I don't know where to begin.... What an awesome climb!!!!
I met up with my Austrian climbing friends Ozzy, Michael and Manfred at the airport in Istanbul before flying to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. Here our journey began; bus to Issyk Kul (Easy Cool as we called it) where we had one day preparing the last equipment and enjoying the warm summer before heading in to the cold mountains. I recommend a swim in the lake!!!! Awesome!!!
The next day we drove over a mountain pass, through a huge ghost town and further into the boarder area between Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and China before we reached our low camp. From here we traveled by Mi8 military helicopter to the Kyrgyz Base Camp at approximately 4000m.
And here it began :)
The following day we went for an acclimatization climb and at the same time just started the work with building up camps: we already started first rotation with carrying up a load to Camp 1. The next day we moved up to Camp 1 and spent one night there before coming back to Base Camp. The climb from BC to C1 is a steep snow slope where the snow slides down in small avalanches all day starting at noon time when the snow is getting warmer. So we had to start early early morning to be safe.
Next day we started out early heading up to Camp 1 and continued to Camp 2 the following day.
The climb from C1 to C2 was an amazing climb, it is on sharp edges, steep slopes and sharp loose rocks. And remember.....we do have super heavy backpacks! And I enjoyed every single step!
We put up our tents and went for a climb up towards Csepajer 6120m. After one night in C2, we return to BC again. In BC we had one rest day enjoying the sun, a stroll on the glacier, talks with friends, and a walk over to Kazakhstan... yes, we crossed the invisible boarder at the glacier and visited friends in the Kazak Base Camp. Then we prepared for our move up to Camp 2 the following morning.
Our climb up to Camp 2 was amazing!!! This time a bit better acclimatized, still heavy backpacks, fantastic view and making hot soup when we arrived. Living the dream!!!!!
Every evening we follow the weather forecast closely as it is predicted many days of strong wind and a heavy snowstorm coming in. On our climb up that day, we met several climbers who returned to Base Camp and gave up their attempt to summit Khan Tengri because of the predicted storm coming in. The evening when we arrived Camp 2, we got bad news: a 4 days snow storm approaching us. We counted food rations and gas bottles.....we had enough to cover our climb and 6 additional days.
But Manfred is not feeling well and in that case it is no point in waiting out a storm at this altitude, so Michael and Manfred returns to Base Camp the following day before the storm sets in. Ozzy and I are waiting in Camp 2. The weather is changing from high winds and snow to beautiful silent sunsets. But it is definitely not good enough to continue climbing until the third day. So we prepare for our climb the following day after 4 days stuck in Camp 2. We team up with our friends Jenya and Dimitri from Kazakhstan, Will and Tim from UK and Pavel from Czech Republic. We all climb together from Camp 2 (5300m), we summit Csepajer 6120m and climb down again to Camp 3 at 5800m. We split up with Tim, Will and Pavel who continue down to the real Camp 3, while Jenya, Dimitri, Ozzy and myself are making our own Camp 3 a bit higher up. We are digging our tents down after a very exhausting 7 hours climb. Now we only do the necessary things such as melting snow, drink soup, eat our dinner and last preparations for our summit day the next morning.
We have no contact with the rest of the world now, so we don't know about our friends who returned to Base Camp and we don't know anything about the weather forecast. We just know that we are feeling well and the weather isn't too bad.
The morning after we wake up to a beautiful sunrise and we can already spot Will, Tim and Pavel some hundred meters ahead of us. This will be an amazing climb!!! The view is beyond words and the colors in the snow and on the mountains indescribable. We climbed nearly 4 hours before we took a break at approximately 6100m enjoying the fabulous view and the very steep mountainside which plunges into the glacier and in the very distance we can see some dots that might be Base Camp...
We continue and after a long traverse (I have to add very exposed and a bit unsafe), right before the chute at approximately 6500m we just had to enjoy a chocolate bar and take a glimpse at the view before the weather is closing in. We have been climbing for 7 hours now and it feels like we are climbing in to a cloud. The wind is not to bad and we consider it safe to continue climbing as we meet Tim, Will and Pavel who are on their way down from the summit and explains us how the climb is ahead of us. We team up with Jenya and Dimitri who have been ahead of us all the time until now.
The four of us reach the summit in totally whiteout after 10 hours climbing. Jeeeeeehhhhaaaaaaaa!!!! Touchdown at 7010m!!!! Singing, high-fives, pictures, smiles, hugs,...and of course Dimitri sits down and lights up a cigarette....yes, really!!!
The wind is picking up and we have to start our climb down to our Camp 3.
We are climbing in to the dark hours. Luckily we have our headlamps. Later we are told that our friends in both the Kazak and the Kyrgyz Base Camp had been following our small headlamps all the way safe down to Camp 3. After 5 hours climb down from the summit, we reach safe down to our tents in Camp 3. Now the wind has picked up and it has started snowing. We are happy to be back. But we have to think about our climb tomorrow, so now it is important to "refill"; melt snow, eat and drink some soup before "crashing" in our sleeping bags.
We are sleeping like rocks!!!! And waking up to a snowstorm. We are taking it slow this morning; no need to rush when the weather is this bad. But luckily the weather settles and we can start our climb down. We plan to climb down to Camp 2, have one night there before heading down to Base Camp.
Today we can feel yesterdays climb in our legs; we are slower, and we do have our heavy backpacks when we are climbing up from Camp 3 to Csepajer again.
And, guess what!!!!!!: Exactly at the top of Csepajer after nearly 3 hours climbing, we met Manfred and Michael: how ultimately cool is that!!!! They were feeling great and were planning to go for the summit the day after.
We continue our climb down towards Camp 2. The weather changed, the clouds were rolling in and it was getting warmer. The snow was really wet now. We arrived Camp 2 after 5 hours climb and decided to continue down to Base Camp. We use 1 hour packing our gear in Camp 2 and made a proper meal before we started our climb down to Base Camp.... Well, I have to admit it was not the wisest decision made as the snow was very unstable, we were very tired and the darkness lurked around the corner...
But we managed to get down, only with one little accident; we lost a garbage bag...so we repelled down into a crevasse and got it before we continued all the way down to the bottom of the mountain. Now we only had to find our way crossing the glacier with all its icy rivers which of course had changed directions and size since we crossed it last time. It took us 2,5 hours compared to 1 hour normally.
We arrived Base Camp at 10pm after a 12 hours climb, and our friends in Base Camp welcomed us with an awesome party!!!
Nothing is like drinking vodka with the professionals....
Now we started waiting for Michael and Manfred. Little did we know how they were feeling and how they planned their climb. We learned later that they had to wait out the weather one day in Camp 3 before they summited two days after us. And the following day we all could celebrate our successful Khan Tengri Expedition in Base Camp!
Ozzy, Manfred, Michael, Jenya, Dimitri, Will, Tim and Pavel;
Thank you so much for an awesome expedition!!!!