After skiing the glaciers near Bishkek and the north face of Pik Lenin we had to choose a new destination. Khan Tengri wasn’t really on our list for this trip but we always had it in mind as an option. Mainly because there are several small valleys next to the basecamp which looked pretty promising for freeriding, at least on the pictures we’ve found.
Once we were done organizing some stuff in Bishkek(mainly massages) we started driving to Karkara, a place very far east where the helicopter is leaving from. To get to the basecamp you can either walk for 5 days or take the chopper. It wasn’t a hard decision for us at all since we had lots of food and ski and camera equipment that we couldn’t carry ourselfes.
The adventure started off really good. We missed the heli by 4 hours cause we drove to the wrong place, next heli leaves in three days. This sucked, our timetable was pretty short anyways. At least the area of the heli-base didn’t suck. Lots of mountains and it was green everywhere. We used those 3 days to do some hiking, horseriding with locals, slackline, speedflying and so on. In the end it was pretty nice to get some chill days in the nature before heading up into the cold again.
Sitting in that really old russian helicopter was kind of scary. It took 3 guys to navigate that thing and we were overloaded for sure. The three helicopter wracks that we found lying around on the moraine later on didn’t make the next flight any better.
20 minutes later we landed next to the basecamp and started spotting some lines, it all looked very big and vast. After a little walk on the moraine we’ve scouted a valley with some good skiing potential and set up a camp in there. This way we were able to ski one line each day instead of doing two-day projects. We even found some spines and powder on the first two days.
The plan for the third day was to start climbing a pretty huge peak in the background and ski it from the top on the next day. It would have been a sick first descent and also ascent, but just from this side. One expedition climbed it from the other side before. Anyways, next morning we had a closer look at it while hiking into the valley. The top part looked really steep and so did the whole face, a nice steepness though. Most of the guys backed out so we had to postpone it to when we are done with Khan Tengri. Next to us was a cool ridgeline so I decided to hike that one instead.
The next day we started hiking to camp1 of Khan Tengri. Khan Tengri is a really nice shaped 7000m peak. Short background info for the height: The highest rockpart of the peak is measured 6995m but the actual snow/ice peak is 7010m high, you will see many different versions when you check it on the internet. The bad thing about this peak is that it looks unskiable. I think if I would have put some effort in it in advance it might be possible to find something going through to ski but with the lack of preparation I decided not to try it. There are also lots of factors that could make a ski descent impossible. First of all you have to carry up the skis while climbing, it’s always lots of wind on top that could influence the visibility and in general it’s not very usual to have bluebird on the top, the peak is mostly surrounded by clouds.
3am in the morning. The route from camp1(4300m) to camp2(5300m) is very dangerous during the day. Lots of serac-falls and avalanches. The good thing about starting that early was that we already reached the camp at 10am, so we had lots of time to put up our tents and chill. In this camp I’ve experienced the high altitude tourism for the first time in my life. Lots of people, piss, shit and garbage everywhere . We even had a hard time finding a place for our tent. The winds got stronger in the afternoon and in the evening a snowstorm started. Our plan to hike to camp3(5800m) the next day for acclimatization didn’t work out at all. When we woke up the next morning it was sill storming like hell and people started hiking down to camp1 again. We decided to stay and couldn’t really leave the tents for 2 more days, this means 74hours of literally just lying in the tent. Except of a few times when we had to use the “toilet”, then it was awesome doing our business outside in the underwear, not! We couldn’t stop thinking about the beach and some other warm and nice places. Actually we often asked ourselves why we are doing this. It’s funny how we always want the things that we can’t have right now…
Finally, the alarm went off at 4am, almost no wind and no clouds in sight! Got all our shit together and moved to camp3. It just took us a couple of hours and we didn’t bring our tents because there should be some snow caves up there. Jonas and me digged out a nice sleeping spot in one of the caves and got our sleeping bags ready to get some rest.
At 4am we left the cave and started hiking on the ridge. As soon as the climbing started we left our skis, a pretty sad moment, 900m underneath the peak. I was shocked to see that there were fixed ropes in almost every part of the route. And all the other climbers didn’t even use it as protection, most of them just pulled themselves up on an ascender instead of climbing. It reminded me of what you hear from Everest. So much for alpinism on those mountains. Domi and me decided to climb everything without even touching the ropes, just to see how it goes. In the end we were able to climb more than two thirds of the route without using the ropes. It was a really busy day but after that storm we weren’t surprised to see many climbers heading for the summit. Long term good weather periods are usually pretty rare in this area and you have to use every little window that you can get.
As we reached the summit it was a really nice feeling when we couldn’t hike any further and finally being on top of that thing. The view was just amazing and we stayed up there for more than half an hour. Getting back down wasn’t as good, I never thought that rappelling could be that exhausting. But we made it and spent that night in our snow cave again and skied down all the way to the basecamp on the next day. After a funny basecamp-night(getting drunk) some of us woke up from getting rain in their faces. It’s not a good idea to pass out without a tent on the moraine I guess, haha! The rain wasn’t a good sign at all since it always snowed up to now. It got warmer during the last few days and will stay like that. The two projects that we still wanted to ski and film were destroyed by the sun so we decided to hop on the next helicopter and get out of here. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds. First of all we had to wait 3 days in the bad weather and then the heli couldn’t fly, so it was one more day. Guess who learned how to play chess again, haha.
Considering all the efforts to climb a peak like that it’s really worth thinking about this whole high altitude thing. Up there in the tent I swore to myself not to do anything like that again in the near future but actually in the end I really liked it. Especially to see how my body reacts in the altitude and to get more experience with things like that. I probably won’t get too much into that type of mountaineering but I’m sure it won’t be the last summit above 7000 meters. Next one has to be skiable from the very top though 😉
Thanks for stopping by! We are leaving Kyrgyzstan soon and start our journey back home via Kazakhstan, Russia and Georgia.