American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Pamir Alai – Karavshin, Jiptik Valley, Kyzyl-Muz, North Face, Stegosaurus Spur (Not to Summit)

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2009

Jiptik Valley, Kyzyl-Muz, north face, Stegosaurus Spur (not to summit). In early July Paul Hersey (New Zealand), Yewjin Tan (Singapore/NZ), and I (U.S./NZ) arrived in the Jiptik Valley, 20km east of the famous Ak-su and Kara-su valleys. A New Zealand team including Paul had visited this valley in 1996, and Paul’s experience proved invaluable in planning our trip. The 1996 expedition climbed a number of peaks by classic mountaineering routes. These included Kyzyl-Muz (5,127m), which in 1996 was known by its Soviet name Harturtay (AAJ 1996) but has since reverted to its original Kyrgyz name, which means “red ice.” Soviet mountaineers who visited the region also appear to have climbed straightforward mountaineering routes—i.e., nothing steep.

Our original objective was the east face of Kyzyl-Muz, but when the rock turned out to be poor, we changed our sights to the beautiful central spur of the north face. After enjoying the company of shepherds who inhabit the valley during part of the summer, we began climbing on July 16. However, Paul injured his back, leaving Yewjin and me to complete the ascent. We took bivouac sacks and sleeping bag liners, food for four days, and one pair of rock shoes. A 50° snow cone led to a ramp, where climbing began in earnest. The first six pitches were sustained (up to 5.10). The crux pitch was a wet corner with little protection, followed by an overhanging dihedral with good pro. It was fabulous climbing. At the top of the rock spur we bivouacked on a sloping gravel ledge. The next morning we began ice climbing. Seven pitches up to AI 4, with the odd mixed move took us to mellower ground. We simul-climbed 250m to the top of the spur. The headwall to the summit ridge ran with avalanches, so, despite the early hour, we stopped to bivouac. At 2 a.m. the snow had hardened sufficiently to be climbable and we simul-climbed 300-400 meters to steeper ground, where we pitched. A crevasse one pitch below the ridge proved one of the route’s cruxes, capping a wonderful climb.

Arriving on the crest of the east ridge, we were greeted by the large storm clouds. Knowing from Paul that from this point the summit was one to two hours of easy walking, we decided to forgo it and head down. This proved to be a good decision, as the descent of the south face proved tricky, with downclimbing on poor, slabby rock, with no rappel anchors available. We made the bottom of the face just as snow began to fly. We named the route Stegosaurus Spur (1,400m, V5.10AI4 M4).

In the remaining 10 days weather thwarted further attempts. We left knowing that the Jiptik holds many excellent possibilities for technical first ascents, generally on steep ice. We give huge thanks to the New Zealand Alpine Club and the Mount Everest Foundation for their support, without which our trip would not have been possible.

Graham Zimmerman, AAC and NZAC

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