(In the foto to the right) Przhevalsk city
(In the foto to the left) Karacol region from helicopter flight
This region lies on the northern buttresses of the Terksey Alatau range, the slopes of which run down to Issyk Kul Lake, The Karacol alpine camp is on the banks of a river with lovely clear water that is shaded by blue fir trees, at the end of a practicable road from the town of Przheval'sk. The camp is dominated by an amphitheatre of mountains with two splendid peaks over 5,000 meters high - Kara-colskly (5,281m), with seven routes rated from 4B to 5B, and Dzhigit (The Horseman, 5,170 m), with twelve routes, ten of which are rated 5 and 6. These routes all take from three to five days to climb.
(In the foto to the right) North face of peak Dzhigit
Mt. Djigit North face
The Route up Albatros Peak (4,720 m, 2B)
(In the foto to the left) Play a gitar in this mountains!
From the Karacol base camp, head southeast, in the wild and fascinating Kel-Tor valley. Here the first two and-a-half hour walk is through meadows brimming with edelweiss, then the
tracks of the path disappear and you must proceed amongst large massive rocks two or three meters high. In the second part of the course, the low-lying terrain of the upper part of the valley is often covered with water in the summer. In the end you reach the Dzhigit glacier; on the western side of the moraine there is a nice spot for bivouacking dominated by the impressive northern face of Mt. Dzhigit (4-6 hours).
(In the foto to the right) After Djigit peak climbing
From the bivouac, cross the glacier eastwards (I hour) and then head southeast, in the direction of Epiur pass (4,250 m), which is easily distinguishable among the Dzhigit group and Albatros peak (4,720 m). It is better to tackle the climb in the direction of the pass through the right-hand part of the slope, between Albatros peak and the little rock ridge. Rope, crampons, ice axes and ice pitons are necessary. Normally the glacier is covered with snow. In the upper part there is a terminal crevasse that can be crossed over easily by keeping to the middle. It takes about three or four hours to reach the pass. Then you go up along the southwestern ridge; for the first 300 meters you are on snow, and then you must climb up rock to the top (1 1/2-2 hours from the pass). The panorama is splendid. The descent follows the same route and takes about 3 hours. The long eastern ridge of Mt. Dzhigit with its many cornices winds westwards from Epiur pass. This is a long and difficult route (3A) that takes more than a day to cover, so you must bring along all your bivouac equipment as well as ice axes, crampons, ice screws and rope.
(In the foto to the left) The climber and the judges in the Karakolskiy camp
(In the foto to the right) The North face of Karacolskiy peak.
Mt. Karacolskiy North face
Terskey Ala-Too range
The "Elephant's Trunk" on Slonenok (Little Elephant)
Peak (4,726 m, 4A) From the Karacol valley base camp, go southwards in the On-Tor valley. Continue for the first hour in a lovely forest of the typical Tien Shan pines which are up to forty meters high, and then proceed for two hours through meadows covered with edelweiss in the direction of the On-Tor glacier. The entire route is dominated by the forbidding northern face of Karacolskiy Peak (5,281 m), which is imprisoned in the ice. When you are almost at the end of the glacier, turn right. Then you have to look for the passage on the moraine that will take you up to the top of the glacier. Continue for about an hour on the plateau until you reach a little moraine opposite Karacolskiy Peak where you can set up camp. This is an excellent lockout over the entire region. East of Karacolskiy are Slonenok (Little Elephant, 4,726 m), Festivalnaya (4,500 m) and the mountain top that closes off the valley, Dzhigit (5,170 m), with its two famous northern and northwestern faces.
(In the foto to the left) To get relaxation with the view on the North face of peak Slonenok
Mt. Slonenok owes its name to its shape, which vaguely resembles an elephants profile.
(In the foto to the right) North face of peak Slonenok
Here there are many fine routes: Perednjaya Lapa (Front Paw) (the middle of the northwestern face, 5A.) and Zadnjaya Lapa (Back Paw) (the northwestern spur) are a perfect combination of elegant climbs on ice and rock; they are difficult but can be done in one day. The easiest route, Khvost Slona (Elephant's Tail, 3B), is not recommendable because of the extremely dangerous avalanches.
