Ines Papert, of Germany, and Luka Lindic, of Slovenia, made the first ascent of a new route on Kyzyl Asker in China from September 30 through October 1. It was Papert’s third attempt to finish the line, which they christened Lost in China (ED WI5+ M6, 1200m).
Lindic said that Lost in China is one of the best ice/mixed lines he has climbed on a big mountain.
“It is very rare to climb proper water ice on a mountain like that,” he said. “I feel very lucky that I was able to be part of Ines’s idea and profit from her knowledge she gained on previous visits to the mountain.”
Kyzyl Asker is a hard-to-access mountain on the border between China and Kyrgyzstan in the Xingjang Region that has seen very few ascents so far. In 2010 Papert attempted to open a new line on the southeast face of the mountain but had to retreat just 300 meters shy of the summit amid heavy snowfall and avalanches. A second attempt a year later was also futile because of health problems on Papert’s team.
Five years later, the 42-year-old Papert couldn’t resist the draw of a natural line on the southeast face, and she planned a third expedition. Over the years, several teams had attempted the route she had in mind, but so for no one had managed to climb the route to the top.
When Papert spoke to 28-year-old Lindic about the line, he showed as much enthusiasm about the project as she had. The team went for a fast and light approach.
The two climbers set off on September 30 at 5 a.m., simulclimbing the first few hundred meters in the dark. Papert and Lindic knew that they had to make rapid progress to reach the summit ridge that same day. Otherwise the predicted good weather window would close, and they would have to retreat or risk getting caught in a snowstorm.
The team moved quickly through huge roofs of ice. Papert lost sight of Lindic as he led a pitch. All of a sudden she heard a piercing scream. Lindic let out a howl of joy when he saw what lay before them: ice gleamed all the way to the summit ridge.
“I’ve never climbed such a perfect ice and mixed route at an altitude this high before,” Papert said.
A thunderstorm set in as night was falling. The team climbed in the dark again until they were about two pitches below the summit ridge. They set up an uncomfortable and exposed bivy with spindrift beating on them.
After a tough and severely cold night, the two climbers continued their ascent the next day. They reached the summit ridge around 10 a.m. and left ropes and gear behind as they took on the last meters to the summit, knowing they were going back the way they came. Lindic made way for Papert with a wink, telling her that she should be the first after all her experiences and hardships on the mountain. Papert and Lindic stood atop Kyzyl Asker via the southeast face a little after noon on October 1.
The team was aware of the closing weather window and they quickly rappelled their route, solely using Abalakov (V-thread) anchors in the ice. They arrived at their advance base camp at 7 p.m., when a massive thunderstorm swept over the mountain and sent spindrift avalanches down the face.
“This was my third time on Kyzyl Asker,” Papert said. “After the second failed attempt I needed to let the idea rest, [because] I didn’t want it to become my purpose in life. After several teams attempted the route, the idea grew again. Failure is part of climbing. And so is patience, and sometimes a third attempt. I am simply happy to be able to experience this moment.”
To acclimatize, on September 21, the pair had made what is probably the first repeat and first free ascent of Border Control (ED WI5 M7, 650m) on the Great Walls of China formation.