In January 2016, Egor Suzdaltsev and Ivan Temerev from Russian Siberia made what is thought to be the first ascent of Chon-tor (4,180m) in the Sokuluk Valley of the western Tien Shan. The valley is about 40km southwest of Bishkek, a little to the west of the well-known peaks of the Ala Archa.
Although they anticipated harsh conditions in winter, Suzdaltsev and Temerev were fortunate to have bright sunshine, little wind, and temperatures of only -5°C to -15°C. They approached via the Belogorka Gorge, and after two grueling days of ferrying their equipment, set their base camp tent below the central buttress of the northwest face. [This area is easily accessible in the warmer months, but the climbers chose to climb in winter as part of the Russian Championships.]
They began at 7 a.m. on January 22 and reached the top at 4:35 p.m. on the 24th. Two bivouacs were made on the wall, on small ledges, plus a third on the descent. After emerging from the wall, the two headed up the north ridge to what they thought would be a relatively straightforward summit tower. It was not. The tower was 200m high, and much aid and an unpleasant pendulum were needed before reaching the top (4,192m GPS; approximately 42°28’51”N, 74°20’46”E). The 900m route (1,200m of climbing) was graded 6A and named Spirit of Adventure. Rappelling only three times on the far side, they found an easy descent and returned toward their tent next day.
Editor’s note: A second route, also 6A, was added to Chon-tor a few weeks later by Evgeniy and Sergey Glazunov. See route line 2 in the photos.
Lindsay Griffin, with information from Anna Piunova, mountain.ru and Elena Dmitrekno, risk.ru