – or even on the same person! Villages are a little more traditional and thus conservative, mostly trousers (dresses for women) and long sleeves or t-shirts, but shorts are also fine. Lycra is not generally appreciated!

The traditional greeting, like the majority of the Islamic world, is As-Salāmu `Alaykum, replied with Wa `alayk s-salām. Shake hands and in some cases bring your hand back over your heart. Predominant languages are Kyrgyz and Russian. Kyrgyz is a Turkic based language. Most Kyrgyz speak Kyrgyz and Russian. Basic English is spoken in towns and occasionally in villages.

Local Dynamics

Kyrgyzstan used to be part of the Soviet Union. When the USSR collapsed, in the early nineties there was a power vacuum, and cultural identities and social relationships were challenged. The older generations who grew up in the USSR have shared experiences and similar mentality, though the younger generations have less in common. For the most part Kyrgyz and Russians mutually tolerate each other. The south of Kyrgyzstan is poorer and has a large Uzbek population, the north is richer with more Russian influence, so there is generally some tension. The government is corrupt and in general not trusted, nor respected. Same goes for Police. Generally there are many different cultures living together in Central Asia, and tolerance is good but in recent years there has been a rise in Kyrgyz nationalism. A large provoker of this is the majority Canadian owned KUMTOR mine. In Bishkek there is a wealthier upper class – mostly politicians and businessmen, there is also a visibly growing middle class, though the rest of the country is rural and poor. National identity is firmly centred around a mythical figure called ‘MANAS.’ All folklore heroics are attributed to this one, ‘Ghengis Khan’ type character who united the 40 warring tribes to create the current nation. The Manas histories are said to have unfolded in Talas.

Dos and Don’ts

Always take shoes off inside someone’s home – house or yurt. Shake hands with other men when you meet. Women don’t shake hands. It’s polite to greet nomads when passing in the mountains, especially if camping nearby. Often required to sit and drink tea or fermented mares milk. In towns avoid police and drunks. Don’t give random gifts to poor locals – it creates misconceptions and encourages begging. If you’re not sure about something hang back and watch others first, or ask.


This expedition will cover a variety of terrain from rocky and uneven trails below the snow line. Above the snow line expect snow, ice and often steep, exposed terrain which may be glaciated. The team won’t be covering vast distances each day but the expedition will be made more challenging by the altitude.


The weather will be in the high teens/early twenties during the day, even at altitude, but on occasion can reach 30 degrees. It will drop down quickly at night and will be below freezing on occasions. The wind will likely pick up in the afternoon and be pretty strong during the evening. Rain is rare but above 3000m there can be snow squalls at any time of year.


Manas international airport is located outside of the city – team members are responsible for their own transfers between the airport and the accommodation at the start and end of the expedition. Transfers are available by bus or taxi depending on your arrival time. Depending on the final team size, 6WD vehicles or minibuses will be used to transport the team between Bishkek and Tamga village. From Tamga village 6WD will be used to arrive at base camp, where the rest of the expedition will be on foot.


The team will stay in comfortable guesthouses and hotels in Tamga village and Bishkek. Rooms will be on a twin-share basis and the hotel where you will meet your expedition leader will be able to store any luggage which isn’t required for the expedition, any extra nights outside of the Secret Compass itinerary can be booked directly with the hotel. Whilst on the mountain, the team will be camping in technical mountain tents provided by Secret Compass. For advance base camp, technical tents will likely be shared between two as these may have to be carried by the team members in addition to their personal equipment.


All our food will be sourced in country. In Bishkek and other urban areas it is often bread and kebab, or noodle/rice based dishes, with simple meat and vegetables. Lamb is the mainstay of Kyrgyz cuisine. Fruit and vegetables in summer are abundant and good quality. Dried fruit and nuts, and different melons are common. We will have a cook attached for the mountain section who will make up our meals. They will be basic but filling and provide all the energy you need. Dietary requirements can usually be catered for but should be discussed with Secret Compass in advance. It is recommended that you bring a favourite snack or cereal bar for each expedition day as a morale boost.


Secret Compass will have up to two Secret Compass leaders depending on the team size, who will guide the expedition with the assistance of a local IMFGA trained guide. The leaders will have experience of leading groups in remote and mountainous locations.


Secret Compass staff will be carrying at least two methods of communication, usually a Satellite Phone and a DeLorme two-way communication device. These will be used for regular updates to head office and for emergencies.

Unfortunately, routine communication between team members and family/friends is not possible – please reassure them that no news is good news! If there is an emergency and someone needs to contact a team member, they can contact Secret Compass’s Operations Room on +44207 096 8428 who will endeavour to pass a message on within 24hours.

Your mobile roaming will work in Bishkek and perhaps Tamga village, you are unlikely to get signal whilst in the mountains.

Here are some frequently asked questions that are specific to this expedition. Read our general FAQ too for questions such as ‘how do I join an expedition’ and more. Can’t find your answer? Contact SCHQ.

I’m a vegetarian. Can I join?

Teammates with dietary requirements are welcome to apply for this expedition and should state their specific requirements when applying.

Can I bring my own tent?

If you have a suitable lightweight or mountaineering tent you’d like to bring on this expedition, let Secret Compass know in advance so we can advise on its suitability.

What are crampons?

Crampons attach to the bottom of walking boots to facilitate trekking on snow and ice. For this expedition it is imperative everyone’s boots are crampon compatible, a B2 rating boot is advised. Consult your local outdoors shop for advice. Secret Compass will provide C1 crampons for all teammates unless you tell us you have your own.

What if we don’t reach a summit?

Team mates will embrace the spirit of a first ascent expedition. All unclimbed peaks have a degree of uncertainty, and even on mountains with well-trodden paths, numerous factors ensure that a summit is never guaranteed. The Secret Compass expedition leader will use acclimatisation and recce days to choose between selected peaks in accordance with team strength, weather conditions and technical difficulty to maximise chances of attaining the first summit goal.

Can I arrive a day late?

As The Plan outlines, there is a chain of transport to get teammates out to and back from Bishkek and so start and end dates are not flexible.

Can I charge all my electricals?

This will be very challenging with no access to mains power once the trekking section begins. Please ensure you are self-sufficient in terms of charging your appliances by bringing things like spare batteries, lightweight solar panels or power packs to avoid frustration.

Will my camera work in the cold?

Battery life can be a challenge in cold climates. If camera or phone battery life is of paramount importance, research the best ways to protect and keep your batteries warm and come equipped accordingly.

Will there be telephone signal?

Phone signal will be limited once the team leave Tamga for the mountains.Ops: answer here.

Will I get altitude sickness?

The peaks you will be attempting to summit are at an altitude of up to 5000m. Most people can ascend to 2400m without difficulty although symptoms can be present above 1500m. This expedition is planned to provide plenty of time for acclimatisation and part of the expedition briefing will be on signs and symptoms of acute mountain sickness, or AMS as it’s known. The expedition leader is well-versed in such activities with teams at altitude and can advise and answer your questions when on the mountain.

Do you provide further advice?

You might find our Get Ready section useful, with further advice about fitness, flights, travel insurance, visas and our approach to risk management.

How can I join the team?

If you feel that the Handbook answers all your questions, you can request a space on the team by completing the booking form and submitting a deposit.

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