By Cati Llado and Tomeu Rubi, Mallorca, Spain
Rakhmat (5,144m), north face and northeast ridge; Pik 4,887m, west face and south ridge; Tushunbodum (5,081m), north face.
Armed with much useful information provided by Mike Royer after his expedition to the region in 2010 (AAJ 2011), we traveled from Mallorca to Bishkek, arriving July 14. Two days later we started our long road trip to the mountains in the company of Alex Brighton and Richard Tremellen, with whom we would share base camp. The 25-year-old truck did not run well, and despite heroic efforts by our driver, there were many stops, and the trip took three days. On the 18th we arrived in the Kaichi Valley, and set up base camp at Sary Say, where a group of geologists, exploring for minerals, was also camped. We had wanted base camp in the Djangart Valley, but the truck could not cross the Djangart Pass, and the nomads asked for more money than the four of us had to carry our equipment on horses. As a result we had to walk an extra day each way when climbing our chosen mountains.
Our first trip was to the Djangartynbashi, a glacier with three branches. We ascended the eastern branch and on the 24th made the first ascent of Rakhmat (Kyrgyz for Thanks). After 200m of ice climbing on the north face (65°), we reached the northeast ridge. The first 200m on the crest was mixed, with isolated rock steps of UIAA IV, and a short, narrow, crux couloir of M4. The upper 300m was a snow arête at 55°. The ascent took eight hours, and we named the route Piolets Customitzats i Botes Banyades (Customized Ice Axes and Wet Boots, 700m, D, IV M4 65°), due to the transformations suffered by our axes over the years and the state of our boots after the climb. We descended west. Three rappels and a 100m traverse took us to a col, from where we downclimbed glaciated slopes northwest, regaining our high camp after four and a half hours.
After a few days rest at base camp, we again headed over the Djangart Pass and turned immediately south up the N7 Glacier. We camped the night of the 28th in a place with a good view of our next objective, Pik 5,081m. There appeared to be an obvious route, but we got a surprise next day when, after climbing an easy west-facing couloir, we reached the south ridge and discovered it was not as we had imagined. We had to traverse back onto the west face and climb two hard vertical pitches of 6b and A1. This took us back to the crest, which was snow, but led—another surprise—to a summit northeast of our objective. The top (4,887m on the map) was a horizontal snow ridge with three small peaks. We stopped at the first—the south summit. The farthest (northeast) is probably a little higher. We named the 550m route He Perdut el Guant i les Forces (I Lost My Glove and Motivation).
During the climb we saw a good, though pushy, line on the north face of Pik 5,081m but needed to access it from the Djangartynbashi. After a few more rest days in base camp, we reached the lower central Djangartynbashi Glacier. The first 200m of the face was 65°, with short sections of 75°, and we moved together. At 4,600m we reached a 150m icefall that we climbed in three pitches of WI4. The second had an eight-m section of very thin ice and was impossible to protect. Above the icefall three pitches of mixed climbing did not allow us to relax. The last 200m on the northeast ridge was not as straightforward as expected. A cornice circled the top of the mountain, reaching to the south ridge. We found a weakness and spent 20 minutes digging through it. We emerged at the summit after 10½ hours of climbing, naming the route Si la Cornisa Vol (650m, TD+, UIAA IV+ M5 85°). It took four and a half hours to descend the northwest ridge.
We named this summit Tushunbodum (I Don’t Understand You in Kyrgyz). One of us tried using this word when talking with a Kyrgyz man who offered us bread and tea in his yurt during our journey into the mountains. He laughed and repeated the word all evening.