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Asia, USSR, Piks Kommunizma, Korzhenovskoi and Lenin

Piks Kommunizma, Korzhenovskoi and Lenin. “Team Alaska” led by Gary Bocarde and Susan Havens consisted further of Keith Fleischman, Willie Hersman, Margarite Kaniniski, Al Pack, Pete Panarese, Mardie Prentke, Steve Taylor and me. On July 19 we were flown by helicopter from the Achik-Tash Camp at 3620 meters to the Moskvin Base Camp below Pik Kommunizma at 4500 meters. A week of storms prevented our planned acclimatization climbs. As the clouds lifted, on July 26 eight of us made the arduous carry over mixed ice, rock and snow to the lower Borodkin Ridge to Camp I at 5240 meters. The next day Bocarde, Havens, Pack, Panarese and I occupied Camp I. The next two days were spent carrying loads over the top of 6270-meter Kirov Peak and dropping to Camp II at 5970 meters on the great ice plateau. Sadly, crossing Kirov, we passed the evacuation of American Steve Manfredo, then unconscious from high-altitude pulmonary edema. He would expire the next day after being carried to below 5000 meters by a Soviet rescue team. A rest day at Camp II preceded our move to Camp III at 6640 meters. Pack turned back at 6300 meters with possible symptoms of high-altitude cerebral edema. We climbed to crowded Camp IV at 7020 meters on the crest of Pik Dushanbe. On August 2 we climbed unroped to the summit of Pik Kommunizma (7483 meters, 24,550 feet) in clear, calm weather. Later that day five more Americans led by Eric Simonson stood atop the Soviet Union’s highest peak. Since all the others had to leave, Bocarde, Havens and I made a rapid ascent of majestic Pik Korzhenevkoi (7105 meters, 23,310 feet). Well acclimatized from Kommunizma, we climbed from a valley at 4300 meters in successive days to 5430 and 6320 meters. The third day we were tentbound. Despite the whiteout, six Russians attempted the summit unroped. Two hours later, one of them was blown off a cornice, sustaining fatal injuries in a 300-meter fall. Luckily, the weather cleared on the second night. On August 9 we three ascended the remaining 700 meters along the airy Zatelan ridge to the summit. It was then back to Achik-Tash for an attempt on the last Pamir 7000er, Pik Lenin (7134 meters, 23,406 feet). The excellent weather continued as we left the alpine meadows at 3600 meters for camps at 4410, 5230 and 6420 meters on Lenin’s normal route. On the summit day Bocarde was soon halted by a GI problem and descended with Havens. I climbed to the summit alone and met my partners that evening at 6120 meters. At our farewell party, my favorite encounter was with a Russian photographer on his 20th season in the Pamirs. He asked me if William Putnam was still president of the American Alpine Club and proudly displayed an aging parka given him in 1974 by young John Roskelley. It was with great pleasure that I found such American legacies alive and well in the Soviet Pamirs.

Andrew L. Evans