3x7000m // Khan Tengri, Korzhenevskaya and Pik Lenin

In 2014 and 2015 I spend summer months attempting the legendary “Snow Leopard-peaks challenge” in the heart of Central-Asia. Five mountains reach the altitude of 7000 meters in the area of former Soviet union: Pik Korzhenevskaya (7105m) and Pik Kommunizma (7495m) in Tajikistan and Pik Lenin (7134m), Khan Tengri (7010m) and Pik Pobeda (7439m) in Kyrgyzstan. The person who climbs all five, gets a tittle of “Snow leopard”.

The main idea was to get familiar with high alttitude and climb these amazing mountains as a preparation for the future. In 2014 I partnered with Lauri Hilander as we attempted Tajik giants. The following year my plan was to solo and break Denis Urubko`s record of climbing all five less than 42 days.

This is a long post full of pictures. You can find more detailed trip reports from Relaa.com (in Finnish).

 

Pik Korzhenevskaya and Pik Kommunizma, Tajikistan, 2014

 

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After a long night flight to Dushanbe, we immediately headed to Gisarssky mountains.
Tset
We summited Kulai Javonov (4000m) and spent two nights at 3200 meters. We didn´t want to take a risk of flying straight up to Moskvina BC (4400m). Very wise indeed!
Shakram
Encounter with Shakram, the Tajik hunter, was pretty nervous as we all remembered Nanga Parbat 2013.
Getting ready
After a short recovery in the weird Dushanbe, we continued to the Djirgital via Pamir highway.
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“This is Tajikistan!” – said the BC manager after waiting the MI-8 to arrive a day or so. Pilot`s were partying in Dushanbe as we waited…

 

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MI-8 dropped us to the Moskvina glade BC.
Pik Kommunizma
Pik Kommunizma. The peak is actually giantic!
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First days around BC went walking around and getting used to new elevation.
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Mother nature showed whose the boss. Big avalanche running down.
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We did one acclimatization rotation on Korzhenevskaya, before the summit attempt. Scree slopes below the Camp 1 were torturing.
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Lauri at 5500 meters on Korzhenevskaya. Giant Kommunizma in the background.
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Weather was stellar the whole time and we were able to start our summit attempt in time. Lauri finding his way through the Moskvina glacier.
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On day one we climbed up to C1 (5300m) and the following day up to C3 (6400m).
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Czech climbers just below the C3. Korzhenevskaya`s summit is already visible.
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Camp 3 (6400m).
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Summit day was cold and clear. Lauri on the upper ridge.

 

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We summited Korzheneskaya (7105m) at 9:40 am and returned back to BC on a same day.
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Lauri got a minor frost nip to his toes, so I deciced to attempt Kommunizma on my own.

 

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Camp 1 (5300m) on Kommunizma. The route to this camp is extremely dangerous due to hanging seracs. I´ve never been so scared. BC is located between the two glaciers middle of the pic.
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On a second day the route follows the Borodkin Spur.

 

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Camp 2 (5800m) on a Big Pamir platteu. Here my bronchitis got worse and I deciced to abandon the attempt.
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Very happy to be able to act alone on a big mountain while feeling sick.

We managed to summit our first 7000 meter peak which was pretty awsome. Though, everything felt a bit too easy in the end. Kommunizma is still waiting our second visit!

Tajikistan is a weird country and I recommend to acclimatize elsewhere and do a very quick trip to Moskvina BC. And cook your own BC food! Pamir Peaks is the only operator, but book via Ak Sai-Travels. Their service is better! There´s some other interesting peaks in the region too, like Pik Moskva.

 

Pik Lenin, Khan Tengri and Pik Pobeda, Kyrgyzstan, 2015

Like I told, the plan was to attempt to climb all five peaks in a summer, but only one day before the departure, Tajik operator cancelled scheduled MI-8 flights. I had no other choice than travel to Kyrgyzstan and try to climb three remaining peaks inside it´s borders. It became an very exciting expedition after all!

