I descended and ascended once again another 13 km to reach Khustup. Night was falling, but I was determined to make it. I pushed myself the hardest I had yet, and would not pause or rest. Sweat beating down and out of breath, I made it in half the time I predicted and set up camp in time to watch the sunset. The next morning I summited Khustup, a rock that was shaped like a crown, beckoning me to be its king.

On my descent I met the biologist camping nearby, a strange man who had spent too much time in isolation, searching for animals with his binoculars. The distance made him awkward but informative. We walked together for 21 km, seeing rams, deer, quail, and evidence of wolves and bears. He showed me rare plants of the region, on the red list, and told me about Sosi Purak, where rare giants grow and are propagated.