American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Pik 4,810m, East Face

Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Pamir Alai, Karavshin

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Peter Jensen-Choi
  • Climb Year: 1994
  • Publication Year: 2010

Previously unrecorded outside Korea, but an important event in the history of climbing in the Karavshin, was a new route, climbed free, on the giant east face of Pik 4,810m (Boston) above the Ak-su Valley. On July 17,1994, Koreans Choi Byeonggi and Shin Dong-seok started up the face seven or so meters to the right of the Sytnik route and climbed 25 pitches to the summit, at 5.10c. The two bivouacked at three-quarters height in the “Bomb Shelter” and reached the top the following afternoon. They report seeing gear on the Sytnik route but found none on their line. They rappeled the Verdernikov route to the north, bivouacked a second time, and continued their descent to base camp. It is thought that no other free ascent has been achieved on this face. The two climbers were part of a 12-man team, members of which were unsuccessful on other climbs apart from Lee Dongyoon and Shin Sang-man, who repeated the Troschchinenko route on the north face of Rocky Ak-su (Ak-su North, 5,217m).

Peter Jensen-Choi, Korea

Editor’s note: There has been confusion regarding routes on Pik 4,810m, as on many other faces in the CIS that have seen former Soviet and foreign traffic. The Russians hold detailed information about their climbs but know little about ascents of others, such as Czechs, Germans, and Poles. And vice versa.

It wasn’t until 1989 that routes were opened on the 1,100m east face. Toward the right side of the wall a mixed free and aid route was established by a team from Odessa Climbing Club led by M. Sytnik (Russian 6B, now considered 6A), while farther right Verdernikov’s team climbed a shorter line on less-steep rock to gain the right-bounding rib, reaching it at around half-height and continuing to the summit (6A but low in the grade). Sytnik had already climbed the lesser-angled north face/ridge in 1986 at 5B, a route that has subsequently been used for descent. The Korean route also joins this rib and appears to follow similar if not identical ground to the Verdernikov in its upper section. Remarkably for the period, Sytnik did not enter his 1989 route, the first to breach the impressive east face, for the Soviet Championships.

The center of the face, dubbed “Africa” due to a large feature that resembles the outline of the continent, resisted all attempts until 1993, when it was climbed by a team led by Alexander Klenov (Borisov-Bruk-Devi-Donskih-Klenov). Klenov’s route follows a logical but difficult line up the right side of Africa. There is only one decent ledge, a meter wide, at the top of the 13th pitch. Above, the route follows a crack system known as the “Eyebrow,” with an exit right of the summit fall-line (going left seemed too dangerous, due to falling ice). This line gives more than 1,300m of climbing and was completed mostly free. It is 6B and considerably harder than the Sytnik, which Klenov’s team repeated in 1994.

Harder still, and to the left of Klenov’s route, is the 1995 Direttissma, by Igor Borihin and Alexander Odintsov, which took 11 days and required 58 pitches up to UIAA VI+ and A4 (AAJ 1997). The last route to be climbed on the face lies left of the Direttissima and is well recorded in AAJ 2000. It was climbed in 1999 by Alexander Pogorelov with Vitaly Polohov (1,100m, 6B, UIAA VI and A3/A4).

German climber Robert Steiner, who knows much of the history of the area and has climbed one of the big routes on the west face of 4,810m, is of the opinion that really talented rock climbers, e.g., the Huber brothers or Leo Houlding, would be able to free-climb any of the routes on the peak.

From information provided by Anna Piunova (http://mountain.ru) and Robert Steiner

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