 

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Travelling from Finland to the Base Camp of Pik Lenin took couple days.
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I spent first few days wondering around BC (3600m). Green and lush meadows reminded Elbrus north side BC.
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Hike up to C1 or ABC (4400m) was an painful experience with a 40kg load.

 

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ABC offers same kind of a services than BC. Pik Lenin`s avalanche prone N face ahead.

 

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Again. I did only one rotation to get acclimatized – two nights at C2 (5300m) and one night at 5800m.

 

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My lonely 5800 meters camp.
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Wasn´t feeling too good on a rotation, but it´s always like that. Hard work pays in the end.
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After one rest day at ABC I climbed directly to C3 (6100m). Sunrise over the Kyrgyz plains was beautiful.
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C3 at 6100 meters. Lot of people in the camp, but very few continued to the summit.
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Endless trail breaking paid off. On the summit of Pik Lenin (7134m). Three other climbers summited that day.
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I returned all the way to the ABC the following night. Slept few hour at C2 waiting glacier to freeze.

Succes on Pik Lenin lead to quick change of a mountain range. I flew to Bishkek and continued deep into Tien Shan. MI-8 dropped me to the Southern Inylchek BC (4100m) on the 20th of July. I would attempt Khan Tengri (Southern route) and Pik Pobeda (Normal route) from there.

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Spectacular views from BC. Khan Tengri in the distance.
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Evening walk to Khan Tengri`s Camp 1 (4300m) on flooding glacier was a pleasant way to start ascent.
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I ran up to West Col in 6 six hours through the Valley of Death on 21st of July. Maze of crevasses, seracs and avalanche debris kept my pace up in the dark.

 

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Camp 3 (5800m) under the West col´s schrund is a sheltered place to camp.
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I was the only one who started towards the summit that night. Lack of fixed ropes probably scared everyone away. The route was fixed just up to 6400 meters.
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West ridge was quick to climb, but getting into couloir was nasty. My pace was really slow due to fact that I had to dig old fixed lines up. Snow was unstable and that was my only option.
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I reached the summit of Khan Tengri 10:20 am on 22nd of July as a first person of the season. What a wonderful day! I definately loved every second being alone! I reached BC`s safety on 23rd of July.

Warm and sunny weather turned stormy and windy quickly after my return to BC. Next two weeks everyone waited a weather window to attempt Pik Pobeda, one of the coldest mountains in the World. Pobeda is harder than many 8000 meter peaks they say. At first, I didn`t believe that, but upcoming weeks showed brutal and extremely dangerous mountain. It takes your last breath away very easily!

 

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I found old friends at BC.
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2xMI-8
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Kazakh pilots doing some work!
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We did short climbs around BC.
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Massive Inylchek glacier and BC.
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Climbers waiting…
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Nights get colder towards mid August.

 

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Pik Pobeda!
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Finally we received optimistic weather forecast and begun a 4 hour walk to C1.
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I teamed up with Paul (UK) due to safety reasons.

 

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Camp 1 (4500m) under the mighty N face of Pik Pobeda. Wouldn`t camp here ever again. Serac avalanche danger is obvious.
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Route up to Dikiy Pass (5200m) required serac climbing.
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Normal route follows the West rib on the right.

 

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Long day from the C1 to C3 (5800m).

 

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Some teams camp at Dikiy Pass. It`s safer, but elevation gain is too small fo the second day. BC´s far away!

 

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We slept in a snow cave at 5800 meters. Warm and the best option to survive on Pik Pobeda.

 

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Day three took us up to C4 (6400m). Plan was to reach C5 on the upper ridge, but snowstorm forced us to camp lower.

 

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That night became a battle against the wind. 100km/h winds hammered our tents. Eventually joined Iranian team. Barely managed to avoid real epic. The whole thing was about to become too dangerous. I returned back to BC next day.

 

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Khan Tengri!

Big national teams of Russia and Ukraine summited Pobeda in hurricane winds, one died and other were half dead. There´s many ways to climb these peaks. I think I have found my own!

Two summers in the Central-Asia teached a lot. I definately will return to climb Kommunizma and Pobeda, but for now, more technically challenging objectives has my interest.

