Michel Krol, Poland
Pik Vernyi (5,250m), north summit, Cztery Pory Roku.
On August 13 and14 Andrzej Sokołowski and I established a new route on the north summit of Pik Vernyi. We had attempted this line in 2009, but near the end of the major difficulties, I was hit on the shoulder by a large chunk of ice that damaged ligaments.
In 2011 we traveled as before from Bishkek, but when seven km from base camp, the vehicle got stuck in a river. After extracting it the driver stated there was not enough fuel to go farther, so we lost a day carrying gear to base camp. After a rest we established an advanced base on the Kyzyl Asker Glacier and the next day climbed the first three pitches of our proposed line, to check conditions and acclimatize. The ice was good. We rappelled and returned to base.
Three days later we started up the face. An initial 120m, 50°icefield led to the face proper and the first ice runnel. In 2009 we had climbed more to the left, but now we were able to make a direct start. Two long pitches of WI4+ and 4 led to the first icefield. This was glassy and although only WI3 made our calves hurt by the time we’d reached the top. Here we rejoined the line of our 2009 attempt. A 30m pitch of WI3+ led to a chimney system. I led the next pitch and sweatily managed to reach the belay (M7 WI5). Andrzej led the next pitch (M6). We chopped off the bolt belays here as they were partly covered in ice and damaged. Four pitches of WI4 and 5 took us to another small icefield. Down to the right we cut out a shelf and bivouacked, sitting in our sleeping bags. The night was starry and frosty, ideal weather.
Next day we climbed from the icefield (WI4) and reached an off-width, our high point of 2009. Andrzej was unable to lead the crack free, having to rest on a Camalot 6. There was no time to repeat the pitch, but we estimate this crux passage as M8- 1pa.
There were no more bolts from our previous attempt, but the climbing was easier. We climbed four pitches, up to M4 and UIAA IV+, to reach the crest of the north ridge and continued on easy ground. Below the north summit we ate and left most of our gear. We reached this foresummit (5,150-5,200m) with thick clouds forming and the sound of thunder. We were probably no more than half an hour of easy scrambling/walking from the true summit but, worried about lightning on this exposed crest, decided to skip it. We descended quickly to our gear and rappelled three successive 100m couloirs on the east face. At 11 p.m. we started down a steep, complex glacier and eventually reached advanced base.
We named the route Cztery Pory Roku (Four Seasons, M8- 1 rest point, WI5, UIAA IV+). The first 12 pitches have bolted belays. The sixth pitch has two bolts for protection, the seventh one, the eighth two, and the 13th a bolt and a piton. The weather was good throughout the expedition. It only snowed on two nights.
Editor’s Note: This route lies on the north face, which drops 700m from north summit to glacier. It finishes via the upper section of the 2002 British route on the north ridge. The new line lies well left of the 2010 Swiss route, No Shachlik, and the 2009 Belorussian-Russian route, the latter incorrectly marked in AAJ 2011.