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This article was written by one of the three German alpinists, who had conquered Peak Lenin in 1928. It was taken from the collection of German and Austrian alpine societies for 1929. We kept the original text, only changing the Gothic into the European.


Pp. 121-133.

Ascent to Lenin Peak 7134 m.

By Karl Wien

According to the previous estimates of the Russian and German experts - members of the expedition, the highest peak of the Soviet Union was supposed to be not in the Sel-Tau region, but the peak in Transalay region that is 7130 m. This peak used to be called Peak Kaufman and now it is called Peak Lenin. To conquer this peak was our main task.

Our starting point in July from the south-east of the Peak in the Kara-Kul region was rather far from our target point. By a lucky chance, we hadn’t started from there; it would be our great mistake, but we could find that out only on the day of conquering the peak.

Still we didn’t know about the possibilities of subjugation the peak. May be there were more prospects of conquest in the south-west of Altyn-Mazar? And there we were separated from our goal by 70 km of a plain road, 70 km of mountains and valleys. We had a lot of difficulties: conquest of the peak in the unknown country, the first geographic research work and others. But nevertheless, this time we confidently relied on good luck.

In the valley Kara Dzhilga we discovered a large glacier, which originated in Transalay region between the two so-called "highest" peaks P2 and P3, initially flowing just to the south, joining with other huge glaciers. It made a sharp turn to the west and spread out along the valley of Sauk Saya and ended near the Altyn- Mazar.

The height of Lenin’s Peak reaches 7,130 meters above sea level.

We were slowly getting used to the altitude, endless outlets to the glacier and to the cold in general. We felt the first approach of autumn, the first snow, we were confident that the time had come, but later we were surprised by the difficulties due to severe cold. Just because only our stamina, we had achieved our goal.    Russian group of climbers had to return home, they were members of the Soviet Government; their time of course was limited. Thus, there were only Alvayn, Schneider, and I, who agreed to undertake this task. We were accompanied by Dr. North, who was leading his scientific work in Sauk-Saye and Perlin L.A., who had his own interest.  It was difficult to negotiate with the porters, so much depended on us. Our local Tajiks were saying that they would go home each time when they were not satisfied with payment. After lengthy negotiations some of them stayed with us, but there was a big problem- they did not have suitable mountain shoes. So we gave them shoes from our reserve and they had no reason to argue with us further. Our two porters’ names were Dario and Bodar; originally they were from the valley Bartang. They were missing home a lot and the only time they smiled was when they heard from us that finally they could go home.

September 18, at lunch time we left Altyn Mazar. The road, which was nearby, was completely demolished and soon it disappeared.  We passed one gorge, passing the wild cliffs of impassable rough screes. From time to time a strong stream beat from the left or right side of the cliff and we had nothing else to do but to go further. More interesting was the construction for the drinking water of our porters. Yet they had to pull up the sheep which resisted. In the evening we pitched our camp under fuzzy old moraines.

September 19, at lunch we came closer to the site. Local Kyrgyz, whom we hired in Altyn Mazar, deceived us, having said that it was not possible to ride a horse further. When we saw that it was possible it was already too late. So we came to the site Kyuzgun Tocoi on September 20. At that place there was all we needed for the camp: clean water, firewood and pasture. There was only one drawback - a place was situated below 3000m.

More than 4000m divided us from the top. It was impossible to lose time. Therefore, on September 21, we moved on. We took with us products for 4-6 days for us and for our porters, two tents, one for us, another for porters, sleeping bags and a bag for tents. Load we shared with the porters. Perlin was still accompanied us. We kept on by the endless mounds. The remains of mountain goats, many traces of bears and many remnants of their meal were lying around us. To the east there was the unusual glacier with a steep truncated apex; but in general the valley with its gray-yellow slopes did not constitute anything interesting. Mass of ice water was increasing and we had to scramble through the cliffs. After lunch, by 3 o'clock we finally were at the foot of a huge glacier. The valley was all covered with ice. We were very excited to get to the main glacier as we had hoped. We were climbing the terribly slippery gravel, waded the big and cold river. At the top we felt disappointment. Although a huge glacier went down here from the north, the whole valley was covered with snow and streams were everywhere. We came closer to the snow-covered area between the two glaciers and pitched our camp there in the moraine.

The stream here was crystal clear. The next morning we came closer to the next glacier and it was possible to see what was behind it. When we passed a small area, we saw another "side" of the glacier. To the point where we had to turn, was left about 5km. We found a wide ditch between the rock and ice and passed there. Further the road was blocked by a small glacier so we went back. And now we were walking in the right direction to the north of the main chain of Transalaya. Here during the lunch time, we stopped between 2 moraines. Unfortunately, we could not see the peak from there. We moved further into the unknown direction. The entire Sauk-Sai glacier could have a length of about 25 km and 20 km were definitely to the north-south direction. All afternoon, we stumbled back up and down the moraine, as the glacier surface was not smooth.  It was time to look for a place where we could stay for a night. We set our camp at an altitude of 4,600 meters.  In the evening we were discussing where the Peak of Lenin could be.