 

Les Droites // Barnoud-Marsigny

Droites north face hosts some of the longest pure ice routes in the Mont Blanc massif. I have never been very keen to get on to those, because route finding is easy, climbing straightforwad and similar all the way up. NE face in turn is a diffirent game with it´s much more challenging mixed lines. Escpecially the Chezc route incited us.

Juha climbing the ice crux of the Czech route. Slightly overhanging at places.
Juha climbing the ice crux of the Czech route. Slightly overhanging at places.

 

Juha seconding the mixed M6+/60m pitch of the Czech route.
Juha seconding the mixed M6+/60m pitch of the Czech route.

We tried the Chezc route, but got shut down by the storm top of the mixed crux, only one pitch away joining the Tournier Spur. Only option was to rappel down with heavy hearts.
Two weeks later high presure returned. We aimed back to Droites, but this time Juha suggested that we should climb the rarely done Barnoud-Marsingy on the N face proper. It follows ice runnels on the right hand side of the face and eventually joins the upper Tournier Spur, very close to a true summit. We didn`t find any previous trip reports or other info about the route. It suited well.

Weather and conditions looked good, so on the 7th of April we set up a tent onto the Argentier glacier and prepared to wake up early.

Cosy tent bivy on the Argentier glacier.
Cosy tent bivy on the Argentier glacier.

Schrund was passed easily at 03:00 AM and I begun a long lead up an Alaskan like ice runnel, which covered the first rock sheet. Occassionally I was able to get a screw in, but most of the time axes hit the rock behind. No chance for a belay. Simul-climbing this 200 meters long, max 80 degree section was exciting as a first thing in the morning.

Juha took a next simul lead block. Terrain was mellow angled, but suprisingly fun. The “crux” mixed pitch of the route appeared just below the sloping icefield halfway up the face. Climbing turned a bit of a boring romping fiesta. We slowly drifted towards Ginat and at one point Juha shouted that we are off the route. Eventually that proved to be a good thing as we reached the last rock band below the summit via Messner´s route, and avoided nasty sugar snow ridge climbing on the Tournier.

Ice runnels halfway up the Barnoud-Marsigny.
Ice runnels halfway up the Barnoud-Marsigny.
View down halfway up the route.
View down halfway up the route.
Luca Moroni and David Bacci climbing Ginat.
Luca Moroni and David Bacci climbing the Ginat.

I soloed to the summit and back, because Juha wasn´t so keen to climb last 60 meters or so. In my opinion the route ends always to the summit, but of course, remaining meters didn´t add anything new or phenomenal.

On the summit of Les Droites (4001m).
On the summit of Les Droites (4001m).

And the worst part was still to come – 1000 meters of rappelling down the Lagarde couloir to our skis. Very bad tactics! A snow pollar, no ice and eternity. It took so long that once we´ve reached the glacier, we met people coming up to climb Lagarde.

Rappelling the Lagarde wasn´t fun.
Rappelling the Lagarde wasn´t fun.
View´s over the Argentiere basin and all the way to Weisshorn were beautiful though.
View´s over the Argentiere basin and all the way to Weisshorn were beautiful though.

Barnoud-Marsigny is more varied then Ginat, about the same difficulty and it tops to the true summit. When Ginat is crowded think about this one. Descent via Droites normal route!

Line of the Barnoud-Marsigny.
Line of the Barnoud-Marsigny.

 

 

 

 

Madness Tres Mince

Can alpine climbing be pleasant and relaxed? I have a bad habbit to aim big every time I go to alpine. Reason for that might be the place where I live. In the land of single pitch routes: Finland.

Anyway Juha had just arrived to Chamonix and we decided to start with something easy. Charlet-Ghillini and Madness tres mince were supposed to be in good condition, so we skied to the Argentiere refuge in a super strong winds a day earlier.

Is this Sarek or what?
Is this Sarek or what?

 

Next morning saw us skinning up to the far end of the glacier. Pointe de Pre de Bar seemed to be a lot wilder place than I expected. It reminded peaks in Alaska or something.

