American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S.), Kazakhstan, Tien-Shan, Khan Tengri, North Face, New Route

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999

Khan Tengri, North Face, New Route. There are 12 existing routes on Khan Tengri (7010m) that lead to the summit from the North Inylchek Glacier. Nine of these routes are on the north face. The giant buttress on the left is, between 6300 and 6400 meters, the steepest part of the face and was considered the last great problem. In August, a team of Russian mountaineers from Ekaterinburg (Alexander Mihailov, expedition leader and coach; Nicolai Zhilin, climbing leader; Yuri Yermachek, and Dmitri Pavlenko), joined by Sergei Borisov, Nicolai Shcabara, Vadim Popovich, Victor Shishmintsev and Alexander Korobkov at Base Camp, climbed this line. Team members had worked as guides on the Northern Inylchek Glacier from 1994-’97 and thus knew the mountain well.

Base Camp (4000m) was organized at the base of the north face on July 1. After some acclimatization climbs, the team members climbed the normal route to the summit. On August 9, Zhilin, Yermachek and Pavlenko began fixing 12 ropes on the lower part of the route from the first bergschrund (50-70°). On August 12, the team started out. The first bivy was at 5100 meters. The next day they climbed 50 meters of frozen waterfall and several complicated ice and rock sections to approach the base of a 200-meter vertical rocky “nose” that was one of the key sections of the climb. They bivied at 5500 meters at its base. From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. the next day, Zhilin and Pavlenko fixed two 50-meter ropes, then returned to the second bivy. On August 15, they finished climbing that part of the route by 6 p.m., then arranged a more-or-less comfortable place for the fourth bivy (5700m). On August 16, they climbed several ice-covered rock walls before making the fifth bivy at 5900 meters. In the evening they fixed two more pitches. The steepness of the next part of the route increased from 50-55° to 65-70°. On August 17, they climbed about 200 vertical meters, using aid in some places, before bivying at 6100 meters. In the evening they worked on the route for an hour and a half. The next day they climbed the last meters of the buttress (the crux), which brought them to the eastern slopes of the summit at about 6300 meters. After that they moved along a snowy/icy ridge to the base of the steep belt of red rock, where they bivied at ca. 6400 meters. On August 19, they climbed the red rocks of the presummit in three very complicated pitches. After that, several labor-consuming pitches took them to the summit dome at 6900 meters, where they bivied again. The next day’s climbing was not difficult. They left the camp at 10:30 a.m. and were at the summit at 12 p.m. They descended to Base Camp via the normal route the same day, reaching it at 8 p.m.

The route is 3950 meters long, with an altitude variation of 2710 meters. The team’s climbing time, including evening and preliminary preparation of the route, was 89.5 hours. They used ice fifis 88 times, and rock hooks 78 times. They used gear such as stoppers and friends 147 times. The average steepness of the wall part of the route is 64 degrees from 5100 to 6300 meters, and of the whole route (from 4300-7010m) 52 degrees.This climb took third place in the high altitude mountaineering class in the Russian championships.

Alexander Michailov, Russia

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.