Khan Tengri Alpine-Style


Khan Tengri’s North Face.Photo courtesy of

Khan Tengri Alpine-Style

Russian climbers Pavel Shabalin and Ilyas Tukhvatullin have made the first alpine-style ascent of the North Face of Khan Tengri as a two-man team. The steep northern wall of the 22,944-foot peak in Kyrgyzstan has numerous routes and is frequently climbed by large parties with fixed ropes, but half a dozen previous attempts by small teams had failed.

The two Russians carried minimal gear, with Shabalin leading every pitch and Tukhvatullin following with their heavier pack. They suffered from poor weather and cold bivies as their planned five-day climb stretched to nine days; they sat out a storm for one day and wasted another day trying to fix a malfunctioning stove. Shabalin suffered some frostbite on his feet and hands.

Although expeditions to the Himalaya from the former Soviet Union still frequently rely on large, highly organized teams and extensive use of fixed ropes, the country’s elite climbers are increasingly attempting alpine-style ascents on major summits. This year, for example, Denis Urubko and Serguey Samoilov of Kazakhstan climbed a new route alpine-style on Broad Peak in Pakistan, and Yuri Koshelenko, Nikolay Totmajanin and American Carlos Buhler nearly succeeded on the unclimbed North Face of Menlungtse in Tibet.

For Shabalin’s account of the climb, visit

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