American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Pik Lenin, West-East Traverse

Kyrgyzstan, Pamir

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Lindsay Griffin
  • Climb Year: 2017
  • Publication Year: 2018

In July, Markus Gschwendt (Austria) and Anton Sharobayko (Russia) made a lengthy and unusual traverse of Pik Lenin (7,134m). Starting from the standard Camp 1 at 4,400m on the normal route up the north side of Lenin, the pair climbed the east face of Pik Yukhin (5,112m), as many do for acclimatization before attempting Lenin, but then continued west to the 60th Anniversary of October Pass. From there they headed south along the often steep and narrow ridge leading toward Pik 30th Anniversary of Uzbek Republic, making their second camp at 5,151m and third at 5,450m. They subsequently reached the top of 30th Anniversary of Uzbek Republic (5,700m) and camped on the summit for acclimatization purposes, before continuing south toward Pik Razdelnaya, making their fifth camp at 6,021m. They traversed Pik Razdelnaya (6,148m), joining the normal route to Lenin as it works up the latter's west-northwest ridge. Here they camped twice at 6,031m.

On the next section of ridge they were faced with very windy, cold, and cloudy weather; they stopped for the night at 6,450m, rested in the tent through the following cold and windy day, then set out for Lenin's summit at 10 p.m. They arrived at the top on July 25 and descended the northeast ridge to 6,810m (some steep sections with hidden crevasses). After spending the night there, they slanted down the north face by a non-standard route that follows an avalanche-prone couloir to the southwest of Lipkin Rocks. (The Lipkin Rocks route keeps to the rocky buttresses that give the route its name.) They eventually joined the Arkin Route (direct north face), and thence the normal route, returning to the standard Camp 1 for their last night before heading down to Lenin base camp at 3,600m. The total ascent was about 3,000m and distance traveled 51km.

The team was not well acclimatized and met with much soft snow, slowing progress and necessitating more camps (eight nights above Camp 1) than might normally be required. In addition, there were not many good places to pitch a tent, and sometimes it was best to stop early rather than end up searching for a campsite into the night.

The route of ascent from Yukhin to the summit of Lenin was first climbed in August 1970 by five Soviets, at 5A, but there is no indication as to whether they continued to traverse the mountain. And while similar lines to the 2017 party’s descent have been skied in the past—and may have been ascended—it is not likely that such a grand traverse of Lenin has previously been completed using this combination of routes.

Lindsay Griffin, with information from Markus Gschwendt, Austria

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