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Lenin 8 1024

Pik Lenin Success- trip report from summer climb

Here at Moun­tain Mad­ness, we staged our sec­ond trip to Pik Lenin, in the Pamir Range of Kyr­gyzs­tan, last August. Where exact­ly is that, you ask? Well, that’s the first thing you will notice when going to a place like Kyr­gyzs­tan; nobody knows where it is. Heck, I did­n’t know exact­ly where it was before doing the research pri­or to my first trip over there. Kyr­gyzs­tan is sit­u­at­ed in a moun­tain-rich zone with the Pamir Moun­tains, known as The Roof of the World,” form­ing a junc­tion between the Himalaya and Karako­ram with the Tian Shan. Shar­ing bor­ders with Tajik­istan, Kazak­stan, Uzbek­istan and Xin­jiang (Chi­na), Kyr­gyzs­tan is tru­ly an untamed land and tends not to be a very pop­u­lar place to vis­it — espe­cial­ly giv­en its loca­tion in the “-stans.” Pak­istan and Afghanistan are only one coun­try away and I think many peo­ple assume it is a dan­ger­ous place to trav­el. How­ev­er, I have always found Kyr­gyzs­tan safe, yet wild and a stark­ly beau­ti­ful place to explore.

Stark land­scape approach­ing Advanced Base Camp.

We had small team this year, only two climbers and two guides. This is not unusu­al for Moun­tain Mad­ness trips, how­ev­er. We tend to cater to small­er groups and it makes a huge dif­fer­ence in the way long expe­di­tions play out. Luck­i­ly for us, not only was our group com­pact and more eas­i­ly able to move per our own aspi­ra­tions and health, but our team mem­bers were very strong. Work­ing around weath­er ear­ly in the trip, we climbed strong for an entire week (reach­ing 5800m) before tak­ing our first rest days, well earned and need­ed, as dai­ly snow storms embat­tled Pik Lenin.

Climb­ing to Camp 2.

Wait­ing out the storms at Advanced Base Camp was an exer­cise in patience, but the staff there took great care of us, feed­ing us excel­lent food for each meal. The cooks at ABC were amaz­ing, with some of the most impres­sive pas­try skills I have seen (espe­cial­ly being at 14,000 ft). Three lazy days passed before the fore­cast looked favor­able and we packed up in prepa­ra­tion for our sum­mit attempt.

Base­camp staff tak­ing care of us with a Lenin cake.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, in the begin­ning of the sum­mit push, the weath­er was unco­op­er­a­tive. The climb to Camp 2, as with each com­ing day, began calm and clear, but by the after­noon clouds rolled in, snow start­ed falling and the wind cranked up. We spent two windy nights at Camp 2, nylon fab­ric blow­ing into our faces, the tents tem­porar­i­ly col­laps­ing with each blast of wind. We had planned for one night there.

Peek­ing out of the tent into snowy weath­er at Camp 2.

Day three of the sum­mit push allowed us enough of a break in the wind to move to high camp at just over 20,000 ft. Upon arriv­ing at Camp 3, it was very cold, windy and white­out. We imme­di­ate­ly jumped into a tent that had been aban­doned by a retreat­ing group in their haste to get down the moun­tain. After brew­ing up and warm­ing up, we set up our tents and set­tled in for anoth­er long night. And then, yet anoth­er unplanned day wait­ing out poor weather.

Approach­ing 6700 meters.

High above high camp, vis­i­ble on the dome of Razdel­naya Peak in the background.

Final­ly, the sum­mit win­dow arrived. It was not per­fect — very cold and still windy. Build­ing clouds through the day added to the pres­sure to get up and down this thing — far from what the weath­er fore­casts were telling us. The morn­ing was clear and crisp enough to see into Tajik­istan and the Snow Leop­ard Peaks in that coun­try: Pik Com­mu­nism and Korzhenevskaya. Slow­ly, slow­ly we trudged on while watch­ing the sky. Nine hours after leav­ing C3, we stood at 7134m, hav­ing climbed the first of five 7000m Snow Leop­ard Peaks.

Look­ing into Tajik­istan and Pik Com­mu­nism on sum­mit day.

Sum­mit day attire: puffy jack­ets all day.

It was cer­tain­ly a strug­gle at times, but this expe­di­tion was one of the best I have had the plea­sure of lead­ing. In the true spir­it of Moun­tain Mad­ness, this expe­di­tion is exem­plary of adven­ture trav­el — a big moun­tain expe­di­tion to a wild place which no one has ever heard of. I would like to con­grat­u­late our climbers, Brid­get and Chok, and thank them for the great expe­ri­ences we shared on that moun­tain. There are so many things to do and see in this world. But, I think if you ask Brid­get and Chok, this type of climb­ing — into the wild unknowns — is chal­leng­ing, reward­ing and adven­tur­ous; it is what we are look­ing for.

On the sum­mit with Brid­get, Tino, Chok, and Lenin.

~MM Guide Tino Vil­lanue­va, text and images