American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Pamir Alai, Tien Shan, Pik Pobeda, First Solo Traverse

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2006

Pik Pobeda, first solo traverse. From August 16-23 Gleb Solokov made the first solo traverse of Pik Pobeda (7,439m) from the Chon-Toren Pass in the east to the Dikiy Pass in the west. [This traverse was first completed in 1970 by Riabukhin’s expedition—Ed.] Solokov had previously attempted this traverse on several occasions. In addition, in 1993 he made a high-speed solo ascent of the mountain, via the Standard Route from the Zvezdochka (Little Star) Glacier to the summit and back again, in a record roundtrip of 20 hours, a feat that has not been attempted since. In 2003, as leader of a large team, he made a difficult (6B) new 2,000m route towards the left side of the north face, reaching the east ridge close to Pik Armenia (7,100m) before traversing the main summit.

In the summer of 2005 the weather was generally bad, with frequent heavy snowfall. It was only in mid-August, when conditions started to improve, that teams began major ascents. Sokolov first acclimatized with an ascent (his 20th) of Khan Tengri, spending three nights camped at 6,400m. At 4:30 a.m. on the 16th he left Ak-Sai camp on the moraines of the Zvezdochka Glacier for Pobeda. The weather was excellent, but at 1:30 p.m. he was forced to stop by sloppy snow when a little short of the Chon-Toren Pass. Next morning he reached the pass at 11:00 a.m. and discovered the initial steep section of the east ridge above to be an unpleasant surprise: deep, unconsolidated snow, and the steeper the slope, the deeper it became. On one 20m section he waded and shoveled through snow up to his neck. Above, he realized that he had passed the point of no return and continued upward in worsening weather. At 5:00 p.m. he erected his small tent at 6,300m.

Snowfall kept Sokolov tent-bound on the 18th, but on the 19th he used snowshoes to progress farther up the crest, following the the 1958 Erokhin Route in reasonable weather. He reached the East Summit (ca. 7,050m) at 11:00 a.m. on the 20th in cold conditions. Just short of this top he found a cache of gear left from 2000. This provided two gas cylinders, concentrated milk, a bottle of juice and some tea bags.

As he moved west, conditions improved as he took to the sunny Chinese flank of the crest, where the snow was only knee-deep. Here he met climbers coming toward him and used their tracks to continue to a prepared campsite. The weather was again excellent, and August 21 would be the main summit day.

The slope up to Pik Armenia was heavily loaded, and toward the top Sokolov was dramatically avalanched. He stopped 100m lower, against outcrops on the northern flank. His left leg was by his ear and his elbow hurt, but there was no major damage, and his equipment was intact. Twenty minutes later he reached the top of Armenia.

Even with snowshoes Sokolov sank to his knees while progressing towards the main summit, and camped for the night just before the final rise to the top. At 11:50 a.m. on the 22nd he reached the highest point of Pobeda, and now simply had to follow the normal route down (the 1961 Medzmariashvilli Route, 5B). Again deep snow made progress tiring and dangerous. The night of the 22nd-23rd was particularly miserable, as tent poles had blown away and zippers were broken. He spent much of the night trying to keep blowing snow out of his bag. On the 23rd he reached Pik Pavel Pshavel (a.k.a. Pobeda West, 6,918m) and later the tents of Georgian friends at 6,600m. In improving snow conditions he regained base camp at 6:30 p.m. that evening.

Born in 1953, Sokolov’s most notable high-altitude achievements include the first ascent of Lhotse Middle and the Russian Route, Central North Face, on Everest. His Pobeda traverse was voted the best accomplishment by any former Soviet climber during 2005, but in good conditions Sokolov thinks it is possible in a day.

Adapted from Anna Piunova’s report on www.mountain.ru

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