Khan Tengri (7,010 m / 22,999 ft), West Ridge
Tian Shan, Kyrgyzstan

The Khan Tengri, 7,010 m. The West Ridge is on the left (© P. Gatta)
The Khan Tengri, 7,010 m. The West Ridge is on the left (© P. Gatta)

The Peak Khan Tengri (7,010 m)

With an elevation of 7,010 meters, the Peak Khan Tengri is the second highest mountain of the Tian Shan mountain range. This range is located in the Central Asia, to the north and west of the Taklamakan Desert (Xinjiang province, China).

The Tian Shan range is linked to two others mountain ranges: the Pamir (South) and the Altai Mountains of Mongolia (Northeast). The two highest peaks of the Tian Shan are the Jengish Chokusu (7,439 m, also called Peak Pobeda or Peak Victory) and the Khan Tengri (7,010 m).

The Khan Tengri is located further North of the Jengish Chokusu, on the China - Kyrgyzstan - Kazakhstan border, east of the Lake Issyk Kul (tenth largest lake in the world by volume and the second largest saline lake). Khan Tengri is also the world's most northern 7,000 meters peak and known for its challenging weather.

Tian Shan range seen from the summit of Khan Tengri. The base camp is at the junction of the two large glaciers (© P. Gatta)
Tian Shan range seen from the summit of Khan Tengri. The base camp is at the junction of the two large glaciers (© P. Gatta)



The expedition started in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Then we drove 8 hours / 460 km toward the West of Kyrgyzstan; passed along the large Lake of Issyk Kul and finally reached the camp of Karkara at 2,200 m where we spent the first night. From there, we flew by helicopter to the base camp of Khan Tengri.

Helicopter flight to the Khan Tengri the base camp (© P. Gatta)
Helicopter flight to the Khan Tengri the base camp (© P. Gatta)

Khan Tengri: South Face and West ridge

Philippe and Yannick climbed the Progrebietsky route on the South Face and West ridge of Khan Tengri. The route is rated AD+ or Russian 5a. The base camp is located on the South Inylchek glacier at 4,050 m. Then they set three high camps at 4,300 m, 5,300 m and 5,900 m.

The West ridge rouge of Khan Tengri from the West Col (© P. Gatta)
The West ridge rouge of Khan Tengri from the West Col (© P. Gatta)

From the camp 1, the route goes up along the Semenovsky glacier. Then it crosses an icefall which starts at 4,900 m, and passes under the exposed slopes of Peak Chapaev.

The icefall between camp 1 and 2 (© P. Gatta)
The icefall between camp 1 and 2 (© P. Gatta)

The camp 2 is above the icefall at around 5,300 m in a relatively safe zone.

Camp 2 and Peak Pobeda behind (© P. Gatta)
Camp 2 and Peak Pobeda behind (© P. Gatta)

From the camp 2, the route continues on easy snow slopes up toward the West Col. The West Col is at 5,900 m and the camp 3 is 50 meters below. There were around eight tents and two snow caves.

Philippe in camp 3 (© Y. Gosseaume)
Philippe in camp 3 (© Y. Gosseaume)

Above the camp 3, there are some steep ice/snow sections (max 60°) and the overall route follows the ridge on a mixed terrain. The crux is a short wall rated UK 5a at 6,700 m. Above, it is a snow ridge up to the top at 7,010 m.

Entering the Couloir at around 6,500 m (© P. Gatta)
Entering the Couloir at around 6,500 m (© P. Gatta)

Khan Tengri Express: expedition schedule

Here is the schedule:

Philippe on the top of Khan Tengri (© Y. Gosseaume)
Philippe on the top of Khan Tengri (© Y. Gosseaume)


Express ascent of Khan Tengri

Day 1: helicopter flight to Base Camp

We left the grassy camp of Karkara early in the morning and took a Mi-8 helicopter to the Khan Tengri base camp (BC). The 100 km flight was absolutely stunning with fantastic views over the Tian Shan range.

