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Pik Vernyi (5,250m GPS), Northwest Face; Kyzyl Asker (5,842m), Southeast Face, Attempt

I first visited the Kyzyl Asker region in August 2007. We set up base camp at 3,750m, in the valley leading to the Kyzyl Asker Glacier, but as we knew nothing about the area, we spent much time exploring. Nearly all the ascents we made from the West and East glaciers were straightforward.

In August 2009 I organized a second Belorussian-Russian expedition. Our aims were to climb the northwest face of Vernyi and to establish a new route on the southeast face of Kyzyl Asker, which had only the line climbed in 2007 by Mikhailov, Odintsov, and Ruchkin. We established base camp at the same spot as in 2007. After a short period of acclimatization, we attempted Vernyi as a team of five, as we thought this would be faster. Although the 700m wall is not huge, it is difficult, with an average angle of 82° and large smooth sections of granite. The lower and upper sections presented problems finding protection and belays. In the lower part cracks were full of ice, which restricted the use of cams, but was too thin and unstable to climb with ice tools. In the upper part a 100m vertical, wide chimney posed a problem, the side walls being very friable; this was probably the crux. These factors, with cold temperatures, meant that the amount of free-climbing was less than expected. Nonetheless, Dmitriy Golovchenko, Aleksander Malakhovskiy, Sergey Mikhailov, Sergey Nilov, and I reached the summit after three nights on the wall. We spent a fourth night on top because thick cloud prevented us seeing the descent. We graded the route 6B.

There is still much potential in this region for big rock routes, the main venues being Kyzyl Asker, Vernyi, and the Great Walls of China.

Nikolai Bandalet, Republic of Belarus (translated by Ekaterina Vorotnikova)