New Routes in Ala Archa: Peak Korona, Box Peak, Ak-Too
Kyrgyzstan, Tien Shan, Kyrgyz Ala-Too
Many new routes have gone up in the mountains of Ala Archa National Park, south of Bishkek, as local climbers and foreign visitors take advantage of easy access to these superb mid-elevation peaks. Much of the activity was centered on the towers of Peak Korona (4,860m), above the Uchitel and Ak-Sai glaciers.
Willis Brown (Canada) and Seth Timpano (USA) climbed a new mixed line on the far right end of the north-facing wall above the Uchitel Glacier in October 2012. Their ca 500m route climbed the north-northwest face of Peak 4,300m, a summit along the ridge extending west from Korona. The crux was three sustained pitches (M6+, M5, AI5) sandwiched between lots of 50°–60° ice. A pitch of M4 led to the ridgeline. Brown and Timpano scrambled to an arbitrary high point at roughly 4,150m and descended the ice sheet to the west. Their nine-pitch route was called Privet Spasibo (“Hello Thank You”). [Click here to read Timpano's first-person account of this route.]
Sergei Selivyorstov climbed two new ice routes farther east on the same north-facing wall. In January, he and Paul Vyazovetsky climbed a narrow ice couloir directly to the ridge (800m, Russian 5A 65°), then followed the west spur to the top of Korona. Then, in February, Selivyorstov soloed a new route starting at the same spot as the Canadian-American route from 2012 but heading left up an ice ramp and mixed ground to a finish right of the Novosel route (2002). Selivyorstov topped out on the ridge (850m, 4B) and rappelled.
On the far side of Korona, the west-facing Fifth Tower and Sixth Tower both got new routes. Over two days in March, Oleg Khvostenko and Igor Loginov climbed a line (Russian 5B) that slashes left to right across the 700m face of the Sixth Tower. The route followed a couloir to a prow, where the pair bivied, then continued up the south side to the summit. The climbers suggested the line would go free in summer at about French 6c.
In August, Konstantin Markelov and Anatoliy Syschikov completed a new route up the right side of the southwest face of the Fifth Tower over three days (725m, Russian 6A French 6c A2). The new line starts by the Ruzhevsky Route (5B, 1976) but stays to the right most of the way up the wall, before crossing it near the top for an independent finish.
On Ak-Too (4,620m), Nastya Cheremnikh, Andrew Erohin, and Arthur Usmanov climbed a new ice and mixed route (Russian 4B) up the left side of the northeast face, above the Ak-Sai Glacier.
On Box Peak (a.k.a. Boks Peak, 4,240m), near the terminus of the Ak-Sai Glacier, Arthur Usmanov, Constantine Markevich, and Sergei Selivyorstov climbed two new routes, both Russian 5B, on the steep, 700m rock wall of the north face. In late February they climbed a line to the right of the Michailava Route (AAJ 1998). They fixed ropes for two days and summited on the third. In early March, in the same style, the same trio climbed another new route farther to the right, starting up a snow and ice ramp and then continuing with aid.
Dougald MacDonald, with information from Anna Piunova, Mountain.ru, and Seth Timpano