Heart Rate: 90 bpm, Oxygen saturation: 90%

Helicopter flying over the Khan Tengri base camp (© P. Gatta)
Helicopter flying over the Khan Tengri base camp (© P. Gatta)

Day 2: Base Camp (4,050 m) - Camp 1 (4,300 m) - Base Camp (4,050 m)

We left the base camp for a short acclimatization walk. We first went to the Tian Shan Travel base camp, 30 minutes away from our base camp, following a trail on an easy moraine. As we felt good, we decided to continue to the camp 1, walking on the huge South Inylchek glacier. There were a very few crevasse and most and them relatively small but there were several ice rivers difficult to cross. We reached the C1 in 2 hours from the BC. The C1 is located at the junction of the Semenovsky and Inylchek glaciers. There were 6.8 km of distance and around 300 meters of elevation gain between the BC and the C1.

BC-C1-BC: 13.5 km, +300 m / -300 m, 3h40.
Heart Rate: 80 bpm, Oxygen saturation: 90%

Crossing ice rivers on the South Inylchek glacier (© P. Gatta)
Crossing ice rivers on the South Inylchek glacier (© P. Gatta)

Day 3: Base Camp (4,050 m) - 4,750 m - Base Camp (4,050 m)

We left the base camp to carry some food, ropes and gear to the camp 1 (2 h). Then we continued half way to the camp 2, at around 4,750 m to see the famous icefall (1h30 from C1). Then we came back to the base camp.

BC-4,750 m-BC: 19 km, +750 m / -750 m, 6h10.
Heart Rate: 80 bpm, Oxygen saturation: 89%

looking South from the Semenovsky glacier (© P. Gatta)
Looking South from the Semenovsky glacier (© P. Gatta)

Day 4: Rest day at Base Camp (4,050 m)

It was snowing a bit. We had a rest day at the base camp, preparing the kit and gear for our ascent.

Heart Rate: 74 bpm, Oxygen saturation: 92%

Peak Pobeda from the base camp (© P. Gatta)
Peak Pobeda from the base camp (© P. Gatta)

Day 5: Base Camp (4,050 m) - Camp 1 (4,300 m)

As the weather forecast for the following days was good, we left the camp camp for our summit bid. We carried 20 kg pack with all our kit, gear and additional food. With this additional weight, it took us 2h30 to reach the camp 1. A short snow storm came in the afternoon but fortunately the sky cleared up later in the evening.

BC-C1: 6.8 km, +300 m, 2h30.
Heart Rate: 82 bpm, Oxygen saturation: 90%

Camp 1 after the snowfall (© Y. Gosseaume)
Camp 1 after the snowfall (© Y. Gosseaume)

Day 6: Camp 1 (4,300 m) - Camp 2 (5,300 m)

It took us 1h30 to be ready and we left the camp 1 at 4:30am. We took the load that we left 2 days ago in addition to what we carried the day before so we ended up with 25 kg pack. We were the last ones to leave the camp but we progressively passed most climbers before the icefall. Unfortunately 7 climbers were still ahead of us when we reached the 20 meters serac with a fixed rope. They were inexperienced and it took them 2 hours to climb the 20 meters of serac! During this time, we were all exposed to the serac and avalanche from the Peak Chapaev. After the serac, it took us 20 minutes to reach the camp 2, 6 h from C1 if we don't count the 2 h spent waiting.

C1-C2: 4.5 km, +1,050 m, 6h.
Heart Rate: 75 bpm, Oxygen saturation: 78%

Avalanche from the Peak Chapaev (© P. Gatta)
Avalanche from the Peak Chapaev (© P. Gatta)

Day 7: Camp 2 (5,300 m) - Camp 3 (5,850 m)

With a limited acclimatization and 1,000 m of elevation gain in a day, the night has not been very good. For once, we were the first team to leave the camp 2. Still carrying our 25 kg pack, we headed toward the camp 3 on gentle snow slopes. The temperatures quickly rose when the sun came and it was pretty warm when we reached the camp 3. The tents were set on shelf underneath the big serac of the West Col.