Classic goulottes in the far end of the Argentiere basin.
Classic goulottes in the far end of the Argentiere basin.

 

#artsy
#artsy

 

Couple of hours later we stood at the Brecche, just having climbed the Madness Trec Mince. Five hundred meters of moderate mixed climbing. Very enjoyable. Dark shadow visited us briefly during the abseils as other team dropped some big rocks down the narrow couloir. Another reminder why we don`t want to climb routes with other people. When you see climbers ahead of you, on a narrow route, change your plans and pick a diffirent route.

Juha seconding below the mid-height snowfield.
Juha seconding below the mid-height snowfield.
Upper ice runnels and very AK like feeling.
Upper ice runnels and very AK like feeling.
View from the Brecche to the Argentiere glacier basin
View from the Brecche to the Argentiere glacial basin.

I reccomend to do MTM or Charlet-Ghillini if you want a relaxed day, full of good goulotte-climbing. Both of them are doable from the first GM lift.

Juha
Juha rappelling over the Schrund.

 

 

 

Col du Plan and Fil a Plomb

What`s the best way to acclimatise around Mont Blanc massif? One of my favourites is to climb Aiguille du Midi`s north face. Short approach combined with a cable-car descent couldn´t be easier.

Both of the lines seen from the Plan d´Aiguille.
Both of the lines seen from the Plan d´Aiguille.

 

Col du Plan N face

At the begining of March I´d just arrived to the village the previous night and deciced to climb Fil a Plomb as a warm up. Eventually I choose Col du Plans N face, because one other team was just behind me, and I knew their plan was to do the Fil a Plomb. When soloing, at least I, want to enjoy solitude, peace and movement.

Carrying too much stuff!
Carrying too much stuff!

I was carrying approach skis, two half ropes and a light bivi kit, due to my plan to solo something on Tacul`s East face the following day. Too much gear I can say now.

Recent storm had bring lot of fresh snow and it clearly slowed my progres. First couloir steepens after couple hundred meters and the line exits via a mixed ramp on the right hand side.

Deep snow and crevasses.
Deep snow and crevasses.

Final romp up to the col was miserable wading in a deep snow. The day got even worse when Midi`s staff forced all climbers back to valley. Free ride down, but I`d carried all the gear up for nothing.

Fil a Plomb

A few days later I went for the Fil a Plomb, carrying skis again. Foehn wind was excpected to start around noon, but luckily the route is in a corner and it´s climbable in a bad weather. Lower slopes are easy and I quickly reached the crux: 40 meters of steep ice. Start of it looked really technical and some locking moves were required to get on to the ice. Hollow, airy and exciting pitch to free solo. Once on the top, I rappelled down to pick up my pack and top-rope soloed the pitch up.

Rest of route was easy, except annoying mushroom traverse. At the col wind howled like a crazy. There were no chance to climb up to Midi, so remaining option was to ski down to the Montevers. Whiteout conditions forced to spend one night at the Requin hut though.

Not very often you can enjoy the peace on a popular classics.

Fil a Plomb`s mushroom traverse. One of the only pictures I took with a phone.
Fil a Plomb`s mushroom traverse. One of the only pictures I took with a phone.

Grandes Jorasses // Colton-MacIntyre

North face of the Grandes Jorasses represents dreams, ambitions, tragedy and mystique. Alpinists through the decades have become addicted to the face. Once in a while they return back to the shadow and climb out to the light again.

Nick Colton and Alex MacIntyre invented or, at least strengthened light and fast alpinism with a brilliant first ascent of the central couloir of the north face in 1976. Nowadays their route is one of the most popular on the face. Thanks to Ueli`s speed climb and quality of the line.

In October 2014, having just bailed from the Supercouloir, we took Montenvers train up to Mer de Glace and hiked straight to the schrund. We knew the Leschaux refugio would be full – three other teams also bivied under the face. We consirided to change to Croz, but conclusion was that we just have to start earlier than others.

Juha approaching.
Juha approaching.

