Have ever heard about one of the most easiest seven
thousand metres peak in the world? That is how Lenin peak is sometimes called
by climbers. But do not however labour under a delusion, as there are no easy
mountains in the world. Being hospital, sunny and pleasant to climb, this giant
can change your opinion in a few minutes.
Lenin peak has got the award of "easiest"
as there is only walking up work with a few technical section in upper part,
nevertheless there are some objective difficulties like bad weather, crevasses,
strong winds, sickness or whatever else.
Lenin peak (7134m) is located on the Kyrgyzstan
- Tadjikistan border in the Zaalayski Range in the area between the Hindu Kush
and the Tien Shan called Pamir-Alai. To get there take a plane to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
and then take car or a plane again to the ancient city of Osh by the south-west
end of Ferghana valley. From there hire a four-wheel drive taxi for the 6-7
hour (300km) drive over a 3800m pass to Alai valley. From village Sary-Mogol
cross the river and drive up over the knolls to Achik-Tash (3700m) camp site.
There are a number of commercial camps run by different
trekking companies and located on Achik-Tash or Lukovaya glade. The camps provide
the climbers with good food and hospitality, tents to stay in, food to be eaten,
saunas to be taken and vodka to be consumed. As a rule they usually have mess
tents, sauna and bar as well as living tents. There are not many other services
available at the camps but along with mentioned above some also have internet
"cafe" and satellite phones. Guides and porters are available but
you are well advised to arrange them before your trip, e-mailing to travel company.
The guides are not really keen on providing trail information as they prefer
to be hired up. So do not really expect always accurate information giving by
word of mouth. The few maps they provide are also not of much help.
As always prices in camps are elusive, saunas usually
cost extra, food is either a package deal or per meal arrangement. Sometimes
instead of staying at the camps many self-catering climbers choose to set up
there own camps. There are plenty of places and in some ways it would be a more
comfortable and less expensive option but if there were no locals
Remember that it is just 30km from the village by the good road so your "wild"
camp will be in easy-to-access distance. There have been reports of people having
tents or gear stolen from their tents, so you do need to be on guard.
Climbing on your own be prepared to administer
any first aid yourself as at the base camp there are minimal first aid equipment.
Rescues are not provided in a tour package so you will need to arrange travel
insurance covering emergency evacuations by helicopter.
Climbing Lenin peak There are 16 routes to the summit. Seven by north face (Kyrgyzstan)
and nine by south face (Tadjikistan). The classic route is considered the one
that goes by the western rib over Razdel'naya peak(6148m). For a climb on the
south side your trip starts in Bishkek, you can fly directly to Bishkek, or
be picked up in Almaty and drive the two hours to Bishkek. From Bishkek it is
40 minutes fly or a 10-12 hour drive (600 km) to the city of Osh over the passes.
There are hotels and guest houses to stay in there. Same day is a final shopping
trip for final vegetables at famous oriental Osh market. Next day long drive
over a pass to Achik-Tash base camp. The base camp is at 3700m so one day of
acclimatisation is needed after arrival.
Your next step is to set up a tent at ABC (4300
m) on a glacier moraine, about a 3-4-hour walk over the Puteshestvennikov pass
(4200m) and then up the Lenin glacier towards Razdel'naya peak from base camp.
This walk can be easy, with snow melted out and crevasses visible, or it can
be a hell day of breaking trail and searching for a safe path. Very few people,
roped up on this section but it is always your decision what to do and when.
Early in the season when there is still a lot of snow it would be wise to use
standard glacier travel precautions. At the ABC there are same facilities as
in BC. ABC is placed on a moraine that is near the approach up the glacier to
Lenin peak. Water is plentiful here. Some packages include the facilities in
ABC, others not.
To get to camp one it is about 3-6 hours walk up
the glacier from ABC. The steepest parts of the approach to camp one are on
this section. There is large bergschrund at the very beginning. Sometimes at
this section there is a fixed rope but be assure that the rope would support
a fall as screws can melt out of the ice. Never trust anything here unless you
need to. YOU define need. Past the technical section walk up to the saddle before
"Skovorodka" (frying pan). This section is on sloping snow, so after
heavy snow, avalanches can come down by this part of the route. But if there
was not new snow, and you get going early you will never feel that you are in
terrible danger. There are often people walking in the middle of the day, oblivious
to any danger. Early in the season this is an easy walk, at the end of the season
it can be dangerously crevassed. Rope up.
In sunny days "Skovorodka" becomes a
heat oven where you are baked by the sun or it can be really cold and windy
with tents getting pounded.
Camp one is at flat rocky outcropping behind "skovorodka".
There is nothing at this camp. It is a relatively safe level area. Water is
plentiful here flowing down the rocks behind the camp, but no water will found
past this point. By the way be aware of rare stones falling from the mentioned
rocks. It is the best place to set your tent below the others as sometimes it
can safe you from those stones.
Most use the first trip up to camp 1 at 5100 as
the acclimatisation run and leave a tent and some gear at camp. Unfortunately
gear, food and even whole tents can be stolen, it is very disappointing that
at high altitude people will still steal shit, but that is reality. So on that
there is nothing to say, trust humanity and lose things on occasion, or carry
everything all the time with you.
To camp 2 at 6100m the route keeps going up by
the steep snow or sometimes icy section along the rock outcropping finally topping
out on the ridge. This short section is prone to rockfalls so it would be wise
to start earlier. Then walk up the ridge another 2-3 hours or so to the top
of Razdel'naya peak (6148m). From the summit you then must go down to the pass
where there is camp 2 at 6100m and a place to dig in a snow cave, or use one
that has already been dug out. Arguments can of course happen between those
who dig and whose who poach, but have a shovel, dig your share and no troubles.
