Saturday, 23 July 2011

Peak Lenin – Defecting to the Russian side

So, that was it, my chance at climbing Peak Lenin, something in the planning for a year was over, ruined by some mountain con man. I was faced with trying to get myself and all my stuff back to base camp and then to Osh. I turned to the Tien Shan Travel staff manning Camp 1 for some help and advice. The local Russian guides were gathered in the kitchen tent when I went to talk to them. I was upset, but I could have tried harder to hold back the tears. The men in the tent immediately tried to offer me vodka as a solution, but I insisted that I was British, and a cup of tea would suit me better. Over tea I explained the whole sorry mess. They were really helpful and offered several practical options which would allow me to continue the expedition. They directed me to a local guide, Alex, who was guiding two Russian clients but had had a third drop out. After some negotiation, organisation of kit, food and gas, and making sure that all parties involved were happy I became part of the Russian team.
I immediately knew that I had done the right thing leaving Andy and changing teams. I suddenly had the urge to write and take photos again. The worry of Andy’s competence had been more consuming than I’d imagined and I hadn’t felt creative at all, but now it had come back.

Peak Lenin is a 7134 m peak on the Kyrgyzstan/Tajikistan  border. It is renowned for being the technically easiest 7000 m peak – although, as I was to find out, there is no easy 7000 m ascent. Paradoxically, it is also infamous for being the site of the worst ever mountain accident. In 1990 an earthquake initiated a massive avalanche in the night. The avalanche wiped out Camp 2 killing 43 people.  Now Camp 2 is carefully located away for the avalanche prone slopes in a safer position. Peak Lenin is a significant peak in Soviet mountaineering as it is known as one of the Snow Leopard 5. If an individual manages to climb all of these 5 mountains located in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan it is seen as a great mountaineering feat and the person is known as a Snow Leopard.

My new team was made up of a local Kyrgyz Russian guide called Alex and his Russian clients, Alexander and Jaroslav, who were father and son. Alex spoke reasonable English but I was worried about communication with Alexander and Jaroslav. As it turned out that they appear to be practically mute through out the entire expedition, so it didn’t matter that I didn’t speak Russian, as they didn't really speak full-stop. They were, however, generous with their cognac which they would even carry up to Camp 3 at 6100 m and was accompanied with slices of fresh lemon.
Camp 1 in the snow

No comments:

Post a Comment