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British Climbers Plan To Knock Spots Off Snow Leopards


British mountaineers Jon Gupta (right) and Nick Valentine plan to tackle the mountains in the classic alpine style in just 40 days.

British mountaineers Jon Gupta (right) and Nick Valentine plan to tackle the mountains in the classic alpine style in just 40 days.

Forget about climbing Everest, there are not many achievements in the grueling sport of mountaineering that are more coveted than the Snow Leopard Award.

Established in the Soviet Union in 1981, this accolade is given to climbers who manage the impressive feat of climbing the five peaks in Central Asia that are taller than 7,000 meters.

Although the U.S.S.R. no longer exists and some of the communist names of these mountains have been changed, there are still plenty of climbers who want to knock the spots off the Snow Leopard summits.

To date, around 600 climbers have managed to climb all five mountains, which today lie in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Now, however, two ambitious young British climbers want to conquer the entire set of peaks in a record time of just 40 days.

What's more, John Gupta, 25, and Nick Valentine, 22, plan to tackle the mountains in the classic alpine style, which involves surmounting peaks in one push without any physical aids such as oxygen, fixed lines, or multiple camps.

To prepare for such a daunting task, they have been employing some unusual training techniques. This includes wearing special breathing apparatus that simulates high altitude, which will help them acclimatize quickly to the rarefied mountain air once they start their ascent.

In an interview with "The Economist," they also said they would be making full use of state-of-the-art climbing clothes, satellite phones, and GPS tracking devices.

Right now, they are in the process of raising the $16,000 they need for their expedition. They say any extra money they raise will be given to charities to fight dyslexia and multiple sclerosis.

PHOTO GALLERY: Central Asia's Snow Leopard Peaks

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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