Euphoria, Set Back and a Quantum of Solace
Expedition to Kyzyl Asker, Himalaya, September 2011
After my last two previous failed expedition attempts with Thomas Senf and Wolfgang Russegger to the "Red Soldier", the 5842 meter high Mount Kyzyl Asker, in late fall of 2010, I knew I'd go back to try again. I traveled for the second time to the remote mountain range Kookshal Too, of Thien Shan, in Kyrgyzstan. Our goal: to ascend the South-East face of Mount Kyzyl Asker. Tried by many alpinists, without a successful ascent so far.
I would not have chosen the steep 1200 meter high wall, with a variety of difficult ice and rock climbing sections as a goal, if it wasn't a real challenge in terms of testing both my climbing skills and mental strength. Therefore I knew what to expect. After a long winter climbing trip to Scotland, months of endurance training, and a fast ascent of Mont Blanc, I felt perfectly prepared to face this upcoming endeavor.
On our trip through Kyrgyzstan, my 11 years old son Emanuel (Manu) accompanied me to the base camp for his first time. We lived modestly with the Nomads for several weeks because this was such an experience and was so fulfilling. My friends Wolfgang Kurz (Wolfi) and photographer Franz Walter accompanied us on our travels. Starting from Lake Issyk Kul along to Lake Song Kul then up to the town of Naryn, not far from the Chinese border. Exploring Kyrgyzstan while riding on the back of a horse together with my son was a wonderful and intense experience.
In my luggage I also brought along my paraglider, which has recently become a new passion of mine. Being able to get a different perspective of the landscapes from a bird's eye view after climbing a mountain and peacefully gliding down to the valley like a soaring bird is a wonderful combination for me. Wolfi and I have climbed many mountains just so we could paraglide down to land in front of our yurt camp later on. What a delightful experience.
We met my two climbing partners; Wolfgang Russegger and Charly Fritzer in Kyrgyzstan at the beginning of September. I was already perfectly acclimatized and euphoric when they arrived, the joy of seeing them, our reunion, plus the anticipation of climbing the mountain and the expectations were tremendous.
Just before reaching our base camp our enthusiasm came to an abrupt stop: our truck got stuck in the swamps for several days. Intense rainfalls had soaked the tracks and there was no possibility of continuing our ride. 20 kilometers and 1000 meters in altitude separated us from Kyzyl Asker, where our base camp was located. Manually transporting our materials to the base of the mountain would be an enormous challenge for everybody! Thankfully at the last minute our driver managed to free the truck "Ural" from the swamps.
My son Emanuel departed in the company of Wolfi and Franz, and he made it safely back home just in time for school. This time the pain of parting from my Manu was almost unbearable. A pain that normally fades away when the task at hand begins, but I was condemned to idleness.
What nobody had expected, my two Austrian climbing partners got really sick after reaching our base camp. With the altitude of 4000 meters and the cold preventing a speedy recovery, we began the tiresome material transport to the Advanced Base Camp (ABC) with an already respective delay. In the process of our material transport, Charly disappeared in a crevasse of the authoritative labyrinth on the Cormova glacier. Thankfully he didn't get injured, but we were thoroughly shocked of this occurrence. After only 10 days we reached the ABC, with all our needed materials.
A weather check with meteorologist Karl Gabl from Innsbruck promised a few days of stable high-pressure weather. Should we already try our goal after the tedious start of our expedition? I was full of energy and very motivated to proceed, so immediately we all agreed to pursue our goal, as Charly proposed it would be a good idea to benefit from the good weather that was predicted.
Finally we were good to go!
On 12th September we started to climb the steep ice route very early at 4 o'clock in the morning. We reached the only useable bivouac place 10 o'clock in the morning, close to 5300 meters, but the sun had already started to melt the ice. With the threat of severe icefalls it was an easy decision to wait until the next morning when the ice would be more solid. Unfortunately, Charly soon showed clear signs of the beginning of a cerebral edema. The decision was clear: rappel down immediately!
Thankfully Charly recovered after descending back to the ABC, but Wolfi's motivation slowly dwindled away after all the adversities and a one week long compulsory break. No wonder! Doubts and recurring health problems weakened the whole team and also challenged our social cohesion. I had a hard time accepting that under these circumstances another try on the mountain of my dreams, Mount Kyzyl Asker, was again out of my reach.
After all, I've had this specific goal in my mind for two years. Poured all my heart and soul into it, focused on it, subjected my life and training to it, and invested so much time and energy into this project. Should all of this have been in vain? Should we forgo our goal? Just quit and go home? NO! We were looking for an alternative, a reward for all our efforts we achieved thus far.
Quantum of Solace – first ascent – first complete ascent of the Great Walls of China 5100 m
Grade: ABO, WI 7+ , M7
We needed solace and found it at the "Great Walls of China", 600 meters high. While the already physically shaken Charly suffered from yet another stomach upset and remained at the ABC, Wolfi Russegger and I started climbing the route at first light. Steep and overhanging sections of ice and rock, with tricky placement of protection, required all my psychological strength and climbing skills. Fragile ice pillars, overhanging rock-/mixed sections alternated with waist-deep powder, where we found very little stability. With great concentration and full dedication of all my will-power, I reached the highest point of the wall shortly after 11 o'clock. Satisfied I belayed Wolfi, who was also emerged smiling after the ascent.
On 29th September, just a few hours before the onset of winter, the truck reached us and drove us trough a fierce snowstorm back to civilization – back to a long-awaited warm shower!
Thanks to all my sponsors for their trust in and support of the entire team.
(Arc´teryx, Gore-Tex, Lowa, Julbo, Black Diamond, Red Chili, Hilleberg, UP Paragliders)
Text: Johanna Stöckl
Photographer: Franz Walter (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Franz accompanies the trip of Ines and Emanuel to the base camp of Mount Kyzyl Asker. His film project "Tyndýk, Reise durch Kirgistan" (Tyndýk, travelling through Kyrgyzstan) will be released in spring 2012. On the website www.tyndyk.com background information, photos and trailers will be posted regularly.
In my new multi-media show "In Fels und Eis" (rock and ice) I talk about my latest projects. Premiere at the IMS on 23.10.11 in Brixen. My book of the same title will be available in bookstores from February 2012.
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