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Matt Lemke
High on the Outdoors



Joined: 15 Jul 2010
Posts: 2042 | TRs | Pics
Location: Grand Junction
Matt Lemke
High on the Outdoors
PostMon Dec 27, 2021 10:48 am 
Note: Eric made an excellent trip reports you can see about his successful ascents on Lenin, Khan Tengri and Pobeda Better late than never...I have been putting off writing this because it was both a tough and rewarding trip where I learned a lot about myself. With the last bit of spare time I have during the holidays, it's time I got this written. Even though I did not summit any 7000 meter peaks I had an experience that will never be forgotten, and I will surely be back to climb some of the obscure mountains rarely sought after. My trip report will come in a three part series, since I am lazy and can't write everything in one go. Be sure to check out Eric's reports linked above to see his perspective. Part 1 - Lenin Arrival and Peak Petrowski Part 2 - Yuhin Peak and Lenin Attempt Part 3 - Khan Tengri Attempt At the end of June this year, I took a series of long flights to the city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan in the southern part of the landlocked country in late June this year. Thankfully I was able to get the whole series of flights for free using my Delta miles which saved some 1000 dollars! Layovers in New York City, Amsterdam, and Moscow broke the long journey up into manageable legs. Amazingly, the only requirement to enter Kyrgyzstan amidst all the Covid BS was a vaccine card. No visa, no special paperwork, no BS. Arriving in Osh, we quickly went through the line for passport checks, grabbed our bags, and located our pre-arranged ride from Fortune Tours to take us to our hotel. This was the company we decided to go with for minimal logistics for Lenin, since we wanted to be largely independent, having the freedom to choose where we camped or ate each night at the various base camps. They were reasonably priced for the transportation and one of our team members had used them before. It was obvious that many other people on this flight were mountaineers, mainly from Russia also headed to Lenin. We chatted with a couple of them (whoever spoke some English) as we loaded into the van. It was here that Eric and I met up with Andreas (from Denmark) and Krystian (from Poland) who would be two additional members of our team. Andrew who is from New York would meet us at base camp since he had arrived a few days earlier. Osh was a city unlike any I had seen before, as this was to be my first trip to this part of the world. The culture here is heavily influenced by both Russian, and Muslim groups. The people spoke Russian, but the majority of them were of Muslin faith which heavily affected the architecture and looked like nothing I had seen in other parts of the world. Once we arrived at the hotel we pretty much immediatey took a nap, then went to dinner at a nearby resturant in the evening. Back in the states, we began to realize that a historic heatwave was baking the northwest, with Seattle looking to be over 110 degrees! We were happy not to be there. The time difference was exactly 12 hours from Denver where I originally left from. We planned to waste no time starting our trip though, and scheduled our ride all the way to the Lenin base camp the following day. I went to bed early but woke up early to take an early walk around the city, and hike up the hill in the center of town called Sulayman-Too, a peak with 439 feet of prominence. A cemetary flanks the lower slopes of the hill, with a museum along the ridge near the top. A paved path follows near the ridgecrest for a mile or so, however reaching the highest point actually involved one short low 5th class section about 5 feet tall. Initially I scrambled up to another highpoint, but realized the one next to it was higher so I climbed up there and was greeted with panoramic views of the entire city. With the cloudcover, and another smaller mountain range between the city, and the Pamir range further south I could not see Lenin. I had the place to myself as much of the city was still sleeping at this early 6am hour.
Highpoint of Sulayman-Too
Highpoint of Sulayman-Too
Mosque on the slopes of the hill below
Mosque on the slopes of the hill below
View from the trail
View from the trail
Osh from the trail
Osh from the trail
Highpoint from adjacent peak
Highpoint from adjacent peak
Osh from the summit
Osh from the summit
Summit views south
Summit views south
The crux 5th class slab
The crux 5th class slab
I made the walk back to the hotel and joined the rest of the team for a big breakfast provided by the hotel. This is when we found out that the most popular dish in Kyrgyzstan is cucumber and tomato slices with a vinaigrette dressing, which I initially thought was really good, but after a few weeks it definitely got old. I really liked how much eggs they eat for breakfast there however, I I may or may not have had over a dozen! About 11am our van arrived to pick us up to take us to the Lenin Base camp, which was a 6-7 hour drive through some grogeous and rugged mountainous terrain. The mountain pass tops out at 3600 meters and at the top we finally got our first glimpses of the Pamir range to the south which was jaw dropping. We stopped in the small village of Sary-Tash for a late lunch of chicken and steak before leaving the paved road and starting the long dirt road south towards Lenin. The road was wet and muddy and on a few occations we almost got stuck since the large vans only had rear wheel drive. Eventually we made it though and were dropped off in a stunning valley filled with yurts and towering vistas. There were 4-5 different base camp operations with Fortune Tours camp being the last one, closest to the mountain. Each camp was only a 5-10 minute walk apart though so it was like a small village in the wide mountain valley. Towering above to the right side of the valley was the popular acclimitization peak scramble, with a snow capped wall of mountains to the south blocking Kyrgyzstan from Tajikistan. Peak Lenin occationally became visible through the clouds with its prominent summit and Peak Yedisntva was prominent off to the left. We got settled in to one of the yurts and organized our massive amounts of gear. We went to sleep shortly after it got dark to a large group of Russians playing mustic and drinking (typical for them haha). The next morning we decided to hike up Peak Petrowski as an acclimitization hike. Heading west from our base camp we initially headed straight up the steep grassy/scree slopes until we hot the long north ridge which encircled the western side of the base camp valley. Views looking down really gave a good idea as to how large the valley was, and we could see each of the individual camps. Since the weather had started out quite bad in the beginning of the summer season, there was a lot of fresh snow covering the mountains all the way down to about 4200 meters, where it abruptly transitioned into bare ground below. With base camp at 3600 meters, it did not take very long to ascend into the snow.
