American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S.), Tadjikistan, Fanskie Mountains, Note on the Various Climbing Championships of the C.I.S.

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 1999

Note on the Various Climbing Championships of the C.I.S. The Russian Mountaineering Federation was established in 1982. Preceding and superseding that, the Soviet Mountaineering Federation was the governing body for climbing in the times of the U.S.S.R. At the time of the Soviet Union’s disintegration, the leader of Soviet Mountaineering Federation was Eduard Myslovsky (who had to his credit first ascents of two of the most difficult faces in the former U.S.S.R., the Southwest Face of Peak Communism [1968] and the North Face of Khan-Tengri [1974], and who had, together with Vladimir Balyberdin, been the head climber of the 1982 Soviet Everest expedition). In the disintegration’s wake, Myslovsky organized the Europe-Asia Association of Mountaineering and Rock Climbing to unite some of the former Soviet mountaineering federations (primarily the Ukranian and Kazakhstan federations).

Meanwhile, the leader of the Russian Mountaineering Federation at the time of the Soviet breakup was Anatoly Bychkov. Upon his death in 1993, the Russian Mountaineering Federation was headed up by Valery Putrin and Vladimir Shataev, who continue to serve as its leaders.

The system of championships is the same for both the Russian Mountaineering Federation and the Europe-Asia Association of Mountaineering and Rock Climbing. In the Russian Mountaineering Federation, there are a number of different climbing classes, such as the rock climbing class, technical climbing class, high-altitude climbing class, and winter climbing class. (An article by Vladimir Shataev that explains the Russian Mountaineering Federation and its championships can be found in the 1997 AAJ, pp. 108-111.) In 1998, the ascent of the west face of Bhagirathi III was awarded first place in high-altitude climbing class; the Russian-American ascent of the north face of Changabang took second, while the new route up the north face of Khan Tengri took third. The rock class climbing championship of Russia this year took place in Chamonix from June 28 to July 14. The two winning ascents were of the Petit Dru’s north face via a new variation and the No Siesta route on the north face of the Grand Jorasses.

There were only two classes in the Europe-Asia Association of Mountaineering and Rock Climbing this year. In the high-altitude climbing class, all three entries were climbs of 8000- meter peaks. The technical class took place in the Fanskie mountains, and the results are listed below. As the Fanskie mountains are located in the Republic of Tadjikistan (which is currently politically unstable), the president of the Republic of Tadjikistan awarded his own prize to the youngest climbers to show the importance of this sports event in the time of the civil war. Our thanks to Vladimir Kopylov and Vladimir Shataev for their help in clarifying this matter.

Muzkol Range, Various Ascents. In 1996, an EWP expedition was the first West European climbing group in recent history to visit the Muzkol, a little-explored range in the southeastern Pamir of Tadjikistan. Several unclimbed summits were conquered and many more exciting future possibilities discovered. In 1997, EWP again visited the Muzkol. Base Camp was established on the Zartoshkol (Muzkol) River some 20 miles north of the 1996 camp. Several virgin 5000-meter summits were climbed, along with two 6000ers. In 1998, the 1997 Base Camp was again used on account of the easy vehicle access. The group was comprised of three American, nine English, two Welsh and three Russian climbers, together with a Russian cook, her son and a Russian doctor.

Part of the journey from Osh in Khyrgyzstan to the Muzkol follows the Chinese border, and it is also the main road leading to the sensitive Afghan border areas. For these reasons there is a high degree of security along the route with many checkpoints. Luckily, in 1998, one of the checkpoints (Kyzylart Pass, 4280m) was abolished, and our vehicles were not searched once. As a result, the journey in both directions went very smoothly.

