Peaks Above Vanch Valley

Tajikistan, Pamir
Climb Year: 1992. Publication Year: 1994.

Richard Leech, Oliver Shergold, Martin Shelley, Polly Truscott, Punit Khare, Louise Rickard, Rob Haddock, Roy Bannerman and I as leader made up the Imperial College Pamir Expedition. We joined 11 Russians from Kazan for six weeks of climbing in the Vanch valley, previously unexplored by Westerners. We drove 200 kilometers from Dushanbe to Vanch. From there, we traveled by dirt road and stretches of no road by truck another 90 kilometers to the head of the Vanch valley, where we placed Base Camp at 3025 meters. We carried loads up the Abdukagor Glacier, establishing four camps at 3100, 3200, 4800 and 5100 meters, the highest on the col between the Abdukagor and the Fedchenko Glaciers. Camp V was at the head of the Fedchenko below Pik Revolyutsii. From these camps we made the first British ascents of Pik Malysh (5430 meters, 17,815 feet) on July 20, 1992 via the southeast ridge, Pik Kovshovykh (5850 meters, 19,193 feet) on July 21 via the northwest face, Pik Tanymas (5998 meters, 19,679 feet) on July 27 via the west ridge and Pik St. Exupéry (6063 meters, 19,892 feet) on July 27 via the southwest face. This gave us a range of difficulties, ranging from Malysh, a simple snow-and-ice climb to Kovshovykh, a hard, steep rock-and-ice ascent which involved some aid climbing. An attempt on the Pik 26 Komissorov (6834 meters, 22,421 feet) had to be abandoned due to bad weather. In the remaining time, we put up a possibly new route on the northeast ridge of Pik of the Paris Commune (6354 meters, 20,846 feet). The descent back down the Abdukagor Glacier proved tricky due to the collapse of snow bridges, taking seven hours rather than one! During the return drive to Dushanbe, we attempted to cross the Vanch River, whose course had changed, but ended by sinking the truck. It took three days to ferry all the gear over to some cliffs by Tirolean traverse and to retrieve the truck with bulldozers.

Philip Wickens, Imperial College, England