It was a warm evening top of the serac. Climbers on No Siesta seemed to have no siesta as their moved slowly upwards, headlamps flashing around all night. At 03:00AM we set off and just barely got the pole position.

Juha and the serac bivi.
Juha and the serac bivi.

We simul-climbed everything else, but the hollow and steep ice crux at mid-height of the face, which was quite out there lead from Juha. Wouldn`t want to do that in thin conditions. Climbing was again straighforward until the last six mixed pitches through the headwall. Juha led first three and I did the remaining job. Some delicate and careful foot work were needed, but nothing was harder than M4+.

Juha starting the steep ice crux (WI5).
Juha starting up the steep ice crux (WI5).

 

Third icefield.
Third icefield.

 

Mixed traverse pitch. Juha on the lead.
Mixed traverse pitch. Juha on the lead.

Descent from Point Walker to the Boccalatte hut in Italy wasn´t a simple task. There were tracks to follow, but down climbing one axe in a sugar snow and the other in a Whymper´s serac required full concentration. It took ages. Just before 01:00 am we finally found the hut. Heaven of safety!

Juho just below the Pointe Walker.
Juho just below the Pointe Walker.

 

Boccalatte refugio - Heaven of Safety.
Boccalatte refugio – Heaven of Safety.

Dent Blanche – North Face Direct

Dent Blanche`s north face caught my attention imediately when I stood on the summit of Weisshorn, after a quick solo via classic east ridge route. Moderate snowfield climbing seemed to end to the impressive mixed headwall. I wanted to get to that face as soon as possible.

Snowy N face seen from to the summit of Weisshorn in June.
Snowy N face seen from to the summit of Weisshorn in June.
Windy Dent Blanche.
Windy Dent Blanche.

Three months later me and Juha Sillanpää setled in for the night at Col de la Dent Blanche bivouac hut, while foehn wind hammered mountain tops. We had arrived straight from the Malpensa airport. At Ferpecle parking lot, where the hut hike begins, we met an French UIAGM-guide whom had soloed the face in 4 hours. We expected to double the time with a longer, direct start. There was only one thing we frogot. We didn`t have acclimatisation.

Camping at Ferpecle.
Camping at Ferpecle.

 

Another very windy day and night later spent in the hut doing nothing, we did three ”committing” abseils into the Grand Cornier glacier. Loose rock couloir would be nasty to climb up in case of a retreat. Short traverse led us over the schrund.

Very windy col! Spot the hut.
Very windy col! Spot the hut.

 

Juha doing the last rappel down.
Juha doing the last rappel down.

 

Juha on a first simul-climbing part.
Juha starting up the first simul-climbing part.

We had found very little info about the route, but the most logic line looked obvious. Low angled ice runnel and one steeper step of uncolisated snow brought us to the big nevefield. No chance for any protection, we romped up that thing. Slow pace would cause problems, but we kept going up. Clouds covered the summit again.

Juha top of the ramp.
Juha top of the ramp.

 

Hollow ice bulge guarded the headwall. It was already 5pm. We had two hours of daylight left. Due to traversing nature of the earlier section, it would take us longer to climb down than up. ”Should we continue? Yeah!”

It got dark top of the ice crux. One pitch of WI4 had been the best climbing so far. Juha suggested bivi. I agreed. One hour later we had a small ledge to sit on. We didn`t have any food left due to extra day spent in the hut. Luckily, night wasn`t too cold. Juha`s decision to carry a sleeping bag and a mattres saved us from a freezing night.

It snowed all night. At 7:00 am we continued climbing over some very loose ground. Rock quality in Valais isn`t always that good, but this was horrible. We summited soon after and begun downclimb via razor sharp south ridge.

Juho on the summit of windy Dent Blanche.
Juho on the summit of windy Dent Blanche.

 

South ridge and Juha.
South ridge and Juha.

Quick Coke stop at Dent Blanche hut, which was under renovation, and long`ish walk back to Ferpecle finished our adventurous two days on the mountain.

Line of the North Face Direct.
Line of the North Face Direct. Black arrow shows the rappel line.