Do not however show up with a group of 8 and expect to find a cave. Honestly
speaking Lenin peak is not the place where people are used to dig the caves
(no reason to, many say).
After your first run up to camp 2 to get acclimatised
a good vodka drunk and sauna is next back at base camp. It seems like a waste
to run all the way back to camp, but for summit success it is the best strategy.
Americans and Europeans have the habit of taking everything with them and staying
up at camp one and two hoping to acclimatise and make a shot at the summit.
Russians tend to go up to camp one, then back to the base to drink a shot or
two of vodka, then back up to a higher camp, then back for vodka, then back
up and to the summit. Whatever plan you may try to come in with will undoubtedly
change due to weather and how you are feeling.
On the second trip up if you are feeling well you
can run right up to the pass at 6100 or spend another night at camp one (5100
m) then the next day go to 6100. For this the best option is to go to ABC and
spend the night, then early go to camp one, rest the hot afternoon away, then
after lunch walk the rest of the snowfield up to the pass. But this is for those
who really fast and strong.
If the trip from the saddle to the top seems too
long, many climbers set a tent up on a ledge at 6400m. There is a lot of space
for tents as the rib is very wide. This gives a better shot at reaching the
summit as you are closer, but it is a long extra way to haul gear, and besides
strong winds can destroy your tents or even blow off the ridge.
From the saddle at 6100 to the summit
Once you are at the saddle, ready for a summit attempt. The climb
from the saddle (6100m) to the summit (7134m) is like another world. It is here
that the altitude plays havoc on your brain and bad weather can destroy your
The summit day is what it is really all about,
all the preparation, the hauling gear, the cold toes, everything comes down
to this. It is a really long day from the pass to the summit and often people
do not quite make it to the summit. The route is mostly about 30 degrees, except
for a few short steep sections. The steepest section is right in the middle
of the route, just after the snowfield at about 6900m (seen in photo).
The character of the route from the saddle at 6100m
is that it follows the centre rib up to the top of the main range where at 6400
keeps going right traversing over a snowfields between rocky outcroppings, then
ascends a short, 1 pitch steep icy section. Sometimes at this section there
is a fixed rope. From there the route goes up over short rocky section finally
topping out on a large snowfield. Then the final section takes forever, walking
up and up. From there it is another 2 hours or so across a large snowfield to
the pile of rocks and metal triangle which is the summit. In general the round
trip takes between 10-13 hours.
Take the same route down. If you still have time
and stamina, it is well advised to run down to camp one at 5100m.
Technical skills are helpful because you can save
energy, but none of the sections would pose difficulty if you are in good shape.
Being in good condition and giving yourself enough time to acclimatize are the
most important factors.
For equipment on this day going as light as possible
is the best option, a harness, couple of carabineers, figure 8, perhaps a short
section of rope if you are in a group, an ascender, and one ice ax and that
is it. When climbing, try to use the fixed rope for balance only. On the way
down do not slide with velocity of light. Very often it is easiest to just clip
in with a very large locking carabineer instead of a figure 8.
The summit day you of course should start early
and not stop moving. Down low is the place not to waste time as minutes usually
become valuable at the end of the day. So much depends on weather, on how much
snow there is, if there is a trail or if you are breaking trail that it is really
hard to give an estimate on how long the whole trip takes from pass to summit
and return. But an average time would be 10-13 hours for the round trip. The
base camp can be reached in one day from the pass.
The standard climb of Lenin peak (classic) goes something
Fly from Bishkek to Osh town
Drive to the Achik-Tash base camp at 3700m
Hike to the ABC at 4300 and acclimatise
Wake up early and get to camp 1 at 5100
Hike to camp 2 at the saddle at 6100 and spend the night
Return to base camp for a rest and sauna
Rest, sauna, vodka
Rest, sauna, vodka
Hike to ABC at 4300
Hike to camp 1 at 5100
Hike to camp 2 at the saddle at 6100, spend the night
Return to Base camp for another sauna
Drive back to Osh
Fly to Bishkek
If all goes well the entire trip can be accomplished
in two and a half weeks, but notice in the itinerary there are no spare days
for bad weather or party members needing additional rest days. Three weeks is
considered normal, a month is not excessive.
As for gear, it is hard to say you need anything when there are
Russians climbing the peak with leather boots and Adidas windbreakers. But in
general Individual members must bring
1. all climbing hardware, rope, cooking equipment, lightweight tent and the
main as well as personal 'travellers' first aid kit (headaches, diahorrea, minor
cuts, blisters etc).
2. Sleeping bag (expedition or '5 season' quality)
3. closed-cell foam sleeping mat and/or Thermarest
4. rigid mountaineering boots (plastic double boots strongly recommended)
5. thermal underwear, fleece shirt or similar, fleece jacket & pants
6. extra fleece top or light duvet, Goretex jacket and salopettes (or pants)
7. mountain mitts/gloves, hat or balaclava, gaiters
8. ice axe, crampons (preferably with anti-ball plate)
9. helmet, harness, 3 locking carabiners, belay plate or fig. 8
10. long sling (120cm), 3 prussik loops, headtorch with spare batteries,
11. climbing rucksack (60-80 litre), second sac or kitbag,
12. glacier glasses, sun protection cream and lipsalve, water bottle,
13. mug, bowl, spoon, shorts, sunhat, lightweight 'trekking' boots, trekking
But do not overdress, this is not K2 or Everest
and not even as cold as Denali. 8000-meter equipment will be too hot. For a
stove the Coleman or Primus gas stoves are by far the best. The petrol here
is really bad. Gas stove can be lighted up inside the tent in any time then
to light up petrol stove you will need to go outside.