Da scoop: Kazakhs summit winter Khan Tengri

Posted: Jan 21, 2011 12:11 pm EST

(By Angela Benavides) Kazakh Vasili Pivtsov, Alex Sofrygin and Ildar Gabassov bagged the summit of Khan Tengri in northern Tien Shan, yesterday. This is only the third ever summit of the peak in winter - the two previous took place in February - yesterday's success is the first in the deep cold of January.

Without exaggerating, winter conditions in Northern Tien Shan are usually harder than in winter Karakoram, said ExWeb's correspondent in Kazakhstan Andrey Verkhovod, who provided the news.

Members of CSKA (Kazakhstan Army Sports Club) Vaso, Alex and Ildar summited Khan Tengri (7010m) yesterday at 2:30pm local time, and made it safely back to C3 (at 5,900m on the col between Kang Tengri and Peak Chapaev) for the night.

Fast push up the northern route

The entire climb was done in full winter time and rather fast: the team was airlifted to Khans north side BC on Jan 8th, and set up the two lower camps during their acclimatization process up the normal northern route which, in spite of the normal tag, is rather hard: 5b in Soviet scale, and with the most difficult section (mixed terrain, a steep couloir and a wind-exposed ridge) from 6,700m to the top.

Expedition leader Maxut Zhumayev had to be airlifted back to Almaty due to acute pulmonary problems.

Vaso, Alex, Ildar and Dmitry Khonin launched the final summit push on January 16. They set up C3 on Jan 18 and spent the following day waiting out a wind storm. Three of the climbers topped out yesterday in very hard weather that forced back Dmitry. The climbers were expected back in BC today.

First time in the coldest month

After Pobeda, Khan Tengri is the second northernmost 7000er in the world. The only two previous winter summits on Khan Tengri (in 1993 and 2002) were achieved in February, when conditions are not as tough as Januarys.

The expedition was mainly supported by Kazakhstani Ecological Union Tabigat, led by Mels Eliusizov, and hoped to raise attention towards the Winter Asian Games that are due to start on January 30, in Kazakhstan.

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Khan Tengri north side in the dead of winter.
Image by Maxut Zhumayev courtesy Kazakh Khan Tengri Winter Expedition
The CSKA (Kazakhstan Army Sports Club) Winter Khan Tengri expedition in BC. Vaso, Ildar and Alex are the 2dn, 3rd, and 6th from the right, respectively.
Image by Maxut Zhumayev courtesy Kazakh Khan Tengri Winter Expedition
Team leader Maxut Xhumayev in BC - he was airlifted due to acute pulmonary problems before the summit push.
Image by Maxut Zhumayev courtesy Kazakh Khan Tengri Winter Expedition