Big Free Route in Kyrgyzstan

By Dougald MacDonald ,

Adam Pustelnik poses under the face climbed by Amba (VI 5.12d/13a) in Kyrgyzstan. See for more info and a topo of the route.

A pair of Polish climbers has established a major free route on Ortotubek (aka Central Pyramid) in the Ak-Su Valley of Kyrgyzstan. Brothers Adam and Pawel Pustelnik, sons of the highly accomplished Himalayan mountaineer Piotr Pustelnik, are two of Poland’s stronger rock climbers—Adam has redpointed 5.14c routes—but they also are equally at home in the mountains. As part of a university expedition to Kyrgyzstan in August, the two climbed a 21-pitch route, Amba (VI 5.12d/13a), in the center of the west face of the granite peak. Their route intersected portions of an unknown aid climb and used three old bolts from that climb for the crux 5.12d/5.13a pitch through a band of roofs. Otherwise, the brothers placed only a single belay bolt, finding mostly classic 5.10 and 5.11 crack climbing, with some significant runouts. They climbed the route in three and a half days, including one day fixing ropes from the ground.

The Pustelnik brothers and Slawek Cyndecki also made an onsight free ascent of the Perestroika Crack (VI 5.12b) on 13,950-foot Slesov (aka Russian Tower). This route was freed by a French team in 1993 and repeated in a single 28-hour push by Greg Child and Lynn Hill in 1995.

Team members also attempted a new route on an unnamed tower near Peak 4810, but they retreated after 22 pitches because of dangerous rock fall.

The Ak-Su Valley is one drainage to the east of Kyrgyzstan’s Kara-Su Valley, were Americans Tommy Caldwell, John Dickey, Beth Rodden, and Jason Smith were famously captured by militants in 2000. The Poles reported that the Ak-Su Valley was empty of climbers this August, and that the weather was warm and “dry as a bone.”

Comment on this story

Join the Conversation