Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Tien Shan, Western Kikshaal Too, Pik Sabor, New Route Attempt and Repeat of North Ridge

Publication Year: 2005.

Pik Sabor, new route attempt and repeat of north ridge. In 2003 the Groupe Militaire de Haute Montagne suffered a tragic loss when two well-known members, Antoine de Choudens and Philippe Renard, were killed while acclimatizing for an alpine style ascent of the South West Face of Xixabangma. The group re-gathered in 2004 and planned an attempt on the coveted south east face of Kyzyl Asker. However, the heavy costs imposed by the Chinese and an eventual denial to allow the team to cross the border, meant a change of plan and the climbers opted for a new route on Pik Sabor (4,850m), an impressive rock bastion on the ridge south of the Ochre Walls and opposite the end of Kyzyl Asker’s unclimbed north ridge. The first ascent of this peak took place in 1985 when Kasbek Valiev’s team climbed a big wall route up the West Southwest Rib (the same expedition on which he also made the first ascent of Kyzyl Asker via the 1,500m west face). Unable to drive to their proposed base camp at the start of July due to boggy ground, the team was forced to ferry loads 15km to an advanced base three kilometers short of Sabor’s 700m-high west face. Bad weather proved a constant hassle (early in the trip it deposited one- and-a-half metres of snow in base camp over a two-day period) and it wasn’t until the 22nd that the climbers could embark on a new line up the west face, fixing the first 150m (approximately seven pitches) before Guillaume Baillargé, Manu Pellissier and Francois Savary set off with a portaledge. The granite was magnificent but the cracks proved either wet or chocked with ice. Above the end of the ropes the three only managed four pitches over the next two days, nice F5c cracks having to be climbed laboriously at A2. Then, at a point roughly half-way up the wall, a storm moved in and three very wet and bedraggled climbers were forced to retreat to base.

In the meantime the other two on the expedition, Lionnel Albrieux and Thomas Faucheur, repeated the 2002 British Route on the North Ridge (Neal Crampton/Blair Fyffe, 10th–11th August 2002: c800m: TD+: Scottish 6). The French pair climbed the route in a long day on the 31st. A day or two later Baillargé, Pellissier and Savary also climbed the line (which they report as 500m) in less than 12 hours, finding it mostly mixed up to M5. The weather continued poor until the French left the area, having experienced only two fine days in the 20 at or above base.

Lindsay Griffin, Mountain INFO editor, CLIMB magazine