Our team of Eugeny Dmitrienko, Dmitry Tsyganov, Sergey Cherezov, Andrey Litvinov and Pavel Malygin arrived in the Laylak Ak-Su region of the Pamir Alai on February 1. We were assisted by Jury Glazyrin, V. Saveljev, team doctor Viktor Tsygankov, Alexander Kuharev, and our trainers and expedition leaders, Nikolay Zakharov and Valery Balezin. We set up a camp that became our home for the month in a clearing six kilometers from the mountain.
Our team had experience with large walls in the winter, which would come in oh so handy for us! Valery Balezin had an idea for a new route, and it was immediately decided that we would work on a first ascent. The next day we left for the mountain. Eugeny Dmitrienko began to climb and immediately set such a pace that he fixed six pitches in two days. Meanwhile, Sergey Cherezov and I dug a snow cave at the base of the route, to which we dragged all the junk.
On February 5 and 6, the team of Pavel Malygin and Dmitry Tsyganov took the baton and completed another twelve and a half pitches. The weather was excellent, and we took maximum advantage of it. On February 7, we hung the portaledge so the working team wouldn’t have to descend. At that point, Ak-Su showed its temper. The force of the wind reached such a point that when Eugeny ascended with the portaledge, it was hard to tell who was being hauled, since the platform hung above him; I was afraid we might lose it. That day, Andrey Litvinov climbed one pitch, after which he looked like a snowman in glasses. Visibility was sometimes no more than a meter, and a white river flowed down the wall. That same evening we all escaped to base camp. The bad weather continued another day. On February 9 the weather was excellent, and the team of Eugeny and Dmitry climbed to the portaledge at the top of Pitch 13. A day later they hauled the remainder of the gear to the high point.
Nineteen pitches had been climbed, and we had come to the crux of the route: five pitches of A3 and A4. This section took us five days, and the weather on February 12 became dreadful; daily snowfall and strong winds stopped our movement. But our tactics and spirit helped us avoid losing too much time to the bad weather, and over the course of the entire ascent we only had one day of sitting and waiting, during which we decided that it was better to change teams every day, giving each a rest.
One pitch below the ledge under the Nose, we decided that it was time to move the portaledge camp. This meant ten pitches of hauling. Pavel and Andrey climbed while the rest of the team hauled the gear. The weather on that day tested our endurance. The snowfall was at its height, and therefore the hauling went slowly. By 2 p.m. we had somehow hauled five pitches and it became clear that we wouldn’t see the ledge that day. We decided to set the portaledge camp at the beginning of the crux section. This was the decisive day of the ascent. The firm conviction came to us: we would climb, sooner or later, but we would climb-after all, we had proved we could go on under such conditions.
Just below the Nose we joined the Popov Route (6B, 1986), which we climbed for four pitches over two days. Then began a series of serious rock roofs and overhangs-five to six pitches that hadnt been climbed. We came to the biggest roof, where we were able to establish a camp. During this time, the weather was as dreadful as before. Each evening by radio, our trainer, Nikolay Zakharov, encouraged us, saying, “Come on guys, just another day or two!”
On February 23 the full group stood on the summit. The weather took pity on us. No snow had fallen for two days now, and from the summit we were able to enjoy the views of the winter mountains. It was damn nice to see the sun after ten days.
The usual snowfall came the next day, reminding us who was in charge here, but we were not going to stay. At 4 p.m. we were all sitting in a cave under the bergschrund, having descended our ascent route. Thus, in twenty days, we had been able to establish a new route to that insane summit. In my opinion, we ended up with a logical route of thirty-four pitches (Russian Grade 6B, 1500m). There were no particular technical difficulties, but it’s hard to imagine how we would have managed if we hadnt had Eugeny, who led eighty percent of the route. Without him, we would have been climbing a lot longer.
— Anton Pugovkin, Krasnoyarsk, Russia (translated by Karen Freund)