American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Kazakhstan, Dzhungarian Alatau, Various Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001

Dzhungarian Alatau, Various Ascents. The team comprised Stuart Batey, Mick Jenkins, John Owens, Catherine Clare, Frank McCorriston, Alan Beeton, Allan Gransden, Carl Burks, Carl Morrish, John Wharry, Darren Weller, and Andrew Grubb. Between us, we were experienced mountaineers and novices, 11 military surveyors, and one medic. We were joined by Kazakh climber Denis Alimpev for several ascents.

The main attractions of the mountains of the Dzhungarian Alatau were that they offer alpine-style climbing up to 4600 meters on relatively unexplored mountains, and yet are fairly accessible from Almaty, the capital of Kazakhstan, which has an international airport. As far as we could ascertain, the region had also only been visited by a Soviet team, who had climbed the highest peak in the region, Semeonov Tien-Shansky (4622m), some 30 years ago, and once by a Western team in 1998.*

As military geographers, we carry out terrain analysis and geographic data collection as part of our jobs. Our scientific aims were to produce a Geographic Information System (GIS) Database and an interactive image map on CD and internet website. We used GPS to accurately position all our information, as well as digital cameras and video to update our website via Satellite Telephone (www.apogee-expeditions.com).

We climbed the highest peak of the range, Semeonov Tien-Shansky (4622m), made seven first ascents (three over 4000m), and explored over 600 square kilometers of the range. First ascents were as follows: Peak Fougasse (4080m) was climbed by Owens, Wharry, Beeton, McCorriston, and Grubb via a dry glacier up to a bowl below the north face (PD, 30-35°) on July 12. Descent was via the same route. Pik Nangers (3330m) was climbed via the west face to a col on the main ridge above the Great Baskan Valley and then via the north ridge (a grade 2 scramble) to the top on July 13 by Batey, Grubb, Gransden, Jenkins, Clare, McCorriston, and Morrish. Burks, Grubb and Beeton climbed Pik Roy (3940m) as part of a rocky horseshoe from the glacier above the East Valley camp. A rocky ridge to the west was then climbed to the top and the horseshoe followed to the summit on July 15.

Peak Conandros (3587m), which dominates the Abay Glacier Valley to the west of the lake, was climbed by Batey, Jenkins, and Gransden on July 16 via the steep grass and rock slopes to a col on the northeast ridge, then traversed across under the north face to a point where the north ridge could be climbed to the top. The horseshoe was then followed around and down the northeast ridge and back to the col. The ascent ridge was a grade 2 scramble; however, the descent was trickier (grade 3).

On July 17, Owens, McCorriston, and Wharry climbed Pik Matthew (4450m). From the Abay Glacier camp, the route (D) followed the left-hand bank of the glacier, which was heavily crevassed, to a point just to the right of the rock rib. From here, a steep slope, initially at an average angle of about 45 to 50 degrees, was climbed for nearly 2,500 feet to the west ridge (the slope eased after about 600 feet). The ridge to the summit was relatively straightforward but loose, and a couple of gendarmes could be passed easily. Descent was by the same route, due to the rapidly deteriorating weather conditions. Alternative routes on the mountain are limited because it is on the Chinese border and because of the hanging glaciers on the north face. It could be approached from the col further to the west or climbed as part of the ridgeline from Peak Davidovitch.

From the col to the east, Pik Apogee (4511 m) was climbed by Owens, McCorriston, Grubb, and Beeton on July 24 via the East Ridge (PD), which was a straightforward snow climb that took about one and a half hours from the summit of Pik Davidovitch. Alternative routes include the north ridge from Pik Shumsky, about four kilometers away; this could belinked in a full traverse of the head of the Greater Baskan Valley. The peak could also be climbed via an ice climb on the northeast face.

Sapper Ridge (3405m) comprises a series of peaks on a steep, rocky ridgeline above the Shumsky River. It was climbed by Batey and McCorriston on July 27 directly from the Little Baskan Camp via a col to the northeast. The ridgeline was a grade 3 scramble and fairly exposed; there is little opportunity to descend from the ridge once on it and the team had to backtrack to the col in order to get down.

Other ascents made included peaks Dzhambula, Spudnik (by two teams), Davidovich, and Violetta. Location maps giving latitude/longitude coordinates and UTM Grid positions for all peaks and camp sites can be found at our website.

Stuart Batey, United Kingdom

*Notes Vladimir Kopylov, Semeonov Tien-Shansky is the highest peak in the Kyrgyzsky Range (best known as the home of the Ala Archa National Park). Its actual altitude is 4875 meters, and it has seen numerous ascents. In the Dzhungarian Alatau, there is no mountain by the name of Semeonov Tien-Shansky. The highest peak of the Dzhungarian Alatau is Sakaldy Peak (4219m), with the only route on it given a Russian grade of 1B. The most difficult routes of this region are 2B to 3A with one route of 4B. Dzhambula (4355m) is officially located in the neighboring Zaaliyskiy Alatau. All the names given to the peaks by the British climbers appear to be provisional.

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