Mountaineering - with Hedvig and Gert Rasmussen
by: Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen
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Pik Lenina 7134m.

- june-july 1992 -

My first "real" mountaineering expedition! After climbs and hikes in Norway, climbing training on bridges in Denmark, alpine courses in Switzerland and independant ascents of 4000 meter summits in Switzerland - with appetite sharpened after reading books on mountaineering and after seminars and conversations with ao.Reinhold Messner and Hans Kammerlander - then you DO want to try yourself. Thanks to our memberships of the Alpine Club of Switzerland and our club magazine I managed to join an expedition to Pik Lenina in summer 1992.

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Geography:

Pik Lenina is a part of the Pamir chain, which together with Karakorum, Tien Shan, Himalayas etc. covers Asia in a broad band from West to East. Pik Lenina lies on the border of Kirgystan and Tadjikistan, two of the former Soviet republics. You get there by plane from Moscow to the kirgisian district capital of Osch. Then you have 10 hours of drive on trucks first on a main road, later on tracks and finally through the botanics to the base camp Atschik Tasch, which lies at 3800 meters altitude in a beautiful valley.

Here are some maps of the area: Pik Lenina

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The mountain:

Pik Lenina is 7134 meters high. As comparison: The worlds highest mountain Mt.Everest is 8848 meters.
We climbed the mountain as part of the international mountaineering camp "Pamir 92". This camp was arranged during several years by the Soviet Mountaineering Association, in 1992 in cooperation between the russian and the kirgisian mountaineering associations.
The base camp is situated on a beautifull meadow, which at the end of july is covered in white Edelweiss and with a view towards Pik Lenina and several 5000 meter peaks. The camp consists of a wooden building containing kitchen, meeting room and dining room, a small wooden building functioning as BAR, lots of spacious 3person tents and - LUXURY, LUXURY a sauna on an icecold lake!

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The team:

Fiorenzo Dado CH    
Andre Demartin CH    
Jeanne-Marie Demont CH    
Marcel Demont CH    
Peter Edwards UK    
Pierre-Yvan Guichard CH Expedition leader  
Eric Isoz CH    
Martin Luethi CH    
Maryse Morel CH    
Jean-Luc Passello CH    
Vassilij Panassiuk Rus    
Gert Rasmussen Dk    
Daniel Schaerli CH    
Martin Streif CH    
Werner Wenger CH    
Flavio Zappa CH    
       
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The route:

Our route ran from the base camp at 3800 meters up the valley, over the "Dust Pass", down and over a river created by a melting glacier (carefull not to be taken by the strong current), down on the Lenin glacier, up the glacier untill the advanced base camp (ABC) located at 4200 meter on the Lenin glacier. Then the ascent of the north face to a small plateau under the North Ridge at 5200 meter where high camp 1 was set up. Then vertically (at least it felt like vertical) up to high camp 2 in 5500 meter on the North Ridge. Over Pik Razdelnij (6148 meter) - just to have summited this one also - or later round the shoulder of Pik Razdelnij to high camp 3 in the col between Pik Razdelnij and Pik Lenina in 6000 meter. Several times down and up from the advanced base camp to carry equipment or to rest. On the summit day a painfully long climb towards the summit, all the time fooled by small "presummits" where you think NOW you're there.

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The tour:

From Zürich via Moscow to Osch in Kirgystan. For me it was first time in a muslem, oriental country and everything was as taken out of 1001 Nights: The heat, smiling people, colours, activity. Though we arrived at 7 AM we were still seated outside in a restaurant and spoiled with salads, fresh vegetables, roast chicken, lots of fruit. It was off course much too much food so early in the morning, but it became a symbol of the joy and abundance we were met with during the entire trip

Then we continued with bus (us), truck (the equipment) and Jeep (military escort due to threats of civil war in the neighbouring country of Tadsjikistan). The Jeep followed us but a few kilometers, everything remained peacefull. After a stop at a market (again lots of friendly, communicative people - I think I've never talked so much as during this expedition, luckily I know a little russian) we continued on a 10 hour drive first on the main road, the tracks and finally over the steppe to the base camp.

After having settled in the base camp, we tested our equipment and started our acclimatising by climbing Pik Petrovskij (4829 meters). All went fine apart from that one of the team had to descend in the middle of the night with a beginning pulmonary oedema. We who reached the summit were rewarded with a fantastic view. Even in comparison to the Alps everything is SO big. We also got a good view at our route up the Pik Lenina.

