Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Pamir, Zaalayskiy Range, Pik Ekishak, First Ascent, Pik Molly, Northwest Ridge; Zarya Vostoka and Kurumdy West, Attempts

Publication Year: 2007.

Zaalayskiy Range, Pik Ekishak, first ascent; Pik Molly, northwest ridge; Zarya Vostoka and Kurumdy West, attempts. Our Madteam/X-plore Expedition of Raúl Andrés, Olga Ariño, Irene Artuñedo, Enric Canosa, Albert Falcó, Daniel Guimaraens, Julio Masip David Oliveras, Jordi Sidera, David Taurà, Quim Valentí, and Gerard Van der Berg visited the eastern Zaalayskiy Khrebet, close to the borders with Tajikistan and China.

This is a rarely visited region of the Pamir, the northern flanks of which have been explored by only four or five expeditions to date. There were no other climbers in the range while we were there, and we found the solitude and vast potential for exploration amazing. However, we were not able to make major ascents, due to the poor weather and poor mountaineering conditions. Summer 2006 featured rain every afternoon and high temperatures (a minimum of -1°C at 4,200m). There was no frost at night, the snow was always soft, there were avalanches and rock- fall day and night, and the rock we encountered was of poor quality. We established base camp at 3,550m, an advanced base on the western bank of the Kurumdy Glacier at 3,950m, a second advanced base alongside the upper eastern bank of the glacier at 4,200m, and placed a high camp on the east side of Golova Orla (5,441m) at 4,650m. From this high camp we attempted the northeast ridge of Golova but failed short of the summit. A British-Russian team climbed this peak via the northwest ridge by in 2000.

Falcó and I did make the first ascent, on August 1, of an easy route to the summit of a 5,155m peak on the long ridge connecting Golova Orla and Shining Peak. We climbed a couloir on the southeast face, which in the last 200m steepened from 50-65°, to break through a cornice onto the northeast ridge at a 5,030m col. We continued up the crest on poor rock (II) to the summit. As the top was composed of two horns, we named the peak Ekishak (Kyrgyz for “two horns”) and our route Chocolate Ice (700m, PD+). Artuñedo and Oliveras repeated the route two days later.

From our first advanced base we climbed the east flank of Shining Peak (4,789m) at PD, a peak first climbed by the mixed north ridge by a British expedition in 1999. From our second advanced camp we climbed the northwest ridge of Pik Molly (4,748m), a peak also first climbed by the 1999 British expedition via a rather dangerous snow face. Our 600m ridge (Dancing in the Moonlight) was AD, largely rocky (II/III), with some snow and ice ramps of 55°.

The highest peak in the ring of mountains immediately east of our advanced bases on the Kurumdy is Pik Tarka (5,368m). We attempted Pik 5,262m to its northeast, first by walking up a side glacier to ca 4,300m, then climbing an open couloir/snow slope of 45° on the west flank of the north ridge. Turning right at the top, we crossed a small point that we named Aguja Eiger (4,812m) and continued up the ridge above (60° maximum, mixed), until forced to retreat by bad weather at just over 5,000m.

We tried to climb Zarya Vostoka (a.k.a. Eastern Sunrise Peak, 6,349m,) via the north ridge-north face, the route of the first ascent in August 2000 by the Kyrgyz team of Leonid Fishkis, Aleksandr Novik, Daniil Popov, and Natalya Zotova. This team reached the crest of the ridge via a snow couloir on the west flank. We climbed to the left, on the west face of a point on the ridge we named Aguja Jularg (4,890m). Our route to this small summit we named Chiquita cuesta Chacho (410m, D 65° M3). We then continued up the ridge and onto the broad slopes of the north face of Zarya Vostoka, reaching a height of 5,400m before deep, unconsolidated snow forced us back.

The other big peak we tried was Kurumdy West (6,545m), from our high camp east of Golova Orla. We only reached a low col, having experienced dangerous rock fall. We retreated from 5,000m. The main summit of Kurumdy (6,613m) was climbed in 1932 from the south: the west peak is still unclimbed.

David Taurà, Spain