Fersmana Glacier, PikAnin, north face, Bloody Aurikelj and Waterfull; Pik Zastava, north face, FAT Couloir Direct; Fers III, southwest face (not to summit); Pik Plaza, west couloir and north ridge; Pik Neizvestniy, east summit, northeast ridge (second ascent); Pik Freeapproved II; Pik Byiely, south ridge, attempt. In July our eight-member Slovenian Freeapproved Adventure Film Productions team visited the Fersmana Glacier in the central part of the Western Kokshaal-too. After three military checkpoints, we arrived at base camp (3,715m), spending an extra day route-finding through the wetlands, where even the six-wheel-drive, 13-ton Ural truck was rendered powerless. More than 20km of unknown and horrifically rugged terrain stood between us and the walls and ski descents that we had come to attempt.
We established advanced base camp at 4,447m on the flat part of the Fersmana glacier. Except for Pik Neizvestniy (5,240m), all of the summits around were unclimbed [Editor’s note: The only previous exploration of the Fersmana took place in 2005, when Paul Knott, Grant Piper, and Graham Rowbotham climbed Neizvestniy and attempted other peaks (AAJ 2006)]. The next day the team split into two groups to attempt the short but steep north face of Pik Anin (4,807m GPS). Arne Jeglic, Tadej Orazem, and I climbed the obvious ice line, which we called Bloody Aurikelj (350m, V/5). The ice was good in the lower part but worsened as we got higher; it was hollow, and made placing protection difficult. Jaka Ortar, Janez Rutar, Jani Skrin- jar, and Bor Sumrada climbed the line to the left. Despite the previous night’s low temperature, the sun melted fresh snow above, causing running water beneath the ice and prompting the route name Waterfull (300m, IV/4). The groups joined for the summit ridge and completed the first ascent of this relatively small peak close to the head of the glacier, east-northeast of Neizvestniy. We all went down the south face via a couloir we named Ice Crevasse Direct. Jaka, Jani, and Janez descended on skis. The glacier at the base proved to be treacherous with many hidden slots, and both Jaka and Tadej fell into crevasses. Jaka was unharmed but had to rappel into darkness to rescue his skis. Tadej snagged a crampon and badly twisted his ankle.The next objective for Arne and me was the north face of Zastava (map height 5,010m, but our two calibrated altimeters gave 5,070m/5,075m). We chose the obvious and direct line, a broad couloir that we hoped would be straightforward. However, the initial bergshrund proved more challenging than anticipated, and was followed by 10 rope lengths of brittle ice covered by 5cm of soft snow. The couloir eased toward the top, but the col was corniced, forcing us to descend a pitch and climb out right up moderate mixed terrain, followed by an icy traverse, to reach the virgin summit of Zastava. We named our route FAT Couloir Direct (ca 650m, VI/4 M). We descended the west-northwest face, making eight long rappels.
Bor, Jaka, Janez, and Jani climbed a south-facing couloir onto the southwest ridge of Pt. 5,210m (AAC map), north of the border on the east side of the glacier. They reached a height of 5,017m, some distance from the main summit (dubbed Fers III). All but Bor made a ski descent of a parallel line to the east, naming it Found. Bor and Janez made the first ascent of Pik Plaza. This is Pt. 4,912m on the AAC map, on the east side of the Fersmana opposite Byiely. The pair climbed the southwest couloir (80° maximum, but generally 60° or less) and northwest ridge, recording a GPS summit height of 4,905m. Jaka and Jani climbed the northeast ridge of Neizvestniy (400m, 50-60°, the route of the first ascent in 2005) as far as the east foresummit and skied the east flank via an impressively steep and icy line, which they named Hidden Ice. Jani also climbed the small hill on the ridge west of the entrance to the valley (just north of Pt. 4,798m on the AAC map), naming it Pik Freeapproved II (4,627m).
The day before we all descended to base camp, Arne and Jaka went for the highest unclimbed peak in this part of the range, Pik Byiely (5,697m). They left advanced base at 2:30 a.m. and used skis to reach the 4,880m saddle on the frontier ridge at the head of the glacier. They continued up the south ridge, at first broad, then a couloir, and finally a rock rib, where a relatively safe “weakness” was found through the big serac barrier above. Unfortunately, the summit slopes, laden with fresh snow from a storm two days previous, were too avalanche prone for safe passage and the pair turn back 300m below the top [Editor’s note: their line is visible in the center of the face in AAJ 2001, p. 401]. We used GPS for all measurements except Zastova, where we used altimeters reset to the height of advanced base on the day of the ascent. Our recorded GPS altitudes were generally a little different from those noted on the maps. There is a slight possibility that this was connected with signal jamming. Three years ago, during an expedition in western Xinjiang close to the Tajik border, there was a day when our two GPS readings of base camp altitude were 500m higher than at other times. This was believed to be the effect of the Chinese having signal jamming in operation. All was not over, as we still had to get back to base camp with an injured Tadej, who was carried alternately on the backs of Arne and me. Back home, Tadej required surgery to fix torn ligaments in his ankle.
Anze Cokl, Slovenia