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January Khan Tengri Ascent

The stunning north face of Khan Tengri. The Kazakh team made the first January ascent of the face over thirteen days in celebration of the Asian Winter games. [Photo] Vladimir Kopylov

On January 20, three members of the Kazakhstan National Climbing Team completed the first January ascent of Khan Tengri (7010m), in the Northern Tien Shan region of Kazakhstan. Khan Tengri is the northernmost 7000m peak in the world, making it home to some of the harshest winter conditions anywhere on earth. Veteran high altitude climbers Idor Gabbasov, Vasili Pivtsov and Alexander Sofrygin reached the summit via the Solamatov Route (Russian 5b), on the mountain’s north face, in a thirteen-day assault. Their climb is the third winter ascent of the mountain, the two previous taking place under warmer conditions in February (1993 and 2002).

Considered the world’s most beautiful peak by Anatoli Boukreev, Khan Tengri is known for its symmetrical marble summit pyramid. It was first climbed in 1931 by Ukrainian mountaineer M. Pogrebetskiy, via the still classic Pogrebetskiy Route (Russian 5b) on the southern side of the mountain.

The Kazakh team flew to their north-side base camp on January 8 and began the acclimatization process, establishing two low camps along their route. Despite their expedition leader, Maxut Zhumayev, being air-lifted out with acute pulmonary problems, the team started their summit push on January 16. They established camp three at 5900m on the col between Khan Tengri and Peak Chapaev (6371m) on January 18, but were forced to wait out a windstorm in their tents for the next day. Harsh weather during their summit bid on the 20th forced team member Dmitry Khonin to turn back, while the summit team reached the top at 2:30 p.m. local time. They spent the night back at camp three, and descended to base camp with their fourth teammate in the morning.

The Kazakhstan National Team is primarily focused on becoming the first national team to climb all fourteen 8000m peaks, of which they have completed ten, but they made their Khan Tengri climb to promote the 7th Asian Winter Games, to be held from January 30 to February 6, 2011 in Astana and Almaty, Kazakhstan. The games will host 843 athletes from 26 Asian nations, competing in a list of sports similar to the Olympics. Many of the athletes will likely compete in Sochi in 2014.

Thank you to Vladimir Kopylov and for the photo. Click in for an English link to