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
Three of the Snow Leopard peaks are located in Tajikistan's Pamir Mountains.
The tallest Pamir Snow Leopard is Ismail Samani Peak (formerly Communism Peak), which rises to a height of 7,495 meters.
Ibn Sina Peak (formerly Lenin Peak), which reaches an altitude of 7,134 meters, is also in Tajikistan's Pamirs.
Korzhenevskaya Peak is the smallest of Tajikistan's Snow Leopards at a height of 7,104 meters.
The 7,100-meter Khan Tengri (meaning "Lord of the Sky") lies on the Kyrgyz-Kazakh border in the Tian Shan mountain range
Jengish Chokusu (formerly Peak Pobeda) is also in the Tian Shan mountains. Reaching a height of 7,439 meters, it is Kyrgyzstan's second Snow Leopard peak.