C2-C3: 1.75 km, +550 m, 2h40.
Heart Rate: 81 bpm, Oxygen saturation: 77%

Sunrise on Peak Chapaev (© P. Gatta)
Sunrise on Peak Chapaev (© P. Gatta)

Day 8: Camp 3 (5,850 m) - Khan Tengri Summit (7,010 m) - Camp 3 (5,850 m)

Most teams spend a night there at camp 3 to finish their first acclimatization trip before returning to the base camp. Then they go back up for the summit push after a couple of rest days. That is probably the best way to acclimatize but that also means making two round trips of 26 km and +2,000 m with huge pack... That also means going back and forth in the icefall and under the Chapaev slopes several times.

The moon over the Peak Chapaev (© P. Gatta)
The moon over the Peak Chapaev (© P. Gatta)

We decided up front to try to climb to the camp 3, spend a day or two there and continue straight to the summit if we could. Unfortunately the weather forecast was good for only 24 hours so we couldn't spend another day to rest as planned. On the other hand, we felt good and with an Oxygen saturation at 77% we decided to go for the summit.

First section of the Khan Tengri West ridge (© P. Gatta)
First section of the Khan Tengri West ridge (© P. Gatta)

We woke up at 3am but we were so slow, especially to melt snow, that we left the camp 3 only at 5am. We were the two last climbers to leave the camp.

Philippe in the upper slopes of Khan Tengri (© Y. Gosseaume)
Philippe in the upper slopes of Khan Tengri (© Y. Gosseaume)

We progressively passed several climbers. The weather was perfect, with a light wind, -25°C (windchill -31°C). We reached the top of Khan Tengri after 10 hours of climb.


View from the top of Khan Tengri (© P. Gatta)
View from the top of Khan Tengri (© P. Gatta)

We spent 30 minutes on the top and started the descent. With the numerous abseil it took us 4h40 minutes to get back to the camp 3.


In the upper Couloir at around 6,600 m (© P. Gatta)
In the upper Couloir at around 6,600 m (© P. Gatta)

Philippe abseiling down. The West Col and the trail to C3 can be seen far below (© Y. Gosseaume)
Philippe abseiling down. The West Col and the trail to C3 can be seen far below (© Y. Gosseaume)

C3-Summit: 2.5 km, +1,200 m, 10h.
Summit-C3: 2.5 km, -1,200 m, 4h40.

The log file of the decent (GPS track, altitude, speed...) recorded with a Suunto Ambit can been seen on Movescount.

Back on West Col at sunset (© P. Gatta)
Back on West Col at sunset (© P. Gatta)

Day 9: Camp 3 (5,850 m) - Base Camp (4,050 m)

We woke up at 4am after a short night of sleep and still tired by the 15 hours climb of the previous day. We packed everything, cleaned up the tent, gathered our rubbish and headed down.

Sunrise on Pobeda (© P. Gatta)
Sunrise on Pobeda (© P. Gatta)

We made a quick stop to the camp 2 to gather the extra food and rubbish we left there and continued our descent with big packs once again.

The Semenovsky glacier and bottle seen from camp 1 (© P. Gatta)
The Semenovsky glacier and "bottle" seen from camp 1 (© P. Gatta)

We made a last stop at camp 1 to pick up the gear left there too. We finally reached the base camp after 6 hours, right on time for the lunch.

C3-BC: 13 km, -1,900 m, 6h.

Sunset on Khan Tengri (© P. Gatta)
Sunset on Khan Tengri (© P. Gatta)

Day 10-12: return to France

After our return to the base camp the weather changed and it started snowing. With the fatigue of the ascent, the ridiculously small amount of food at base camp, the changing weather and the few days left, it was clear that we didn't have much chance to summit Podeba so we decided go back home. We waited for the helicopter a couple of days and went back to France in just a few days, thanks to a good logistic.

Stormy sky (© P. Gatta)
Stormy sky (© P. Gatta)

Photos Gallery of the Khan Tengri Expedition 2012

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The map of Khan Tengri expedition



Legend:
: camps.
: summit of Khan Tengri.
Colors: Khan Tengri SW route and the waypoints recorded with the SPOT Messenger GPS tracking.

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Khan Tengri weather forecast


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