September 23, we found ourselves in the desert maze of towers and cracks. The collapse of the steep right side of the glacier pushed its way deep into the core of the glacier, and we had to cross there. When we were in the middle of the glacier we were confident that we would succeed. It took us an hour to go through. But then again everything went quicker. We suddenly realized that it was The Peak. But we had thought that it was on the other side of the saddle.

We were waiting for porters, who were following us. We had to leave our porters there at the altitude of 5200m. Because of the cold weather, we decided not to take them with us. We tried to explain to our porters to wait for us there. Although none of us spoke the language of each other, we managed to negotiate. So we left for the porters one tent, some food, gas stove and gas bottle. Then we took sleeping bags, tents and food for 2 days and moved in the direction of the Saddle.

Porters looked at us with the lack of understanding. They could not understand our act. Our road was very complicated- covered with huge wall of ice. The weather was also terrible, it was very windy. We went slowly for 2 hours, passing pure ice, followed by deep snow, and finely we saw the saddle of Transalaya ridge. About 5th in the noon we came to the saddle. Limitless horizon appeared in front of us. Somewhere far a broad greenish-yellow valley of Alai was laying, all was beautiful in an unusual evening glow. We wanted to spend the night there, so we started to search the place for a tent. It was not easy to find a proper place, as the south wind was strongly whistling around the pass, and the west wind, which was gaining strength everywhere in the Pamir. We could protect ourselves from the south wind, so we went a few meters to the north, and for a while the west wind came down. At last we thought that we found a suitable place between the two cracks. The wind raged all night. Our small frozen tent crackled in the wind. The snow fell on the tent and covered it with a thick layer. In front of the tent lay a large drift of snow which filled up all our things. Snow "blew" even in the tent and beat us severely on the face, at an altitude of 5820m. We filled our backpacks with sleeping bags, all the rest, stove, food and cameras we left outside and started cooking. It was difficult to find water. Tea in the glasses immediately got cold, and our hands while cooking were frozen. Without hot tea it was difficult to eat. We ate sausages and meat, thanks to Borshersu, who left that for such occasion. Also we ate army biscuits, some pudding, but it was frozen and we could eat only a small portion. We enjoyed cooking and sleeping at that altitude. It was warm to sleep in the sleeping bags even without the heater. So we lay there listening to the wind. From time to time we put the snow away from the roof of the tent so that the roof would not fall down on our faces.

We still were not sure about the exact location of the Peak, although we did see a huge mountain on our left. After long negotiations, we decided to go to the East next day.  Somehow we spent the night. In the morning Alvayn started cooking, he did it with difficulty; the tea was cold again and what is more it had bad taste. Putting on frozen boots was very painful. One after another we got out of our tent to the terrible cold. After going to the toilet we tried to go back and forth, but it was almost impossible due to the cold wind. By 7 o'clock we were ready to start. Snow on top seemed to be solid, but it was not so, so we sank in the snow. But despite that, about an hour we came to the point to "Ekpfayler”, 6100m. We stood on the rocky crest of the ridge and saw the structure of Transalay chain. It couldn’t be better! All our doubts disappeared- everything was in front of us. There we realized that we were on the wrong path, and on the wrong side. Having made the conclusion we began to descend. Nobody said a word; we naturally decided to spend a night in the camp on the eastern Saddle of the Peak. With a strange feeling we were sitting in a tent at 10 am, in one of those beautiful days, we watched the sun, which rose gradually to the top and unexpectedly disappeared. We had enough free time to appreciate the impressive place where we were standing.

This peak is almost always hidden in clouds, and it is also almost impossible to see it because of the glacier. That is why it was very difficult to make a photograph of it from our position. The sun went down and darkness fell.

It was windy so we stayed in the tent. In the morning the temperature in the tent was 18 degrees. We tried to use that day. We were warming up our shoes all night in the sleeping bags. So our feet were not that cold. Then we waited for the first rays of the sun to come out. Of course, it was already 8:00 in the morning until the sun's rays reached us from the mountain ridges in the East. We prepared all warm things which are necessary in the Alps during a snowstorm and a couple of underwear. We wrapped thick cloth around our shoes, as a means of protection for feet from the cold, and then we put on grapplers. Of course, it was harmful, because bandages were tightened in some places and blood couldn’t circulate. But they were necessary because the top was very steep. We went slowly, trying not to be overloaded. I had a camera, which eventually broke down. Alvayn carried a tent bag for Casten; Schneider was carrying some food, mostly sweets, chocolate and dried fruits.

