Expedition on Tian-Shan:
ascents of Mt.Khan-Tengri (7010m) and Pik Pobedy (Victory Peak, 7439m)

 
Text by S. Kalmykov
Victory Peak from NNW
Victory Peak from the north-north-west

The region of Central Tian-Shan is situated in a node formed by China, Kazakhstan and Kirguizia frontiers. Kirguizian-Chineese boundary follows Meridional Range and stretching in latitudinal direction Kok-Shaal-Tau Range, but also latitudinal Sary-Djas Range sets up the border between Kirguizia on the south and Kazakhstan on the north (see the map of Kirguizia, click it to zoom). It is between Sary-Djas and Kok-Shaal that two branches of the Inylchek glacier lie, north and south, separated by short but high Tengri-Tag Range. West of Tengri-Tag they join to born Inylchek mainstream (see the Inylchek region map, zoom it also). It is in this mountain and political node that two most northern seven-thousanders of the Earth are situated: Khan-Tengri dominates the Tengri-Tag Range and Pobeda stands 20km farther south, in the Kok-Shaal-Tau.

Being 69km long together with its south branch, Inylchek turns out to be one of the world longest glaciers of alpine type. Unique creation of the nature, lake on the North Inylchek west from Khan-Tengri, discovered by G. Merzbacher in 1902-1903, bars any way along the glacier, stretching from board to board of the glacier bed. It may be overcome by walking on its bottom only during a short one-two day period after that the water has found out ways through crevasses in the bottom and has gone down underneath the ice glacier body.

Mysterious mirage of the Central Tian-Shan mountains, shimmering on the distant horizon, excited during centures imagination of local nomadic nationalities. Local toponyms reflect this attitude: Tian-Shan means "Sky Mountains" in Chinese, Tengri-Tag is "Mountains of Spirits" and Khan-Tengri - "Lord of Spirits" in Turkic languages.

Marble pyramid of Khan-Tengri impressively towers by about 800m over surrounding peaks of the Tengri-Tag where it stands. Seen on sunset from the north, from Kazakh prairies, it looks like a drop of blood against dark blue background of the night sky. This is why it has another local name, Kan-Tau, "Bloody Mountain". Black north Khan-Tengri face falls abruptly down to the N.Inylchek forming the North Wall, the south side is dominated by famous Marble Rib, in fact, built of marble coloured in orange. Routes both from the north and from the south are very difficult technically (grades TD/ED) whereas the way from the south to saddle between Peak Chapaev and Khan-Tengri and then to the right along the West Ridge to the summit is more accessible (French scale D/TD-). It had been climbed up for the first time in 1931 and now is very popular.

From the Base Camp on moraine below the south face of Peak Chapaev, the route ascends easily at first, climbing simple snow slopes up a large basin, to the col at 5800m at the foot of the West Ridge. At this pitch of the route one should be careful of ice falls and avalanches from the Peak Chapaev slopes. From the col technical difficulties begin and although most of the route has fixed rope on it, the difficulties and nature of the terrain lend a certain seriousness to the climbing.

(click to zoom)
    
Kirguizia map
Map of  gl. Inylchek vicinities

Khan-Tengri from SW
Khan-Tengri marble pyramide on sunset from the south-west
Photo: Ace Kvale
Khan-Tengri routes
General view of Khan-Tengri from S-W, most popular routes:
              [1] M.Pogrebetsky, 1931
              [2] B.Romanov, 1964
              [3] V.Shamalo, 1999
              [4] V.Sviridenko, 1982
              [5] G.Isachenko, 1982
              [6] V.Voronin, 1973
(click to zoom)

Broad massif of Pobeda (Victory Peak in English) rises over the Kok-Shaal-Tau up to almost 7.5km high. In 1943 trigonometric computations had been completed which defined its altitude to be equal to 7439m. Those times were the World War II epoch, strong battles were going on, and whole the soviet people lived with a hope of the victory in the war. This is why the highest point of the Tian-Shan has received its name.

Routes to its summit are not too difficult technically, in their majority, but imply several days of extremely hard work in deep snows on altitude close to or higher than 7000m at strong winds, low temperatures and at very unstable and bad weather conditions. The Victory Peak's history is full of tragic events; dozens of climbers died there during ascents and many of them sleep till the present in snows of the summit crest and on the slopes.

The route from the north via Diki (Wild or Savage in English) Pass and West Pobeda top (6918m) and then via the West Ridge up to the summit is AD/D French grade, though overall is more serious than grade suggests due to various common dangers. The way via Zviozdochka (Little Star) glacier (left confluent of the South Inylchek), and then to the right through an icefall up to the Diki Pass (5200m) takes two days from BC. Snowhole sites and tent platforms are available on the way. From the Pass to the left, along the north ridge up to crest of the Kok-Shaal-Tau Range. Long ridge slopes on snow and some rock, rock buttresses and steps divided by snow slopes lead towards the West Pobeda top. This long section concenterates the most serious technical difficulties of the route and also takes two days. Good tent sites and places for a snowhole camp may be found along the ridge and nearby the Pobeda W. Next day the way follows the long snow/ice West Ridge, generally wide, corniced and crevassed, over a series of whaleback humps for 3km to a prominent granite tooth called the Obelisk. Camp in a snowhole to shelter against strong wind (about 7000m). And finally go up generally rocky summit ridge with snow crests and then rounded humps which soon lead to the top. Return the same way.

