A remote central Asian peak will next week officially become Mount Santa Claus.
A team of mountaineers hope to summit the unnamed mountain to plant a capsule in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan on Christmas Eve. They set off on their expedition last Wednesday. Mount Santa Claus will join the pantheon of peaks named after such luminaries as Lenin and Boris Yeltsin.
Santa Claus skiing in the mountains
The mountain is in the Tien Shan range, which soars to 7,000m (22,966ft), in a country 90 per cent of which is covered by mountainous terrain. Most of its inhabitants are Muslim, but its government is keen to push the country as a tourist destination and is happy to ride the recent wave of publicity which named the remote republic as the best logistics base for Father Christmas.
Swedish transport firm Sweco decided Kyrgyzstan’s northern mountains would make an ideal hub for Santa’s present-distribution network. The country, home of the nomadic yurt-dwelling Kyrgyz people, is sandwiched between China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and is led by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Santa Claus is believed to be about 1,150 years old and originally lived in Myra, which now lies in modern-day Turkey. He began his legendary gift-giving career in a bid to stop young women turning to prostitution.
The republic’s government also announced it intends to hold annual Santa Claus games to test tree decorating, chimney climbing and sled racing.