So we left on September 25, on the fifth day of our withdrawal from Ruzgun Tokaj. We started at 8.20 in the morning from our camp at 5825m.  We began to climb the east ridge of the mountain, which was covered with snow everywhere. We were separated from the top by 1500m. We were walking very slowly about 200m per hour. We spent more then 7 hours for that. Slowly we were getting used to the lack of oxygen. To give an example of this territory, I want to compare it with the eastern crest of Montblanc. When we conquered the height it was very windy, but the sun was shining and we could see the mountains in the east. At 12 o'clock we were at the altitude 6770m. The sky was clear. Unfortunately, we had to state that the top was even higher and steeper, and it was far from us and there was a narrow saddle between us. We had lost 50 meters, so we had to rise for three times and descend again. Soon we had the feeling that our fingers began to freeze, but nobody wanted to give up. The goal was too close, so that the descent would not last so long; we had to get out of this terrible cold. We walked meter by meter with our backpacks. We had rest at first after each 50 meters, then after 30 meters, and in the end we sat briefly every 10 minutes in the snow. The sun had set and there was fog in the west. It was more and more difficult to go through. We were very exhausted. As we didn’t know the location of the peak we could rely only on ourselves. The next person, who could help us, was rather far, in a distance of 5 days-70km. There was another difficulty. The last 150 meters were very steep, about 55 degrees, so we had to work hard; but in spite of that we moved forward.

At 3.30 in the afternoon we reached the summit. At the highest point of the peak, we shook hands and sat down. Altimeter showed 7000 m, stopped at the limit of its abilities. It was foggy in the south and in the west, and we could hardly see a rocky ridge of the peak Jergal Tash, that is 6710m. The view was marvelous. In the East, almost in China, we could see snow-capped mountains. We had never seen such a view. But the cold didn’t give us the opportunity to stay there longer.

The descent lasted 2 hours. We were going down in the fog, by our tracks. At 5, 45 we were on the eastern saddle near our tent. As the mist cleared, a very beautiful view appeared in front of us. An unusually scarlet valley lay beneath our feet. We began immediately collecting our belongings. We decided not to spend the third night in such cold, so we returned to our porters, who were at an altitude of 5200m. When we were collecting the camp, we found some food, which we thought we'd lost. When it got dark, we went hard between the walls and pure ice. Somehow, the moon lit the road up and we were approaching the goal. Our place was deserted, the porters had gone. They had left us one backpack with a small amount of food at the top and had built a stone man. Were they too cold and uncomfortable on a desert glacier? That didn’t disturb us that night. We set our tent not so neat, because of the dark, extracted a bit of iced tea to cool the thirst, then climbed into our sleeping bags and slept. In the morning we examined our feet. Schneider's legs were the worst, while my legs and Alvayn’s were just badly swollen. It was painful to walk. Three of us were in a distance of one day from the camp, we were without porters. The situation was depressing. The only one option was to descend into camp as soon as possible. We started our descent down the glacier at 10 o'clock in the morning and had already finished at 4. 30 after noon. We were walking the same slippery roads, passing moraine, pure ice, but we were happy. We were walking fast and by lunchtime the legs of Schneider were really bad. Thus, we had to stop and make the camp on the old moraine, so we could drink some tea. We put a tent camp up- the 5th camp in the northern ice Sauk-Sai glacier at the altitude 4300m. Schneider's legs were the cause of our fear. We understood that he wouldn’t be able to go further. Somebody had to go forward to bring a horse for him. I got the nod!

September 27, in the morning, when the sun rose, I left the camp and went ahead. Slowly I walked down the moraine, through the valley next to a glacier and ice down to the end. There, on the snow-free area of the glacier 1, and the main glacier our camp was located. We had built a warehouse there with banks of ham and some other products. When I approached that place, I saw two people. I was so surprised to see our porters. They had left the cold camp on the top of the glacier and came here to the warmer place. I was beside myself with joy! Now I didn’t have to carry my heavy backpack. I took Dario with me, and sent Bodor to meet my friends. Though Bodor lay down behind the stone, when I and Dario disappeared, and pretended as if he met my friends there. Meanwhile, I was in a hurry and in 13 hours come to the glacier 1.  It was better to go faster, without stopping, in order to reach our permanent camp. I walked as quickly as possible. Dario was softly moaning, diligently trying to chase me with my heavy backpack. I would never forget that moment when I saw the camp and a Kirgiz man after the last turn. In addition, I saw a camel and a second Kyrgyz and soon saw Borshershs who rode for an hour from the Altyn Mazar and now was healing his wounds. We decided to start the next day, as that evening I was extremely exhausted. I immediately began to relax, and didn’t notice that I slept until noon.

Allvayn and Schneider reached the end of the glacier by the evening. For Schneider it was a horrible day.  As we agreed, they went up to the river. There they met Borsher, Dario and 2 horses.

September 23, after lunch, they came to our camp. Immediately the next day, Borshershs with his people on camels were sent to Rickmer in Altyn Mazar. Thus, the next day on September 30, they returned with the missing medicine, which we had asked for.

For us, the days full of peace came. We felt here in Kuzgun Tokay well. The ascent to the Peak came to the end. It was a successful expedition and for us it was a big memorable event.

October 6, Borshershs and I were on the top of high mountains at an altitude of 5700m. For various reasons we stood there for a long time, when the sun was setting behind a narrow saddle at an altitude of 5000 m. The peak was there, in the East. It was very difficult to find it among other massive peaks, surrounding it. But once again it showed itself. When the sun had almost disappeared over the horizon, all the mountains were in a cold shadow, but the last rays of the sun, very slowly, showed once again the shine of its summit.