Ines Papert

Kyzyl Asker

The red soldier.

This was my first Expedition to the remote Range of the Kookshal Too in Kyrgystan.

Thomas Senf
Photo: Thomas Senf

Taking a look at a photograph of Mount Kyzyl Asker, the 5,842 metre high „red soldier“, for the first time, I am simply overwhelmed. What a beautifully shaped mountain. It attracts me like magic. I can’t get this picture out of my head. I even have a copy of the picture in my purse.

The first picture I have ever seen from Kyzyl Asker.
Photo: Archiv Ines Papert

When Wolfgang Russegger, Thomas Senf and I are finally standing at the base of the wall, there is a mixture of anticipation, anxiety, hope, doubt and motivation in our thoughts, while we are amazed and full of respect, staring at the impressive and steep south-east face. What can we expect from Kyzyl Asker? What will it do with us? Will it let us celebrate on its peak?

The route through the 1,200 metre high, partly iced wall, which we selected for a possible first ascent, is very ambitious. The conditions are good. A promising, optimistic atmosphere surrounds us. The expectations are large. Even larger is the challenge which lies just in front of us. We are prepared to embrace this challenge.

Kyzyl Asker after a storm.
Photo: Thomas Senf

Behind us lie crazy days. We abandon the original plan, to take a truck from Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, to Kookshai Too. The winter has arrived in the Kyrgis mountains of Thien Shan earlier than expected. The dirt road there is impassible. Do we fail, even before we’ve even seen the mountain we want to climb?

From the very first day, the Kyzyl Asker demands from us the ability to improvise and be flexible. At the same time, it overstains our budget. Then the only chance we have of getting to our base camp is by transporting 1.5 tons of luggage 400 kilometres by bus to Naryn. After that, we involuntarily board an army helicopter that would fly us to the mountains

Arrival in Basecamp.
Photo: Thomas Senf

On foot, we transport our gear via the Kamovara glacier to the base camp. We have to march several times to the Advanced Base Camp (ABC), which is situated at 4,600 metres. The weather is bombastic and yet, although Wolfgang Russegger and I have become acclimatised, both of us are stuck in the tent with colds.

It is a long hike to the base of the mountain.
Photo: Thomas Senf

After being forced to stop for several days, we risk an attempt at 4am and start climbing up the wall. The weight of the backpacks, the strenuous mixed climbing with the solid ice, then the altitude – we are exhausted! Late in the day, we find a useful but not particularly comfortable spot to bivvy. Three small places to sit – that’s the uncomfortable result of persistent work with our ice tools. After the meal, it begins to snow. We start to joke about a few spindrift showers that turn into heavy fresh snow downpours on us during the night. We are getting heavy snow, it’s uncomfortable, windy, bitter cold. We remain silent, counting the hours, yearning for daylight. Without having to go into discussion, the message is clear for all of us: We have to abseil the very next morning.

Lots of ice in the lower pitches.
Photo: Thomas Senf

After experiencing ten long days of bad weather in base camp, Charly Gabl offers us hope with his weather prediction. When the amount of fresh snow, which is blocking the wall, finally slides down, we make a new attempt. We climb a total of 17 hours in one go and reach a point which is just 200 metres below the summit. We are nearly there! We bivvy in a steep face. What follows, is the toughest night of my life. The announced bad weather front has arrived a day too early. Avalanches are moving down, temperatures are around minus 30 degrees and the stove isn’t working. These a clear signs that we have to leave the face. Immediately! Any improvement in the weather? Not in sight! We abandon the expedition.

The magic and aura of this mountain outweighs the disappointment of having failed. We will pursue our goal and return in the forthcoming year. On the way home, I’m thinking about my son Manu, and I play with the idea of showing him Kyrgyzstan. The pristine nature and vastness of this country fascinates me. The cute children, who appear to be satisfied with their meagre life, touch my heart. I want to ride with Manu through the steppes, sleep in yurts and sample the freedom together. The journey through Kyrgyzstan should also show him how privileged our life in Germany is and also give him an insight into „my“ life. The life of a professional mountain climber.

ABC
Photo: Thomas Senf

Manu, as an eleven-year-old, is mature enough now to understand. He is also capable of reaching the base camp. He should view my mountain with his own eyes. Also, this journey, like any away from home, should also broaden his horizon. In my opinion, Kyrgyzstan is an ideal country to confront Manu with modesty, poverty and simple conditions. I feel safe and secure in Kyrgyzstan. What a beautiful country! Yes, my son has to travel there and see it! He’ll be playing with children who cannot speak his language. However, he will still be able to understand them. Things will be different than at home. A lot more simple and sparse. He’ll still love it. A concrete idea develops from a fleeting thought. My son will accompany me next year to Kyrgyzstan. I am really looking forward to this!

Expedition report 2011

Expedition report 2016

Facts

This is our high point back in 2010 on our attempt on Kyzyl Asker South east face.

South east face Kyzyl Asker
Photo: Franz Walter

Stories of Rock and Ice