It was my sixth visit to the Karavshin. Our group of five arrived when the season was in full swing. The meadows were full of climbers from Zelenograd, Moscow, and Tomsk. Coming in with us was a group of 20 from St Petersburg. Taras Tsushko and I had planned to try a new route on the right side of the northwest face of Pik 4,810m, left of the 1988 Ovcharenko Route (6A). Our other three had great plans too, but an unfortunate incident while on Pik Asen’s Pogorelov Route put two temporarily out of the game. The third, Max Perevalova, joined us. We took his portaledge and set off as a threesome.
Our line was perfectly logical, initially following a series of cracks to the right of a huge corner, in which were falling rocks and running water. After four pitches we crossed the corner and climbed to some roofs. In this 340m section we placed only three bolts, all for belays.
Above the roofs lay sweeping slabs, typical on the northwest face. The angle was 70°, sometimes less. There were intermittent cracks, flakes, and ledges, but features were generally poor, and we needed to search for them. Our plan was to spend a couple of days in the portaledge below the roofs, where we would be protected. We would fix ropes up the slabs toward the summit tower but had to revise our strategy when, after the first day, the portaledge broke. Actually, it didn’t break; it deflated. It was an inflatable ledge designed by Eugene Dmitrienko. Our choices were to rappel to the ground or climb to natural ledges.
It was a busy day, from dawn until 1 a.m., but we reached a little sloping ledge. Wed been lucky, because there had been features on “the mirror,” and we had climbed long stretches without drilling bolts. Above, a logical succession of cracks and corners, where we also found ice, led to the foresummit ridge, 60m from the main summit. On the highest point we met a team from St. Petersburg that had climbed the Kritsuk Route.
We climbed 26 pitches, up to VI and A3, all but six requiring aid (VI is not necessarily a free grade but the level above which it becomes quicker and safer to use aid). We descended to the Ak-su Valley via the Nazarov Route (5B). It is a line usually followed in ascent and proved difficult to descend with heavy sacks: hard to recover ropes and dangerous from stonefall. The 1,080m ascent took seven days; two days of preparation and five on the face.
After a rest Taras and I went to Pik Slesov (4,240m), hoping to try another new route. The peak was popular this season, with many parties climbing the famous Perestroika Crack on the southwest face. We ended up repeating the Porgorelov Route on the steeper, colder northwest face. We completed the route in five days and on the sixth rappelled the line. We found it more demanding than the Moroz Route, which I had climbed before, due to technical difficulty and lack of ledges. On the right the Klenov Route looks objectively dangerous. There are corners with much loose rock, and feathery flakes of doubtful security, seemingly ready to fall of their own accord. The weather then became poor for a week, and on August 31 we left the valley.
While the significant walls in the Karavshin have all been climbed, there are still interesting projects. July is the preferred month: it’s colder, but routes are much safer from stonefall, and there is still snow on the summits to provide drinking water.
Alexander Lavrinenko, Ukraine, supplied by Anna Piunova, mountain.ru, and translated by Luca Calvi