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Asia, Tajikistan, Pamir, Southwestern Pamir, Pik Tb GU (6,142m), Northwest Flank and North Ridge; Pik Engels (6,510m), Northeast Face and North Ridge, Attempt

Southwestern Pamir, Pik Tb GU (6,142m), northwest flank and north ridge; Pik Engels (6,510m), northeast face and north ridge, attempt. Peter Poljanic and I arrived in Dushanbe on July 30, with the aim of climbing Pik Karl Marx (6,723m) and/or Pik Engels from the Shaboy Glacier. For transport we used Ergash Fayzullobekov (tourdepamir@yahoo.com). At the roadhead at Javshangoz local people had little interest in helping us with horses or donkeys, so we persuaded the driver to continue into the lower Naspar Valley, immediately east of the Shaboy. We made our base camp near a shepherds’ encampment and found them extremely hospitable. They offered us meals, and donkeys for our trek up-valley.

We placed an advanced base close to the northeast face of Engels and went for an acclimatization climb on the strangely named Tb GU. From August 7 to 10 we climbed and descended the northwest flank and north ridge from the Naspar Glacier. Climbing was mostly on snow and ice up to 60°, but there was a 10m rock step of UIAA V+ on the north ridge. Just above our second bivouac we found old pitons.

We then climbed a line on the far right side of the northeast face of Engels, to gain the north-northwest ridge at 5,572m (GPS). We climbed through the night for eight hours, mostly on ice but with one steep section of rock (UIAA V AO), just before reaching the crest. We rested on the crest that day and bivouacked at the same spot that night. The following morning, though, we didn’t feel strong enough to continue, so we descended.

On the way back to Dushanbe we stopped at Kalai Husein (Husein’s Forest), where we hoped to climb new rock routes. However, we found the walls to be formed of very bad rock and did only one climb. We named it Flying Circus (V+, 200m), a serious route with awful rock, particularly on the crux first pitch.

In the past most expeditions to the southwestern Pamir came from parts of the old Soviet Union. They were well-organized teams that climbed in Russian style and established impressively hard and sometimes dangerous routes. The main potential now lies in repeating routes free, in alpine-style, but there is also space for new routes of all grades. Despite the fact that roads lead close to these mountains, climbers rarely visit the Karl Marx-Engels area, and there is almost no trekking activity. Local people are friendly, and the region offers spectacular, unspoiled scenery, with no crowds and great faces to climb.

Matic Jost, Slovenia