Men climb 'virgin' mountain after journey in Soviet troop carrier
When they stepped up to the summit of a lonely mountain in far-off Kyrgyzstan, Ashley Hale and his companions become the first ones ever to do so.
The 57-year-old mountaineer from Trunch in north Norfolk has finally fulfilled a long-held ambition to scale a 'virgin' mountain - a peak as yet untouched by humanity.
The three-week expedition took Mr Hale to the Borkoldoy range of the Tien Shan mountains.
He said: "We had this 40-year-old Soviet troop carrier and driver and it took us far into the mountains as possible. It broke down a couple of times, which you would almost expect.
"This in itself was quite an adventure and resulted in two base camps whilst we explored the possibilities of a first ascent.
"The day we got to the summit was 13-hours of climbing, crossing snow bridges and crevasses, and there was a blizzard at the top.
"It was very difficult, hard work."
Mr Hale, a former teacher, travelled with a team of seven, which also included Toby Batch, 48, an IT specialist from Nelson Street, Norwich.
He said they had wanted to climb an unexplored mountain for years.
Mr Hale said: "Toby and I have climbed together for years, sumitting Kilimanjaro in 1994 after driving across Africa in an old Land Rover. "We have climbed all over the world since, trying to take the adventurous route to our climbs.
"Four years ago we decided to try to climb a mountain that no-one else had ever climbed. We set out for Peak Mukot in the Himalaya, only to be turned back by six feet of snow burying all our kit on the final day. We had to retreat."
Mr Hale said they first contacted the Kyrgyz Alpine Club to check it was indeed a 'virgin' mountain, and they were now in the process of officially naming the peak, which is 4,872 metres (around 16,000 ft) high.
He said: "We're going to call it Peak Nomad because it seems fitting. On the way up we saw nomads on horses, leading their herds of yaks." About 80pc of Kyrgyzstan, in central Asia, is covered by mountains. It's one of the world's most sparely populated countries, with only 29.5 people per square kilometre, compared with 274 in the UK.