THE ZAALAIYSKIY RANGE (map).


Alay valley
(In the foto to the left) Alay crest and Alay valley.
The Kyrgyz shepherds customarily consider the green carpet of the Alai valley the best summer pastureland for their flocks. This is a wide valley on both sides of the Kyzylsu (Red Water) river that is almost deserted and dotted with yurts and divides two impressive mountain chains, the Pamir-Alai to the north and the Zaalaiyskiy to the south.
One hundred and fifty kilometres long, the Zaalaiyskiy mountain range culminates in the middle of the white mass of Lenin Peak, the second 7,000 meter peak in the Pamirs after Mt. Communism. It was discovered in 1871 by the explorer Fedchenko, who was also the first person in modern times to furnish information concerning this region. In 1928 the USSR
Academy of Science sponsored the systematic exploration of Pamir, Some German mountaineers who took part in the expedition tried to climb up Lenin Peak via the southern side along the Saukdara glacier, through the present-day Krilenko Pass (5,820 m) and then along the eastern ridge.
On 28 September 1934 E. Allvein, K. Vin and E, Schneider came out of the col at 5,820 meters altitude, went up to the top and went down again to 5,200 m the same day. Two of the climbers had frost-bitten feet. But because there was no documentation of their achievement and the time they claimed for their ascent and descent seemed suspect, it was never recognised. Again in 1934, the three Soviet alpinists K. Chernukha, V. Abalakov and 1. Lukin opened the route on the northern side, through the Lipkin rocks, starting off from the Achik-Tash plateau. They left a cone of rocks as proof of their ascent. Lenin peak
(In the foto to the right) Lenin peak from the Camp 1.
Today there are sixteen routes on the icy slopes of Lenin Peak - seven on the northern side and nine on the southern one. The most frequented ones are those that start off from the Pamir base camp of Achik-Tash (3,700 m). The approach to this camp is quite easy by helicopter - 40 minutes from the city of Osh. Going there by bus is more tiring but quite rewarding. It is an eight to ten hour trip over the large fertile valley dominated by the scintillating mountain peaks, amidst flocks of sheep, herds of horses and groups of shepherds in their characteristic yurts. The Achik-Tash camp can be reached in late evening.
It was built in 1974 and consists of four long rows of already pitched tents and various small wooden buildings with the administrative office, infirmary, kitchens, a sort of combination library-reading room, two saunas, showers, a cafe and a large dining hall where typical Russian cuisine is served. There is even a wood-burning oven with a curious round shape in which the local bread is baked - tasty flat bread that is good to eat by itself. This is the only such camp in the Pamirs; it is used as a base both for the climb up Lenin Peak and for acclimatisation before attempting the ascent of Mt. Communism. Because of the bad weather in this area, the camp is open only from July 5 to August 20. There is a daily helicopter service from Osh to the camp that can take both persons and equipment to Camp I of Lenin Peak.

Lenin group from North side.
(In the foto to the right) Climbing up the North face of Lenin peak.
Lenin peak (7134 m) is a snow covered massif rising up in the middle of Zaalaiyskiy mountain range. It is the second 7000 meters peak after Communism peak. It has a lot of routes to climb on, but the most easy classical route via Razdelnaya (6148 m) peak is not too complicated and possibly climbed by ski-tour with breathtaking descent down. The best season for climbing is July - August.Classical routes 5A.
The Route up Lenin Peak (7,134 m, 5A)
This is a very long route that is quite difficult because of the high altitude and the very real danger of slides, avalanches and the extremely variable weather conditions.
From the base camp, go up the entire green plateau until you reach the beginning of the mud and ice path that climbs up towards Puteshestvennikov Pass (4,100 m). Then descend again via the stone and ice valley to the right where the climb up the Lenin glacier begins. The incline is not steep, but the altitude is already 4,000 meters. Camp 1 (4,200 m) is situated on the glacier moraine facing the impressive face of Lenin Peak (6-8 hours). Cross the flat glacier again and go right up the face until you are at 4,800 m. The face may have a lot of crevasses and there is often a permanent rope there. Then the route proceeds to the southwest up to 5,300 meters. Here you descend for a while and then climb up again for about 200 meters until you reach camp 2 (5,200 m). In good weather conditions this part of the route is often quite fatiguing because of the heat (6-8 hours). Camp 2 is close to a very steep snow rib that takes you to an altitude of 5,800 meters on the ridge. Proceed along the ridge until you are facing Mt. Razdelnaya (6,148 m). The climb up this mountain is risky because of the blocks of snow that break off from the slope, especially after snowfalls, which often occur even in summertime. Camp 3 (6,100 m) is in the little col under Mt. Razdelnaya (6 hours).
(In the foto to the right) The slopes of Lenin peak between Camp 1 and Camp 2.
The route continues up to the top (10 hours) along the western ridge of Lenin Peak, which is often subject to such strong winds that the climb is impossible to make. Some guides say it is best to bivouac at 6,800 meters: often on the return trip climbers are so tired that a stop at that altitude is necessary. The equipment needed consists of crampons, ski poles, an ice axe (which is often necessary between camp 3 and the summit), and some rope for belaying if required when crossing over the crevasses. At the beginning of the season both going up and descending on skis is quite pleasant, as the descent along the glacier is really lovely and the skis will prevent you from sinking into deep snow during your return to camp 1.
The descent takes two days. The first person to descend on skis was V. Sulocv. In 1974 his feat was repeated by two Austrians, G. Ignaz and A. Schoen and three Frenchmen, 1. Moran, M. Berkheat and B, Germain, who were the first to ski down the entire northern face.
Now with hang gliding and paragliders the descent of Lenin Peak is much briefer -3,^00 m in only fifteen or twenty minutes!

To be continued...