After a rest day, a group set off to make the ascent of 5500.6m, a small peak located on the ridge system leading off northwest from Peak Muzkolski (first climbed in 1997). They camped the first night at Vanishing Lake (4300m), then at “Cwm Bivouac” (ca. 4900m) located about one-and-a-half kilometers northeast of point 5500.6m. On August 16, John Cederholm, John Clarke, Igor Gavrilov, Paul Hampson, Antony Hollinshead, Cerith Jones, Doug Jones, Harvey Jones, David Keaton, Chris Kinney, Valeri Rezhnik, Colin Sprange, Stephen Taylor, Kevin Turner, and Duncan Woods reached the summit of 5500.6m and called it “Four Nations Peak.” The ascent took three hours of easy scrambling, scree and snow slopes. The climb was rated Russian 2b (Alpine II or PD). Cederholm, Keaton, Kinney and Clarke continued south for about one-and-a-half kilometers to take in two further points, which they named “Point Theresa” (ca. 5475m) and “Point Marina” (ca. 5500m) after their wives. The ridge provided excellent views of Zartosh East and West (the latter subsequently named “White Pyramid”) together with the unclimbed and very impressive 5960-meter peak. During this period, Sergei Semiletkin, the Russian veteran of the Muzkol, and Andrew Wielochowski reconnoitered the access route to Zartosh. They found a beautiful glacier basin leading up to the north face of Zartosh, as well as a fine camp site one hours’ walk from the face.

On the 19th, the group set off up into the Zartosh Glacier cirque. One night was spent at “Moraine Ridge Camp” (ca. 4500), a fine, west-facing, sheltered hollow offering good views of Peak Communism to the west. On August 20, “Glacier Camp” was established at 5050 meters and was used for the next few days as a base to explore and climb in the beautiful Zartosh cirque. On the 21st, “Leopard’s Tooth” (ca. 5520m) was ascended by its elegant, snowy north ridge by Cederholm, Clarke, Hollinshead, C., D. and H. Jones, Keaton, Kinney, Sprange, Taylor, Turner, Woods and Wielochowski. This unique feature forms an “island peak” in the center of the cirque and is dominated by the surrounding giants. The ascent took three hours and was rated Russian 2b (Alpine II or PD). On the following day, Hampson and Clark attempted to reach a 5300-meter col that leads out of the cirque into the Bozbaital Valley to the southeast; steep snowy scree slopes and rotten rock put them off. At the same time, Hollinshead and Wielochowski ventured onto the superb 700-meter icy north face of Zartosh, confirming its great potential for some excellent ice routes.

On August 23, Cederholm, Clarke, Gavrilov, Hampson, Hollinshead, C., D. and H. Jones, Keaton, Kinney, Rezhnik, Taylor, Turner, Wielochowski, Woods plus Semiletkin, set off at 6 a.m. for the first ascent of the White Pyramid (ca. 6060m). After one-and-a-half hours, they reached the end of the Zartosh Glacier. A 40° snow slope led to the snowy north ridge. This was followed over bulges to a broader section; several large crevasses were easily avoided and the col between Zartosh and the White Pyramid was reached soon after midday. An easy snow ridge led to the summit. The col and summit were estimated to be 6000 and 6060 meters high respectively. The ascent of the White Pyramid was rated Russian 3b (Alpine III or ADsup).

From the summit of the White Pyramid a possible route up Zartosh could be seen: an icy snow couloir led up from the col toward a rockier area, above which the angle appeared to ease. After descent to the col, several members of the group started up the couloir but turned back on account of deteriorating weather and lack of adequate equipment.

The original aim of the expedition was to climb the main peak of Zartosh. Instead, the White Pyramid, the west summit of Zartosh, was identified as an attractive and easier initial target that could be climbed with a minimum of equipment. After the successful ascent of this summit by all but one member of the team, little enthusiasm could be found in the last two days of the trip to reascend to the col from where Zartosh would be most easily tackled. The other very attractive way to tackle this magnificent 20,000-foot summit would be by one of the excellent-looking ice routes on the north face.

The weather in the Muzkol is normally very stable: in 1997 it rained only once at Base Camp, and that was only for half an hour in two and a half weeks. In 1998, the weather was unusual, with three days on which it rained for a few hours, and several days of partial cloud cover.

Andrew Wielochowski, United Kingdom

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