American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, USSR, Ak-Su, Turkestan Range, Kirgiz SSR

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1987

Ak-Su, Turkestan Range, Kirgiz SSR. Our group of 16 climbers from the Alpine Club of the Natural Science Faculty of Charles University of Prag spent 15 exciting days at the beginning of July in the Ak-Su region on the northern slopes of the Turkestan Range. (Ak-Su means “white water” in the Kirgiz language.) We flew to Oach and then traveled by bus via Leninabad and Isfana. The climbing base at 2800 meters was reached by truck. The region surprised us with its rich vegetation, fantastic rock-climbing possibilites and unbelievable beauty. The upper Ak-Su valley is a fascinating amphitheater with 1000-meter perpendicular walls of hard, solid, excellent granite. The Soviets have climbed there only for the past three years and so most of the faces have only one or two routes. The most thrilling is a wall of Ak-Su Skalnoye (“Rocky Ak-Su”) which rises from 3500 to 5200 meters above a moraine-covered glacier. Pik Alekandra Bloka (5229 meters) is an astonishing mountain resembling Fitz Roy by its shape, dimensions and sheerness, but fortunately not by its climate. The other big walls are on Admiralitek, Petrogradek and Bolshoy Iskander. During our stay, we, the first foreigners there, climbed Maliy, Bolshoy Iskander, Aktiubek, Aleksandre Bloka and the highest mountain in the region, Ak-Su Glavnoye (5355 meters 17,569 feet). Although we had not been given permission for new routes on the big walls, a strong team of Cermák, Hlavácek, Kamler, Reif and Polák tried a new one in the middle of the 1700-meter-high wall of Ak-Su Skalnoye. They reached about two thirds of the way up when Kamler was hit by a falling rock and badly injured his hip. Rappelling down 27 pitches was hard and took two days. We had great respect for the injured man as well as for his partners. The accident saved us from problems we would otherwise have had from the authorities for this unallowed ascent. Except for Kamler’s injury, our doctor had to cure frequent diarrhea, our leader Petr Brzak’s pneumonia and an untypical injury when Hlavacek was badly bitten by an identified dog of the Kirgiz shepherds and had to be sent back to Prag to have rabies innoculations. Although the Ak-Su mountains do not reach the altitudes of the 7000-meter Pamirs farther to the east, it is a most attractive climbing area. Thanks to warm, stable, sunny weather, the lack of snow, relatively short approaches and particularly because of the quality of the granite, it can be considered one of the best rock-climbing areas not only in the USSR but all over the world. Its walls compare favorably with any in the Alps, Verdon and even Yosemite. The area surrounding 5300-meter Sabakch, which we could see to the west, promises to be equally attractive.

Vladimír Weigner, Czechoslovakia

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