Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Pamir-Alai, Karavshin, Ak-Su North, Nose Direct
Ak-Su North, Nose Direct. Due to terrorist activity, the government closed the Laylak Valley in the Pamir-Alai in 2000. Only in 2002 did they reopen the Laylak Ak-Su and the neighboring Karavshin Valley. In 1998, we had repeated the Popov Route on Ak-Su North, and I saw a system of cracks and corners crossing the huge overhangs that characterize the buttress high on the north face. It looked difficult, but possible. Best of all, it was only 50 meters left of our Nose Route (1994), on which we were forced to make holes for skyhooks and use bolts for protection through a 150m blank section. Now, we would try to climb a direct line without the holes!
We started on September 15 from Tashkent with a special permit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan and a lot of papers from the Russian Mountaineering Federation. Because of the International Year of the Mountains, the government had been ordered to make the official procedures as easy as possible. However, two border crossings took a lot of time and made us very nervous. On September 20 we started climbing. We were alone in the valley: there were no alpinists, no tourists. Even the Kyrgyz herders had returned home from the summer camps in the upper part of the valley. We were very lucky to have Indian summer conditions. There were no waterfalls as there are in July, and no stone fall like in August; it was a little cold, but safe. In 16 days we opened a direct variation (1,500m, VI 5.9 A5) to the Nose Route, joining the latter route after eight new pitches. On October 5 we reached the top and rappelled down via the Cold Corner route. It was my tenth ascent of this wall, and the most difficult.
Pavel Shabalin, Russia (adapted from Alpinist.com)