6. EXTREME PROJECT: RESEARCH of the internal glacial drainage OF MERZBACHER LAKE, November 5 - November 19

Inside-glacial drainages of Enilchek.

The internal drainage system of the Enilchek glacier has not been studied to date. One of the largest glaciers in Asia (over 65 km long) has a well-developed internal drainage system that extends from the ice stream to heights over 4000 m above sea level and has a length of tens of kilometers. The lower 14 km part of the drainage system is formed (or transformed) as a result of the action of powerful streams of thawed glacial water from Merzbacher Lake, which is completely emptied once a year. The drainage system is formed in the layer, where  the bedrock contacts with the bottom of the glacier, and possibly in the glacial ice strata. The confluence of the drainage channels of the lake with the internal drainage system of the glacier leads to the formation of the world's largest internal drainage system, an important role of which is belonged to the high-altitude lake of Merzbacher, located at an altitude of more than 3000 m above sea level.

Periodically, with the annual inrush of the lake, a new drainage system is formed, which is partially confined to the main internal drain of the glacier. This part of the drainage system also continually expands and changes. Due to continuous dynamic processes occurring in the glacial strata during the spring, summer and autumn periods, take shape and expand new drainage channels, and in winter time they disintegrated, crumbled, overgrown by newly formed ice strata and compressed by ice deformation. This cycle occurs annually, invariably repeating.

The main part of the drainage channels is confined to the so-called transit zone of water flows inside the glacier. In the lower part of this system, takes place the main discharge of water from the lake. To this zone  belongs the glacial landscape with numerous funnel-sinks, ponoras, cracks and lake basins that differs from the rest of the glacier as well.

In the ice stream part of the glacier, occurs water discharge that drains the entire system of internal glacier. During the inrush of the lake, a significant part of the water in the ice stream is drained from Lake Merzbacher.

Theoretically, the channels emerged at the contact of the glacier with the bedrock, and also in the ice on the glacier section below the lake, should be more washed out by water streams than those parts of the channels located above the lake. The length of the drainage system can be estimated in tens of kilometers. Such a large-scale internal drainage system in an active mountain glacier has not been explored yet. Therefore, if such a drainage system could be tracked for a considerable length, it could help to clarify many aspects in the matter of formation of such drainage systems not only on this glacier, but in other glaciers on the Earth as well.

The entrance to the internal glacier drainage system is possible through numerous glacial wells, abundantly found on its surface (but mainly above the lake), as well as the water outlet portal in the ice stream of the glacier. It is also possible to detect the entrance to the system of internal canals through glacial caves that are located below the lake, especially in places where the glacier joins with lateral water currents and glacial tributaries. To get into the drainage system through the lake Merzbacher seems unlikely, since after the inrush of the lake all the channels that existed before are likely to completely collapse.

In our opinion, this project has two different and at the same time very similar and mutually conditioned motivations: First, very high scientific and applied significance of the results obtained during risky studies within the glacier makes the event scientifically- applied;

secondly, without the organized and rather complex support of from extreme athlete, the accomplishment of the first motivation becomes impossible.

The success of the expedition and obtaining valuable results may put these studies in the category of outstanding studies ever conducted in the world.

In this regard, for the implementation of the project requires careful preparation extreme component of the applied scientific expedition with a focus on security studies. For this, in the expedition should have well-trained professionals who understand such research within a dynamic glacial system.

Maps 1Maps 2, Maps 3, Maps 4

Dates cannot be changed

An expedition to the Central Tien-Shan will have its risks. In November, this is an absolutely wild area, where there are no climbers or tourists. There is no civilization, communications or roads.

To transfer cargo to the base camp, which will be located in the Merzbacher glade, which is located 2.5 km to the south and opposite the lake of the same name, we plan to use the work of porters. In the future, from the Merzbacher glade, we plan to carry out radial outlets to different points of the glacier. From here until the end of the glacier (tongue part of the glacier) is about 14 km. To the glacier formation zone, more than 40 km.

Expedition program  

In November 2019, an international expedition will take place – Enilchek–2019.

November is the time when the cold covered the glacier and turned the water into ice. We assume that we will be able to penetrate inside the glacier through the channels that at this time have already freed from liquid water.  

Day 1. November 5th. Arrival in Bishkek. Overnight at the hotel. Briefing (maybe in Karakol). Departure of porters to Chon-Tash. The porters' team should establish a temporary camp in Chon-Tash.  

Day 2. November 6th. Departure to the city of Karakol (410 km). Overnight at the hotel. Briefing in the conference hall of the hotel.

At this point, porters are delivering the goods to the clearing of Merzbacher.  

Day 3. November 7th. Early morning departure Karakol – Maida-Adyr – At-Jailoo – Chon-Tash

Arrival in Chon-Tash, overnight in tents.

Porters will deliver the goods to the Merzbacher glade.  

Day 4. November 8th. Go to the Merzbacher glade (14 km). Night at the base camp in the clearing of Merzbacher.

Porters continue to deliver the goods to the Merzbacher glade.  

Day 5. November 9th. Acclimatization, exploring.

The departure of the porters to Karakol.  

Day 6. November 10th. Enilchek glacier research. Prospecting potential entrances to the intraglacial system.  

Days 7-11. November 11th-15th . Works on the Enilchek glacier in the vicinity of the base camp.  

Day 12. November 16th. Works on the glacier and inside the Enilchek glacier.

The return of porters to the Merzbacher glade to begin the descent of the goods from the glacier to Chon-Tash.  

Day 13. November 17th. Works on the glacier and inside the Enilchek glacier.

Porters continue to lower the remaining goods from the glacier.  

Day 14. November 18th. Descent to At-Jailoo. Transfer At-Jailoo - Karakol.

Overnight at the hotel in Karakol.

Porters continue to lower the remaining cargo from the glacier  

Day 15 November 19th. Return to Bishkek.Overnight at the hotel.

The return of porters to Karakol  

Day 16 November 20th. Airport. 

We foresee all possible emergency situations. For this we can use a helicopter. All participants must have insurance in case of the organization of rescue work.

The cost of participation includes the following expenses:

- Food

- Accommodation in the hotel in Karakol.

- Equipment for the base camp: tents, electric generator, dishes, satellite phone, we can also use the research station in the Merzbacher glade, where there is everything necessary for normal living in November. There are equipped 2-bed houses for 10 people, as well as a kitchen, dining room and toilets.

- The price also includes - the work of the cook.

- The work of porters.

- Car rent.

- First aid kit.

- Radio stations.

- Safety equipment.

- We issue special permits and passes for all members of the expedition.

- Satellite phone.

- Organization.

- Consumables: gas, gasoline for the generator, etc.

We do visa support and official invitation.

Extreme sports athletes, as well as glaciologists, geologists, biologists and speleologists will take part in the expedition.

You can read the scientific concept of research on the Enilchek glacier, here: Project concept

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