Leader: Rob Smith
Rob and the team have flown from Khan Tengri base camp this morning and will head back to Karakol today.
The team are safely back at the North Inylchek Base Camp after an epic adventure on Khan Tengri. We gave it our best, climbing hard day after day, but in the end we were denied a summit bid due to bad weather.
We got used to the 4am starts, melting snow in the dark, forcing down breakfast before collapsing and packing up the iced-up tents into loads for another day of hard climbing.
The route to Camp 1 seemed straightforward, and we made good time, arriving to find the last available tent platform on the narrow ridge of a campsite. Above Camp 1 we climbed 900m on steep snow slopes and negotiated rocky ridges plastered in hard ice. Camp 2 sits on a snowy shoulder much more accommodating than the cramped Camp 1 and with spectacular views.
From Camp 2 every type of terrain was ascended, steep snow, narrow aretes, rock bands needing delicate balancing of crampon front points on thin edges. To reach Camp 3 at 5850m, we had to climb over the shoulder of Mount Chapeyev at 6100m. Probing our way down in reduced visibility, felt like descending into the belly of the beast. Abseiling over a serac adding to the commitment. A lone unoccupied tent appeared out of the cloud, confirming we had reached Camp 3. We pitched our tent, now a well-practiced routine, before the wind picked up. We rested and hydrated, hoping the wind would blow through by midnight, our summit bid now only hours away. At midnight the snow was blasting on the tent, and when I opened the door, a maelstrom of wind and spindrift blasted into my face just to confirm the atrocious conditions.
Alarms set for 1am, 2am, 3am and so on, saw no change. It was light by 5am and visibility no more than a few metres in the blowing snow. When the wind finally abated, we needed a plan. It was too late to go for the summit, and a checked weather forecast predicted a lot of fresh snow. This was not how things were meant to go. We decided to descend to Camp 2, rather than get stuck in the belly of the beast. But there was no beast, merely a beautiful, formidable mountain, and weather that didn’t match our forecast. Slopes out of the col could easily become loaded with snow, fixed ropes buried, cutting off our route from the mountain. We reached Camp 2 at 10pm, glad to be a little lower, and made camp again before the snow started. All was quiet the next morning, a layer of fresh snow blanketing the tent. Once shook off from inside, the familiar hiss of fresh snowfall filled the silence. Outside it was difficult to move, snow spilling over the top of our high boot gaiters. Knee deep at least, the collapsed tents with broken poles testament to the volume of snow that had fallen.
Once again, we planned to descend before conditions cut us off. Aspect, angle, elevation. Dynamic snowpack and slope assessments as we went. Pulling ropes out of the snow, digging for anchors, we laboriously down climbed. Alex from Camp 2 and Kaleb from Camp 1 joined the group, safety in numbers. Below Camp 1 the route was unrecognisable. We picked our route off and reached the edge of the glacier at the base of the mountain with relief.
Arriving back in Base Camp seemed a world away from our recent mountain world. Concentration no longer needed for every move, maintaining the balance between risk of moving and staying in position. So now we see the summit from afar, we did not reach that point. But we are all the richer and more appreciative for the experiences we faced and came through together. Jon and Lisa have well and truly pushed their comfort zones and surpassed their expectations on a most challenging mountain. Khan Tengri we will remember these days.
Rob and the Khan Tengri team.
The team returned triumphant to Osh yesterday and are relaxing and enjoying the city life, before they catch their flight to Bishkek on the 3rd August. They will then transfer to Karakol the same day and eventually to Karaka, where the helipad is located. They plan to helicopter to Khan Tengri base camp on the 5th Aug.
We can see from the tracker that they team have successfully made their summit bid this morning leaving from Camp 3 at 00:26hrs and reaching the summit at around 09:36hrs local time. Well done to all the team. They arrived back at camp 3 at 13:50hrs. We are awaiting a call from Rob to find out how things went for the team. Tomorrow they will clear down to ABC and make plans to head back to Osh to then move over to Khan Tengri.
Rob has sent an update from ABC on Lenin:
We are resting well back at Advanced Base Camp, after our acclimatisation rotation. It was great to spend 2 nights on the mountain after all the hard work and last minute preparations to get us here.
There is a lot less snow on the lower mountain than in 2014, when I was last here. The glacier is steeper and there are now some fixed ropes in place. Leaving ABC at 5am we picked out way over scree covered ridges and crossed a dry side glacier as the sky brightened. We reached the fixed ropes as a big group were at various stages working their way up. We made good progress passing the group from Turkey, chatting as we went. Roping up above the fixed ropes we followed the trail and weaved through the crevasses, gaining height. We crossed the ‘frying pan’, a snow bowl which catches the midday sun and can stifle with heat, before the sun was too high and reached Camp 2 at 11am.
We dug platforms and pitched tents in the snow before we settled in and spent the rest of the day melting snow and relaxing. The following day we had another early start and climbed to Camp 3 at 6100m. The camp gives great views and the summit looks so much closer than lower on the mountain. We spent 1 hour acclimatising to the new altitude before returning to Camp 2, passing many climbers on their way up in the building heat.
We are now looking forward to getting back on the mountain, leaving early tomorrow morning, weather permitting. This morning we will be sorting gear and food for the summit rotation, before an early night and an Alpine start tomorrow.
The Tracker will be on each day so you can follow our progress.
Rob, Jon, Lisa, David & Simon.
The following images are from Rob
and these images are from David Miko:
The team have spent time acclimatising at ABC and have had a referesher of glacial skills, jumaring and abseiling. Tommorrow the team are planning to move to Camp 2 for a couple of nights.
Rob messaged yesterday to say the team had arrived at base camp and that all was well. Today they have completed their acclimatisation walk to 4200m and are now back at base camp. If the group are feeling good, then they will move up to ABC tomorrow.
Tomorrow the team will depart the UK for Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. After an early morning arrival they will continue on their journey to, the second largest city, Osh. The team will make their final preparations in Osh and then take a 6 hour road trip to Peak Lenin Base Camp, Achik-Tash.
Stu Peacock is a very experienced high altitude mountaineer who has been to the Summit of Everest, Broad Peak, Cho Oyu, Manaslu and climbed on K2. His other expeditions include: Ama Dablam, Peak Lenin, Aconcagua, Khan Tengri, Tien Shan Unclimbed, Korzhenevskaya, Himlung Himal, Baruntse, Mera & Island Peak, Alpamayo, Bolivian Peaks, Spantik, Carstensz Pyramid, Elbrus, Mt Kenya and Kilimanjaro. He was the first Brit to summit Everest via the North Ridge 3 times and has climbed Everest from both the North & South sides.