The First Ski Descent

In summer 2010 Anders Ödman and I travelled to the Tien Shan of Kyrgyzstan. Just back from a difficult ski descent of Skhara (5193 m) in the Georgian Caucasus, I was motivated for more. Our main objective was to ski the north face of Pik Pobedy (7439 m), but it was too avalanche-prone for a serious attempt.
We picked the lower, but very remote East summit (6762 m - some sources quote 6782 and 7020 m) as alternative, which would take us into a world of ice and snow in the last corner of the Kyrgyz Tien Shan. An ascent of beautiful Khan Tengri (7010 m) via the normal route gave us the required acclimatization, a good view of our objective in addition to the spectacular views over the ice world of the Tien Shan.






Soon after we started the several-days long approach up the Zvezdochka glacier. We travel between the massive north face of Pik Pobedy, some 3000 m high in places, on our right, and 6000 m summits on our left. Frequent noise of avalanches accompanies us, the ones we see have proportions I have never seen before (or would see after). One powder avalanche smokes us in our tent - in the middle of the glacier - at 4800 m. The release is probably at around 6500 m. 



Steeper terrain leads us to the Chon Teren pass (5450 m). From here we would start the summit push up the 35-50+° steep ridge of Pik Pobedy East. On the summit day, Anders had to turn around 200 vertical meters below summit, wanting to spare energy for a safe descent. I continued alone, punching through wind-slabs on crust or tiring loose snow over rocks. Exhausted I reach the summit at 14:30. The views all around are immense, particularly into the vast Chinese Tien Shan, and to the Pik Pobedy main summit (7439 m). After a photo session, including one with an oversized AIDS Awareness Day banner, I click into my skis, and descend the peaks beautiful NE ridge. A lone ski descent - steep, exposed and above a remote desert of ice and snow - and certainly one of my finest.