Pobeda
Pobeda from NW, photo: Maxim Pankratov
Pobeda scheme
Pobeda, most popular routes
(click to zoom)

The Central Tian-Shan is known as the coldest region among others on Pamirs and Tian-Shan and as the region of the worst weather. According to meteorological statistics, each of July or August has only 2-3 days of good weather when during a day less than 20% of sky is covered by clouds. In fact, climber has in his disposal only a few hours of clear weather dayly in the first half until 11-13 o'clock. The summer night temperatures on the glaciers may drop down to -10°C whereas the day temperature barely exceeds zero. In September and October the weather is much more stable and clear but the temperature begins to go down.

Of course, ascents of Khan-Tengri and of Victory Peak are highly attractive for every genuine climber or adventure finder but the climber has to have adequate experience in high mountains and to be trained and equipped enough to resist against severe nature conditions.

Expeditions to the Central Tian-Shan are area of many year CET Neva activity. Accompanied by our guide(s), participants arrive to Almaty (former Kazakhstan capital) or to Bishkek (capital of Kirguizia) from Moscow or St. Petersburg by plane. Then their way goes to Karakol point by bus and from there to the Inylchek glacier Base Camp.

Khan-Tengri'2006 – schedule and cost of the expedition

Day 1 Arrival to Manas International Airport in Bishkek, capital of Kirghizia. Transfer and overnight in hotel.
Day 2 Transfer (460 km, about 8 hours) from Bishkek to Karkara Base Camp (2100 m). Acomodation in two-person tents. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 3 To Base Camp on the South Inylchek glacier (4100m) by helicopter (45 min.). Night in tents.
Day 4 Primary acclimatization in BC.
Day 5 To Khan-Tengri Camp 1 (4200m).
Day 6 To Camp 2 (4800-5200m).
Day 7 Return down to BC.
Day 8 Rest day.
Day 9 To Camp 1 (4200m).
Day 10 To Camp 3 (5800m).
Day 11 Return down to BC.
Day 12 Rest day.
Day 13 To Camp 1 (4200m).
Day 14 To Camp 3 (5800m).
Day 15 Khan-Tengri summit day: to the top and back to Camp 3.
Day 16 Descent to BC.
Days 17-18 Rest/reserve days.
Day 19 Flight back to Karkara Base Camp by helicopter. Transfer to Issyk-Kul Lake. Accomodation in hotel.
Day 20 Transfer to Bishkek. Overnight in hotel.
Day 21 Flight home.

The best period for the expedition is July-August.

Cost of non-guided expedition is €995 per person for groups of 4-5 participants.

Victory Peak 2006 – schedule and cost of the expedition

Day 1 Arrival to Manas International Airport in Bishkek, capital of Kirghizia. Transfer and overnight in hotel.
Day 2 Transfer (460 km, about 8 hours) from Bishkek to Karkara Base Camp (2100 m). Acomodation in two-person tents. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 3 To Base Camp on the South Inylchek glacier (4100m) by helicopter (45 min.). Night in tents.
Day 4 Primary acclimatization in BC.
Day 5 To Victory Peak Camp 1 (4600m).
Day 6 To Camp 2 (5300m).
Day 7 Return down to BC.
Day 8 Rest day.
Day 9 To Camp 1 (4600m).
Day 10 To Camp 2 (5300m).
Day 11 To Camp 3 (5800m).
Day 12 Return down to BC.
Days 13-14 Rest days.
Day 15 To Camp 1 (4600m).
Day 16 To Camp 2 (5300m).
Day 17 To Camp 3 (5800m).
Day 18 To Camp 4 (6400m).
Day 19 To Camp 5 (7100m).
Day 20 Summit day: to the top and back down to Camp 5.
Day 21 Descent to Camp 2.
Day 22 Descent to BC.
Days 23-24 Rest/reserve days.
Day 25 Flight back to Karkara Base Camp by helicopter. Transfer to Issyk-Kul Lake. Accomodation in hotel.
Day 26 Transfer to Bishkek. Overnight in hotel.
Day 27 Flight home.

The best period for the expedition is July-August.

Cost of non-guided expedition is €995 per person for groups of 4-5 participants.

The cost includes:
all necessary administrative fees and taxes in Kirghizia (including registration, climbing permit, environmental protection etc.);
meeting/seeing-off in the Bishkek airport;
all surface transfers necessary fornormal realization of the tour;
helicopter flight to Base Camp and back with personal load up to 30 kg included (extra weight – per kilo);
accommodation in Bishkek (with breakfast);
accommodation in Karkara BC, South Inylchek BC and at the Issyk-Kul Lake (full board);
shower and sauna in the South Inylchek BC;
guide-consultant service;
medical aid in BC.

The cost does not include:
airport taxes (US$10 when leaving the Kirghizia);
unexpected premature evacuation;
cost of visa;
insurance;
rent of mountaineering equipment;
porters;
drinks and personal expenses.

Additional services:
one extra day in the BC – US$25 per person;
one extra day in Bishkek (guest-house double-person room) – US$40 per person.

 

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