starting point for the ascent of this mountain is the comfortable International
Mountaineering Camp. It is advisable to move to the base camp from here, and
not directly from the capital of Kazakhstan; both camps belong to the same organization.
Nowadays this trip is made by helicopter. There are mountain climbers who recall
having gone to the base camp on foot, accompanied by fifteen horses that transported
their gear; in order to enable the horses to get over the glacier, they had
to cut steps for part of the way. What today takes forty minutes by helicopter,
was a three-day trip at that time.
The base camp has a permanent kitchen, a sauna and comfortable tents; it lies at the junction between the Southern Enghilchek glacier and the Zviozdochka (Little Star) glacier, at 4000 meters altitude. After a few days of acclimatization, climbers usually leave in the early afternoon to reach Camp-I in 2-4 hours over the moraine and then over the snow. The camp (4100 m) is situated at the foot of the long gully that is the first part of the route up Khan Tengri. The view of the upper part of Mt. Voennikh Topografov (Military Topographer) (6873 m) and Mt. Pogrebtskogo (6527 m) is splendid: a vast expanse of blinding white enclosed in an amphitheatre of very high mountains with impressive glaciers.
Camp-II (5200 m) is situated in the middle of the Semenovskogo glacier icefall. You must start off from Camp-I very early because in the afternoon avalanches from the top of Mt. Chapaeva (6371 m) are frequent. The route then becomes very tiring along the icefalls, where you may find a permanent rope, up to the steep climb up the snow (100 meters) under the col. In this part of the route the temperature usually rises in the afternoon, the sun is quite hot and the air suffocating; but despite the fatigue, in order to avoid the risk of slides it is advisable to continue along this route up to the col, where you can set up Camp-III (5900 m) in a tent or, in case of strong winds, in a snow cave. From here you tackle the western ridge. At first you walk on snow, then the route is interrupted by short climbs over two or three meter-wide couloirs. In the most difficult parts there is a fixed rope that can be climbed with the aid of ascenders and clamps. Camp-IV is on the ridge at 6400 meters. The route goes up a small path on the right and then there is the most difficult part of all, the large 150-meters dihedral, where there is a permanent rope. A snow ridge leads to the top.
The western ridge is almost always subject to a dangerous north wind that is sometimes so violent it can make you lose your balance. Here you must have good crampons, an ice axe and telescopic ski poles that are useful for going up the less steep snow slopes. Along the return route the snow ridge is quite dangerous and you must be very careful, partly because fatigue makes it harder to concentrate; many mountaineers have fallen in this part of the route. The descent takes two days, including a one night stopover at Camp-III.
Khan Tengri, South. Climbing map (general).
Khan Tengri, Western Spur route (click to enlage!)