M9-, WI6+ at 5,000+ Metres!? Slovaks Say They Did It

Climbing in Kyrgyzstan’s relatively unexplored Kookshal Too valley is hard enough. Pasted against the border of China, the jagged peaks of the Tien Shan mountains punch from the desert below in long, sheer rock faces and swaths of unconsolidated snow.

The western Kookshal Too valley, Tien Shan Mountains. Photo: Summitpost.org


Climbing anything there takes commitment — climbing 900m of new terrain as hard as almost anyone executes as a single pitch is something else.

Dry Ice Queen, by Slovak climbers Juraj Svingal and Marek Radovsky, is exactly that. At M9-, WI6+, it’s technically harder than the Slovak Direct and the hardest ice route on Ben Nevis.

Scary as hell

It also stays hard almost the whole way up, and by all appearances, it’s scary as hell.

Facebook mountaineering account SHS James reported the ascent on August 20. The 13-day trip culminated in the nails-hard route to the top of Mount Zabor, 5,080m. After the sixth pitch, Svingal and Radovsky only found two segments of climbing easier than WI5 — which, for the record, demands expert level ice climbing. The WI6+ crux pitch, meanwhile, would have entailed “long vertical and/or overhanging sections, extremely sustained difficulties, [and] few, if any, resting sites” on bad ice.

Why not? All Svingal and Radovsky only had to do otherwise was mince their way up nine pitches at M6 or harder. At M9-, the hardest mixed pitch on Dry Ice Queen, you’re looking at climbing that feels like 5.11+.

If the photos of bare rock, body-swallowing chimneys, and thin ice don’t do it, the men’s account appears to confirm the difficulties.

“23 hours of climbing, roping, and climbing. 900 metres of beautiful climbing mostly in poorly held ice, the higher [we went], the worse the ice became, as it’s the eastern wall. The top is lit longer than the bottom, so it melts more.

“We didn’t even know if we would be able to break through the hard places from the bottom. Finally, it went on the first try and it wasn’t easy,” Radovsky admitted.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.