Our base camp at Fortune Tours
Our base camp at Fortune Tours
Peak Petrowski above camp
Peak Petrowski above camp
Lenin through the clouds
Lenin through the clouds
Peak Yedinstva to the east of Lenin
Peak Yedinstva to the east of Lenin
Peak Petrowski
Peak Petrowski
Peak Leninn on a clear morning
Peak Leninn on a clear morning
Starting up the slopes to Petrowski
Starting up the slopes to Petrowski
Multiple base camps visible
Multiple base camps visible
Unnamed Peak 4724m across the valley
Unnamed Peak 4724m across the valley
Cresting the north ridge
Cresting the north ridge
View up towards Petrowski
View up towards Petrowski
Traversing below some cliffs
Traversing below some cliffs
As we ascended the ridge, we started walking on the snow as the terrain got a little rougher. We had to traverse below and around a cliff section and ascend a steep snow gully which involved some deep postholing. I left my gaiters at base camp like an idiot so Eric broke trail through this section and soon enough we climbed into the clouds. We reached a false summit at 4730m where Eric, Andreas and I stopped for a quick rest and to inspect the weather. It was getting pretty cloudy and soon we were completely socked in. After about 15 minutes of waiting around we heard a clap of thunder and quickly high tailed it off of the little highpoint we were standing on. Eric and Andreas bombed down the snow gully but I wanted to wait a bit more, since there would be plenty of daylight left. I stood right at the top for another 30 minutes before yellowing down I was going to continue onwards. The weather seemed to be clearing a bit too. There were also a handful of other people from various groups now headed up and passed me as I waited (non english speakers). I quickly caught up with them and was able to make quick time up to the final slope leading to the summit area. I started breaking trail up the last few hundred feet of fresh and deep snow before Eric and Andreas took over to switch off. The final ridge to the summit was a steep narrow snow arete, and just as we reached the summit, the weather cleared substantially. We had timed it peffectly and had glorious views of the whole approach to Lenin down below us and a great view of Lenin itself.
Clouds rolling in
Clouds rolling in
Scrambling terrain on Petrowski north ridge above
Scrambling terrain on Petrowski north ridge above
Scenic ridgewalking
Scenic ridgewalking
Ascending steep snow gully
Ascending steep snow gully
Subpeak we waited on
Subpeak we waited on
Continuing towards summit
Continuing towards summit
Clearing out
Clearing out
Ascending final slopes towards summit
Ascending final slopes towards summit
View towards Lenin from summit
View towards Lenin from summit
From the summit we could see the slightly higher Peak Petrowski another half mile to the west, but we were happy calling it at the 4829 meter east summit. Yuhin Peak was visible off to the southwest, which would be our second acclimitization hike later on. Generally I feel pretty good below 4800 meters and I was happy not to notice the elevation too much despite having come from near sea level just a few days earlier. We enjoyed the views for a solid half hour as other parties topped out as well. Krystian made it as well, who started a bit after us from base camp and took a longer route around to the end of the ridge further north. As the clouds looked they were going to start building up again, we started back down as a team of 4. The hike back down to base camp went real quick and we were back in time for a late lunch. The base camp operations were quite impressive. Each camp cooked 3 meals a day for their clients, although some were definitely better than others. The meals at Fortune Tours were generally good and typically included eggs which I appreciated, but the quantities were nowhere near enough. We would later stay at both the Central Asia Travel and Ak-Sai base camps and they generally included more food at the Lenin base camp. The best quality base camp was definitely Central Asia Travel though, as their yellow tents were arranged very nicely in a circle with large grassy area for everyone to gather in. Each tent has electricity with a small heater, light and cots to sleep in. Their eating area were well decorated heated yurts, with an additional yurt filled with games. Warm showers and flushable toilets were also available. None of the other base camps had anything like this. For people ike us who were buying everything a la carte, each meal cost $10, a night in a tent was $20 (split with one other person since each tent fit 2) and I think the shower was $5. Having lots of cash was definitely a necessity. Hiring the full package from one of the agencies meant you were stuck using their services the entire time, but bouncing around we were at the whim of availability regarding tents. Generally they always were able to provide us meals though. Overall we felt it was better to be flexible and not pay for a full package for Lenin base and advance base camps, however now that I am familiar with all of them, I would get the Central Asia Travel full package if I were to go back, since their advanced base camp is also closest to the start of the route on the glacier (more about this in part 2) and their base camp had the best service.
Yuhin Peak from Petrowski
Yuhin Peak from Petrowski
Higher west summit of Petrowski
Higher west summit of Petrowski
Pamir Range vistas
Pamir Range vistas
Party on the summit
Party on the summit
As we made our way back to our base camp at Fortune Tour (see the map below for an overview of each base camp location in the valley), we took a rest day the following day to explore other camps and rest. The sunrise the next morning was the first real bright and clear morning we had and the suns rays hitting Lenin were truly a spectacle to behold. I was feeling ready to start the hike up to advanced base camp (Camp 1) and we organized all our gear. We were able to leave extra gear in the Fortune Tours storage area, and began the hike up the trail to advanced base camp which sits at 4500 meters. Everything seemed to be going well, and I was feeling pretty good throughout this first 5-6 days of the trip.
Overview of the Lenin Base camps
Overview of the Lenin Base camps
Fresh snow on all the peaks
Fresh snow on all the peaks
Descending Petrowski in clear weather
Descending Petrowski in clear weather
Descending Petrowski
Descending Petrowski
Returning to the sub-peak
Returning to the sub-peak
Pamir Range
Pamir Range
Looking back at the cliffy area
Looking back at the cliffy area
Back at the bottom
Back at the bottom
Central Asia Travel base camp
Central Asia Travel base camp
Lenin at sunrise
Lenin at sunrise
Central Asia Base Camp
Central Asia Base Camp
Fortune Tours Base Camp
Fortune Tours Base Camp
Sunrise over Petrowski Peak
Sunrise over Petrowski Peak
Map of the route up Peak Petrowski
To be continued...

