“All around us the Tien Shan mountains are indescribably gorgeous. The Pik Pobeda in the south and the huge glacier all around us is breathtaking.”
— Arthur | LOWA Manager Service Department
Arthur | LOWA Manager Service Department
EXPEDITION 6000 EVO RD
The Matterhorn of the Tien Shan mountains
Kazakhstan So diverse are the people, so varied too are their holiday destinations. Our Service Department director and LOWA PRO Team manager, Arthur Kudelka, once again took a very special holiday in July 2019. On July 21, he was off to Kazakhstan for a few weeks to climb Khan Tengri, known as the Matterhorn of the Tien Shan mountains at 7,010 meters.
In July we are finally flying to Kazakhstan. After a short acclimatization phase at the Karkara base camp at 2,200 meters, we are headed by helicopter the next day to the actual Khan Tengri base camp at 4,000 meters. At base camp, we meet our guide, P.D., plus other hopefuls from all over the world, all told 20 alpinists. Since our time here is limited, we start each day after our arrival in base camp with our acclimatization: To start, we take on Khan Tengri’s Camp 1.
After our first rest break, we continue with our acclimatization on Chapaev Peak. We are already familiar with the route, thus reaching Camp 1 and 2 is not a problem at all. I do feel just a bit of the lack of altitude adjustment during the night at Camp 2. Notwithstanding the power of the mountains, we reach the summit of Chapaev at 6,130 meters, and are excited about our first achievement: My friends and companions Otto and Detlef are in fact so happy, that they do a headstand on the summit. After a short break to hydrate and refuel, we climb down again to Camp 2, where we again spend the night before we head back to base camp the following day. Now, it’s all about recovering the best you can because the next time we are headed on Khan Tengri toward Camp 3 and then to the summit.
After one and half weeks there at this point and three climbs on the mountain, we are well acclimatized and are looking forward to the summit. On Aug. 2, it’s time: We stay in base camp until after lunch and then climb to Camp 1, now familiar. There, we spend the night and the next day take on the climb to Camp 2. Even though we are making good progress and are well-prepared, the route is damn tough and steep. We arrive in the camp early in the afternoon and try to recover as best as possible for the summit attempt the next day.
We wait for the sun until we head up to Camp 3. The climbing passages take our breath away again. At the summit of Chapaev, we unfortunately recognize very little since it has snowed lightly. None of us had any desire to hang out up here very long, so we head up and out again, taking a short abseil across the gorge and then onward to Camp 3. It takes a total of 7 hours for the ascent and descent until we reach our bivvy spot in the saddle on Aug. 5 at 3 p.m. and set up our tents.
At precisely midnight our bitterly cold night is over. Despite the actual weather forecast that noted snow the entire day, our summit day is clear and starlit. I estimate it is round about minus 20 degrees Celsius, and we must keep moving, otherwise we risk frostbite.
On the first somewhat flat area along the route, we take a short hydration break, where we suddenly see two tents snugged together on a packed 3-square-meter area. The sun is just now rising, and we enjoy the view with the red streaks of sunrise across the Tien Shan mountains. The terrain is constantly steep, and we work ourselves up one meter at a time. Still, it seems as if you are moving at a snail’s pace and will never get there. After about six hours, we finally reach the couloir that leads us toward the upper summit approach. Here, it heads steeply upward one last time before we get to the summit’s snowfield. After a total of nine hours of climbing, we arrive at the summit of Khan Tengri at 7,010 meters, totally exhausted but nevertheless happy.
Otto, Detlef, our guide P.D. and I are the first at the top and stand there totally alone. We take advantage of us and snap a few photos before we head back down again. This turns out to be nearly as strenuous as the ascent. The sun at some point hits the route, and it then becomes unbearably hot. The warm layers you can only in part take off, and I’m cooking in my insulating overpant. After a total of 14 hours up and down, we finally stand once again in Camp 3 and are thrilled with our fantastic day. We can’t really totally grasp it yet that we were in fact up at the top, on the summit of Khan Tengri. As a reward, we have little summit gummy bears, extra sour of course! Our German friends Thomas and Henk from base camp reach Camp 3 and want to climb up in the morning. We really luxuriate in our success and fall exhausted in our sleeping bags.
The next day demands everything we have. When you think you are done with the ordeal, Mucha (the base camp cook) intercepts you in front of your tent and pulls out the Cherry Vodka for his very own invention, the Mucha Martini. You really must celebrate a summit success properly: sa sdorowje.
“Expeditions are the Olympics of mountaineering. Experience, skill, teeth-gritting determination and the right equipment are the factors that frequently determine the success or failure of an expedition.”
- 3 weeks