Kremen (4351m) in the Jamantay Range as seen from the north. Katya Ananyeva, Dmitry Martynenko and Dmitry Shapovalov made the first ascent of this peak via the west ridge (right skyline). This gave nice climbing on sound, rough sedimentary rock with a crux of 5.9. The three were the first climbers to visit this Kyrghyz mountain range, which is a full day’s drive from either Osh or Bishkek. [Photo] Dmitry Shapovalov
This summer Katya Ananyeva, Dmitry Martynenko and Dmitry Shapovalov left Osh to explore the Jamantay (aka Jamantau) and southern Fergana ranges of Kyrghyzstan, moderately high mountain groups with no previous history of climbing activity. The Jamantay is a relatively narrow crest of glaciated mountains, the eastern end of which can be reached in a full day’s drive by 4X4 from either Osh or Bishkek. The team chose to start from the village of Jergetal and trek along the northern side of the range from west to east, making occasional forays south to pick off attractive peaks.
They first climbed the 4553-meter snowy summit of Chontash East in order to gain some acclimatization. The route involved a small glacier leading to steeper slopes and was graded III, 50-60 degrees or Russian 3A. Poor weather then thwarted their attempt on the challenging Kamasu but several days later they were able to make the first ascent of rocky Kramen (4351m). The rock in the Jamantay is sedimentary but generally very good with bags of friction. The party climbed the ca. 500-meter west ridge of Kramen in a day, belaying the first four pitches to the crux, after which they moved together with intermittent runners every 10-20 meters. Most of the route was 5.5/5.6 but the key pitch was 5.9.
Further east the two Dmitrys climbed Ak-Jaman (4488m), which involved eight pitches of 60- to 70-degree ice followed by large crevasses leading to the broad summit. This was the only ascent of the trip where Ananyeva did not take part. The Jamantay has numerous peaks from 4500-4800m and, typically for many mountains of that altitude in Kyrghyzstan, sports glaciated northern faces, while the southern slopes are rocky or scree covered.
After this ascent the party crossed the range south via a straightforward pass (1B; hard and exposed walking with ropes unnecessary) and eventually reached the vast open valley of the Arpa. From here they had to walk south for 50 kilometers to reach the southern part of the Fergana mountains: the Torugart-Too. Close to the border with China, this is a less-than-friendly area and even though the three had all the correct papers, they had to argue for two hours before being allowed to continue. This region, close to the state border and with easy passes leading towards China, was definitely out of bound during the Soviet era, though the northern Fergana, much closer to civilization, was well explored and even had a guidebook in former times.
The southern Fergana is glaciated but the rock is very friable schist: rock climbing is out of the question and the peaks are liberally endowed with scree. The team trekked along the northern flanks of the range from southeast to northwest, climbing two peaks. At the eastern end they waded unroped up the snowy east ridge of 4818m (on the military map), naming the summit Haokan North and obtaining a GPS elevation of 4848m. From the top they could see few mountains offering any interesting climbing, so they returned to the northern flanks and walked to the west end, where the highest mountain, Uch-Seit (4893m on the map) is situated. From a 4350-meter camp at the base of the icy north face, the three climbed seven pitches of ice to 70 degrees before an easier but crevassed upper ridge led to the summit (GPS 4905m). After crossing the range at its western end via an easy pass, they reached the well-populated Oital valley and then, close to the end of their odyssey, faced the most demanding part of the expedition. To reach the road took a further five days, and involved crossing two passes, building a rope bridge over the Karakulja River and finally improvising a driftwood raft to cross the Kulun Lake–the shores being too steep to negotiate on foot. The raft held no more than two people, so they had to pull it in shifts, occasionally rock climbing up to 5.7 or swimming in the cold water when the banks became overhanging. This five kilometer section took a full day and was easily the scariest part of the entire trip, an impressive self-supported 300-kilometer journey that took twenty-six days.
Escape from Fergana. After a three-week journey through two mountain ranges, making first ascents of several peaks in areas previously unvisited by climbers, Katya Ananyeva, Dmitry Martynenko and Dmitry Shapovalov spent a whole day trying to find a route around the surrounding slopes of the Kulun Lake, which separated them from a 4X4 road to civilization. Unable to negotiate the steep shoreline and with flights out of Osh pre-booked for two-and-a-half days hence, they were forced to take drastic measures. Improvising a driftwood raft and pulling it the five kilometers to the far side proved to be the most frightening incident of the entire expedition. Later, locals would inform them that the only way past this obstacle was to ascend ca. 1000 meters to the crest of the range. [Photo] Dmitry Shapovalov