Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Pamir, Zaalaisky Range, Zarya Vostoka, First Ascent and Traverse, and Chorku Peak, First Ascent

Climb Year: N/A. Publication Year: 2001.

Zarya Vostoka, First Ascent and Traverse, and Chorku Peak, First Ascent. There is still a part of the Pamir that remains practically terra incognita for mountaineers: the eastern part of Zaalaisky Range, which has several peaks over 6000 meters. The northern part of the range lies in Kyrgyzstan, while the southern part lies in Tadjikistan. The range is the boundary between the two countries. It can be divided into three parts. The western part, dominated by the peaks Sat (5900m) and Surkhan-Gou (5627m), runs from the confluence of the Kyzylsu and Muksu rivers to the Ters-Agar Pass. This region lies between the Pamir-Alai and Northern Pamir mountains. The central part, in which lies Lenin Peak (7134m), is well known to western climbers; it runs from Ters-Agar Pass to Kyzyl-Art Pass. The eastern part of the Zaalaisky Range, home to Korumdy (6613m) and Zarya Vostoka (6349m), lies to the east of the Kyzyl- Art Pass. Thanks to a strict border zone in this region, no explorers had been allowed to travel around and climb the peaks. Recently the limitations have been abolished, and there appeared a good chance to be the first climbers to visit several summits in the region.

A Moscow team led by Alexander Novik and comprising Natalya Zotova, Leonid Fishkis, and Daniil Popov came to the Alay Valley on July 22 to begin an expedition in the area that would last until August 18. The expedition was planned to visit the main glaciers, cross difficult saddles, and make an ascent of Korumdy or Zarya Vostoka (Eastern Dawn Peak). Both peaks were considered unclimbed, though there were rumors of a first ascent of Korumdy by Soviet mountaineers in the 1930s. Upon reconnaissance, Zarya Vostoka, with its characteristic profile, edges, and snow slopes, seemed most attractive. Its graceful summit trapezoid can be seen distinctly from far away—and it still remained unclimbed. The team decided to attempt a traverse of the peak.

Weather conditions appeared to be severe this season, which added much difficulty to thewhole traverse. The ascent began from Nura Glacier via a snow and ice slope on August 4. The snowfall was very intense in August, so the slope was avalanche-prone. Its steepness varied from 30 to 45 degrees in the upper part. The team used ropes and crampons, gradually making its way up. It took two days to climb to the saddle (ca. 6000m) on the main ridge of the Zaalaisky Range (this saddle lies to the east of Zarya Vostoka). The altitude difference from Nura Glacier to the ridge was 1400 meters. In the clear morning, the summit looked no more than two kilometers away and 350 meters higher. The weather changed suddenly. In the two days that followed, the climbers were able to move only 150 meters higher along the ridge because of thick fog; visibility was less than two meters. The third day began the same way, but, since the team was running out of food, it was necessary to reach the summit. Luckily windows appeared in the clouds, which let the team see its way to the top. It was a great joy to make the first ascent of a fascinating peak. There should have been a wonderful panorama of the Pamir with its summits, endless glaciers, and Lake Karakul, but the clouds didn’t permit a view.

It took one and a half days to get down to East Kyzilsy Glacier, completing the full traverse of Zarya Vostoka Peak. The steepness of the snow-and-ice descent route ranged from 30 to 40 degrees; some bits of rock were also encountered. The ca. six-kilometer traverse was completed on August 9. Later in the course of the expedition the team of climbers crossed several saddles and made another first ascent, this one of Chorku Peak (Tadjik: Four Sides, 6283m), which is found west of Korumdy along the main ridge of the Zaalaisky Range.

Alexander Novik and Natalya Zotova, Russia