American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Tien Shan, Tien Shan, Ascents and Descents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1997

Tien Shan, Ascents and Descents. We traveled into the Tien Shan for an adventure film for the Outdoor Life channel. Our group consisted of adventure skiers Doug and Emily Coombs, skier and cameraman Bill Gallen, snowboarder John Griber and skier/director Michael Brown. We arrived July 26 at the Khan Tengri Base Camp (13,400’). On July 28, we landed via helicopter atop a 17,400-foot summit named Wyatt Peak, after Exum guide Rick Wyatt, who described this peak at the end of the Isykul Glacier Valley, east of Khan Tengri. It provided an excellent corn descent of no more than 45 degrees and very few crevasses. On July 30, Doug, Emily, Bill and John attempted to climb a peak we nicknamed Humpty Dumpty (17,000’) because of its shape. The ridge is the prominent sky line visible from Base Camp. We were forced to descend from 16,000 feet because of breakable crust and knee-deep sugar; the upper turns were deceptively steep, in the low- to mid-50-degree range. From Humpty Dumpty, the team scouted the ski run of a lifetime: “Goodman Peak,” an unclimbed, unskied, 20,600-foot peak with an intimidating (55- to 60-plus degrees), smooth, featureless face that offers 5,500 vertical feet of skiing with a complex serac fall/bergschrund system at the bottom. Goodman Peak presents a highly technical problem; given the ever-changing snow conditions at this altitude, whether it can be skied from top to bottom is unknown. Unfortunately, due to time, limited equipment and weather, the team was not prepared for such an undertaking. On August 1, we flew to the base of “Discovery Peak” (19,200’). John, Bill and Michael climbed to 16,600 feet but again were forced to descend due to weather. Our trio met Doug and Emily and decided to wait out the storm at camp. Unfortunately due to time constraints and new snow we were unable to make another attempt of Discovery. Of the very limited skiable peaks in this region Discovery had the most reasonable and aesthetic skiable ridge line. Discovery Peak is a very skiable peak and a great way to acclimatize for other climbs in the area. The Tien Shan offers limitless technically demanding ski and board descents.

John Griber, unaffiliated

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