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Asia, USSR, Khan Tengri and Pik Goodmana, Tien Shan

Khan Tengri and Pik Goodmana, Tien Shan. During the summer of 1990, the second American-Lithuanian mountaineering exchange took place. At the invitation of the Lithuanian Mountaineering Federation, four Americans arrived in Vilnius on July 19. With ten Lithuanian climbers we flew to Alma Ata and drove by bus to the international camp at Kar-Kara, near the Chinese frontier. From there, it is a 45-minute flight by helicopter to the principal Base Camp on the South Engilchek Glacier. To the south is Pik Pobedy and to the east, lofty Khan Tengri (6995 meters, 22,949 feet), one of the most perfect mountains ever designed by the hand of God. Khan Tengri offers no easy routes up its steep faces and sharp ridges. It towers 9000 feet above the surrounding glacier. This area was opened to foreign climbers in 1989. Expeditions were there from Japan, Germany, Austria, USA, Italy, England and most eastern European countries. The most popular route was the west buttress. After a three-hour hike up the glacier to an encampment, the route climbs steeply up the avalanche-threatened Semenovsky Glacier to the snowy 5800-meter saddle between Khan Tengri and its westerly neighbor Pik Chapaeva. Near the col is a safe campsite. The summit is a long day’s effort from here. After two weeks of acclimatization tours, six of us reached the bivouac ledge but were tied down by storm for the next three days and retired. A second attempt by Edvardas Pundzius and me was repulsed by weather. Valdas Bagdonas, Valdas Usas and Eddie Ragauskas reached the summit a few days later. The next day, Dainius Makauskas (who died tragically on Dhaulagiri in October) and I made our bid for the top. At 6300 meters, the icy wind turned me back, but Makauskas proceeded to the top in harsh conditions. After new storms, on August 16 a fifth and final summit attempt was made by Lithuanians Freddie Luksas, Vidmantas Paulauskas, Americans Bruno Reinys, Eric Kasulis and me. This time the mountain was kind and we reached the summit with numerous other climbers. When we had first arrived at Base Camp, we missed seeing some of the “small” peaks. Before Khan Tengri, Charly Hampson and I were looking for an acclimatization climb. We learned of a “little” mountain east of Khan Tengri, the west peak of Pik Goodmana (6637 meters, 21,775 feet), which was probably unclimbed. We enlisted Pundzius to climb the attractive 6000-foot-high west face in a three-day effort. It took us two days to reach the foot of the face. We set off from a frigid bivouac in the night. By dawn on August 5, we were astonished to see that we had climbed less than half the face. There were 43 pitches to climb before we reached the summit (which is probably 6500 meters or 21,326 feet) and made 43 rappels to reach the broken glacier at the foot. We settled down for another cold bivouac. Finally on the fifth day of our “three-day” trip we returned to Base Camp with great respect for the “little” mountains of the Tien Shan.

Alex Bertulis