American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, USSR, Khan Tengri and Winter Attempt, Tien Shan, 1990-1

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1991

Khan Tengri Winter Attempt, Tien Shan, 1990-1. Americans Ace Kvala, John Faulkner and I, Frenchman Michel Fauquet and a strong team of eight Soviets led by Anatoly Mochnikov and Alexei Shustrov hoped to make the first winter ascent of Khan Tengri. We attempted the north face of Trident Peak (5200 meters, 17,061 feet) but turned back at nightfall after 15 pitches of hard mixed climbing with a -30° C temperature and no bivouac gear. Our attempt on the south face of Khan Tengri failed also. We left the 4100-meter Base Camp at one P.M., skied the 8 kilometers to the face and rested until seven P.M. We climbed continuously through the night as the temperature descended to -35° C and séracs fell three separate times, one missing us by a very narrow margin. After climbing 700 meters of hard, black ice and frightening dashes through the séracs, we turned back at 5700 meters because of high winds and no available bivouac spot on the 55° ice slope for another 500 meters. Because of days lost to bad weather, we had run out of time. Our helicopter was six days late in coming to retrieve us. During that time, Shustrov and I tried the normal route. Having left Base Camp at five P.M., we climbed through the night but turned back at 6200 meters at five A.M. In all, we had only three out of 30 days when the wind would have been calm enough to climb to the top. The cold was impressive. Combined with the isolation—it is 250 air miles to the nearest village—it was too risky to push to do a new route in winter.

Marc Francis Twight

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