The Pacific coast to the Great Plains = my playground!!! SummitPost Profile See my website at: http://www.lemkeclimbs.com

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BuzyG
BuzyG



Joined: 23 Jan 2020
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Location: Cornwall UK
BuzyG
BuzyG
PostMon Jan 10, 2022 8:23 am 
Another Amazing trip and another amazing trip report Matt. up.gif I don't much post on here, but I do enjoy reading your reports from time to time. Ever since I flew over mt cook when you were down there there climbing it in 2019. Keep on enjoying the mountains.

Born again climber after 40 years away surfing.
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mbravenboer
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Joined: 20 Oct 2013
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mbravenboer
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PostMon Jan 10, 2022 11:47 am 
FWIW, I really enjoyed this report too and looking forward to part 2 smile.gif .

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OwenT
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Joined: 24 May 2014
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Location: Moses Lake
OwenT
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PostTue Jan 11, 2022 11:35 am 
Matt, I always enjoy seeing your reports. You've been so many places. Where has your favorite trip been outside of PNW? Outside of N America?

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Sadie's Driver
Sadie's Driver



Joined: 24 Apr 2006
Posts: 1760 | TRs | Pics
Location: Welcome Pass
Sadie's Driver
Sadie's Driver
PostTue Jan 18, 2022 4:55 pm 
So glad you made this trip, Matt. Now when I make my trip to Kyrgyzstan (not to scale any 7,000 meter peaks!) I can ask YOUR advice. Love your pictures. Whether you summited or not, you had a trip almost no one gets to experience! Can't wait for the next installments.

Four-paw buddy lets me tag along!
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