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The northwest face of Kotin (4521m) in the Kara-su valley of Kyrghyzstan?s Pamir Alai, showing the line of the new route Black Volga (5.11d, 1700m, Kuczera-Magiera-Stefański, August 2006). The three climbed speedily on this line to complete the ascent in just one and half days. [Photo] Artur Magiera

During August-September a Polish team established two probable new routes in the Kara-su valley, an area of internationally famous granite walls in the Karavshin region of Kyrghyzstan. After warming up with the Diagonal Route (5.10b, 500m) on the Yellow Wall, Jan Kuczera and Jerzy Stefanski climbed the Temofeev Route on the 900-meter northwest face of Asan (4230m). This route was established in 1988 and given a Russian grade of 6B. However, it subsequently became quite popular and by 1993 had been downgraded to 6A. The Polish climbers completed the line with two bivouacs and found interesting and varied climbing on slabs and in cracks and corners, with difficulties up to 5.11d and A3. As they only climbed with 50-meter ropes, the pair experienced really awkward moments on the longer pitches, some of which were a full 60 meters.

Joined by Artur Magiera, who had been ill during the first part of the trip, the pair then set off in alpine style for a new line on the northwest face of Kotin (4521m), the most northerly of the main features forming the east wall of the Kara-su. Little appears to have been recorded on Kotin, but one notable ascent took place in 1999 when Ian Parnell soloed what is believed to be a new line on the east face above the Ak-su valley to create Isolationist (5.10c, 1200m). The three Poles made a fast ascent, finding very pleasant climbing on solid granite: the first two thirds on slabs up to 5.10b, followed by a headwall of cracks and corners up to 5.11d. After 1500 meters of climbing they reached the southwest ridge and followed this back left for another 200 meters to the summit. The ascent had taken a mere one and a half days using only nuts, Friends and a few pitons for protection. Eight hours of solid rappeling took them down the east side to the Ak-Su Valley, where they were faced with a tiring three-hour walk back to base camp. The route was christened Czarna Wolga (Black Volga) after an old Soviet car that used to symbolize the KGB.

The two other members of this expedition, Lukasz Depta and Wojciech Kozub, climbed a new route on a nameless, ca. 4000-meter tower in the same valley to produce Opposite to Asan (5.10b, 650m and 17 pitches, then another 150m of scrambling to the summit). They also repeated the classic Alperin Route (5B, 5.11c) on Asan, before September’s cold and windy weather drove the team home.