Back at base camp, one day of rest and then on foot (we) and helicopter (the equipment) towards the advanced base camp, which was situated directly on the Lenin glacier at 4200 meters. Here we furnished a comfortable camp with sleeping tents, storage and kitchentent as we were to come back several times to carry up equipment and to rest. As opposed to the Himalayas, where you mostly have sherpas to help carrying as well as cook and kitchen aids, we had to carry everything ourselves. It was TOUGH!

The high camps 1, 2 and 3 were set after hard work, many trip up and down were neccesary to bring tents, food, gas, sleeping bags, mats, ice axes, showels etc.etc.up. Space for tents had to dug/chopped out of snow or ice slopes. This under extreme weather conditions. If the sun was shining and no wind was blowing it became HOT - blisters were burned where I had forgotten to cover a piece of skin. If the sun did not shine we had snowstorms. We were trapped in high camp 1 for 2 1/2 days due to avalanches. When you are lying in your tent, you can't climb up nor down, you can only listed to the thunder of avalanches coming down, THEN the time passes slowly! We did have set up our camps in safe places, so all went well. In 1990 a total of 44 people were killed by avalanches in the Pik Lenina area and in 1974 the first womens expedition lost 7 climbers. You have to be cautious at Pik Lenina. Divine beauty ,on the contrary, you will find if you start an ascent in the middle of the night at full moon so you don't need a torch just with the frozen snow squeeking under your boots - or if you leave your tent on a still night without any moon, just the stars and the Milky Way streching its band across the sky. Beauty and apocalypse are SO close!

From high camp 2 Pik Razdelnij (6148 meters) was climbed just to say we've been there too. Otherwise we passed round the shoulder to the col between Pik Lenina and Pik Razdelnij and high camp 3. A narrow ridge with snow coverting the edge and 1800 meters free fall down to the Lenin glacier, exposed if the wind was there but the only possible site.

On the summit day we had again (guess what) snowstorm, 2 everlasting long slopes, inbetween a plateau to cross and then the last slope towards the summit, allways fooled by small peaks, where you think this MUST be the last. Finally there were no higher peaks around and then you are there: 7134 meters up on the summit. Visit the memorial plaques, photos 360° around as proof, approximately 20 minutes on the summit and then down because an ascent is only accompliced when you are safely down again. After 11 hours of ascent again back in high camp 3 and then sleep, sleep.

Next days dismanteling of all camps including return of ALL waste and rubbish. Back to base camp, back to the russian and kirgisian friends, back to real food and freshly baked bread, back to the sauna and the bath in the glacier lake, back to the scent of soil and to a meadow now completely covered by Edelweiss. Paradise.

Normally you should not tempt Nemesis, but after a couple of relaxation days in the base camp 2 pals and I just decided to climb an unnamed peak in the vicinity of the camp. It could have gone very wrong on a steep wall, but with a little technical skill and quite some luck we summited this mountain also and measured its height to 5050 meters. Then we had enough and remained in the base camp!

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Home again:

The expedition can only be called a complete success: 12 of 16 climbers summited the Pik Lenina, we were the first expedition to summit this year. The summits were also reached on Pik Petrovskij (4829m), Pik Razdelnij (6148m) and unnamed (5050m). All returned safely to their homes without severe injuries.

Depending on the mountain, where you stand in life, your disposition every human being experiences the moment on the summit differently: Some fellow climbers told that they cried from emotion others were triumphing. I was so tired, that I don't remember any particular feeling on the summit itself. I was just so relieved to be able to descend. The joy came first after kisses and congratulations from a russian friend in the advanced base camp. She made me see: "You really made it!".

What remains after the expedition are two things:

First the comprehension that to master extreme situations you MUST support each other, you MUST do your maximum, you must work for the COMMON goal. You will achieve NOTHING alone. We will have to acknowlegde this also in everyday life, in the society where we live. Our children have surely found that out allready.

Secondly the memory of the time spent together with russian and kirgisian alpinists, who became friends immideately due to their openness and lack of prejudice. To Angela and Nasigül for all the time spent in the base camp and the discoveries of all the beautifull places in the vicinity (so that even the top priority food was forgotten). To Elena for constant caring, encouragement and warmth in the camps and on the mountain. To Jacline for fun, laughter and champagne. To chief Oleg and his second-in-command Slava and to Svetlana, our liaison officer. Even at minus 20 degrees this expedition was the warmest experience of my life!

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