The classical route is the eastern ridge, Khobot Slona (Elephant's Trunk). From the bivouac on the On-Tor glacier it takes about an hour to arrive at the starting point, on the left-hand side of the mountain. The first part is the most difficult. It begins with a climb up rock that is necessary in order to avoid the icefall to the right. This is a 200-300-meter climb up steep rock; you need a hammer, pitons, a helmet and rope. You come out onto a broad slope with a 25-30° incline and continue in the direction of the col between Mt. Slonenok and Festivalnaya, In the summer this slope is usually covered with a lot of snow and the path is a sort of trench, so that you must use an ice axe as an aid and keep to the left to avoid the risk of the frequent snow-slides coming from the northwestern face of the group. The route takes three or four hours up to the pass, depending on the condition of the snow. From the pass, go up towards the top via the steep snow and ice ridge called the Trunk. You will need ice screws, crampons, rope and ice axes; it is advisable to use two ice axes per person. It takes about four hours to reach the top from the pass. From here the view is breathtaking: the On-Tor valley, the northern face of Karacolskiy, the Oguz-Bashi group, the western ridge of Dzhigit and, in the distance to : the north, Lake Issyk-Kul if the visibility is good, while to the south you can see, amidst the haze, the grandiose pyramid of Khan-Tengri. You go down by the same route by rappelling (3-4 hours to the glacier, a half hour to the bivouac).
(In the foto to the left) Western face of Mt. Dzhigit
The Western Ridge of Mt. Dzhigit (5,1 70 m, 4A)
(In the foto to the right) Western face of peak Dzhigit
From the On-Tor glacier camp you can take a very pleasant route to the Kel-Tor valley. Head southeast towards On-Tor pass. You will need rope and ice axes. It takes about 2-3 hours to go up to the pass and another 1-2 hours to go down into the valley.
The route is dominated by the northern face of Mt. Dzhigit. From the On-Tor valley it looks like a pyramid, while from the Kel-Tor valley it appears as a very wide rock and ice massif. This is the side where the most difficult routes begin (6A), It takes three hours to get back to the camp. The route on the western ridge of Dzhigit begins halfway between the camp and On-Tor pass. On the ridge that connects Dzhigit to Mt. Festivalnaya a snow ridge stands out clearly; this ridge descends to the On-Tor glacier, where the first part of the route runs. For the most part this route goes over snow and ice, so that rope, ice axes and ice screws are necessary. In the first part you have two equally interesting alternatives. To get to the snow ridge you can go over a rocky section that is not too difficult (pitons, a hammer and a helmet are needed), or you can go to the left around the spur and climb up 1OO meters of steep snow and ice (here you will need ice screws and perhaps an ice axe or two and an ice hammer). The snow ridge is quite long, going over a mixed rock and ice terrain, up to the crest. You come out on a small plateau, where you can bivouac. Here you can leave all your gear and go up to the top with a light rucksack. Keep to the left of the wide crest. For the last 100-200 meters the crest narrows, with large cornices on both sides, so you must be very careful. It takes about four or five hours to get to the top from the bivouac and another two hours to descend; these times may vary according to the condition of the snow and your acclimatisation to the high altitude here. It takes another four or five hours to descend along the ridge from the bivouac to the valley.
(In the foto to the left) Karakolskiy peak
(In the foto to the right) The North face of Karacolskiy peak.
The Western Ridge of Karacolskiy Peak (5,281 m, 4B)
Start off from the On-Tor glacier bivouac and head southwest towards Dzheti-Oguz pass. Before arriving at the col, you must go over a steep ice wall; leave early to avoid rock slides. Once on the pass, head east and go up along the gentle snow slope to the ridge in the direction of the shoulder, which is ideal for bivouacking (4,500 m, 2 hours from the pass). From here you can go up to the top and descend again, leaving behind your camp gear. The view of the surrounding mountains and Lake Issyk Kul is simply fantastic. The snow and ice ridge continues up to the summit; the route is steep only for about 100 meters in the middle, where you will have to climb and need ice screws. Then cross over easy gullies up to the top. The descent, with rappels in the steeper parts, takes from two to three hours.
(In the foto to the left) Dzheti-Oguz walley
DZHETI -OGUZ area
(In the foto to the right) The North face of Oguz-Bashi
Mt. Oguz-Bashi. North face
In the Kyrgyz language, Dzheti-Oguz means "seven bulls," a name related to the legend concerning the rocky red pillars that stand out at the beginning of the valley, The massif, which is not far from the Karacol region, rises up on the northern buttresses of the Terksey Alatau range.
The area consists of two valleys, the Dzheti-Oguz and the Baytor, that intersect in a wooded zone where the road ends (the road can be negotiated by off-road vehicles). Here you can set up your base camp, which will be the starting point for the climbs up Oguz-Bashi, Armstrong (4,909 m), and Baytor (4,700 m), where there are lovely snow and ice routes. The highest peak in the region is Oguz-Bashi (Bull's Ficad, 3,168 m), with three 5-6 rated routes on its faces. You can get here from the city of Przheval'sk by way of the road parallel to the one that leads to the Karacol region.
(In the foto to the left) on the top of Karakolskiy peak
(In the foto to the right) Karakolskiy peak from the valley
(In the central foto) in the Karakolskiy camp view to the east - Karbyshev peak
To be continued...