Developing: At Least One Dead, Others in Peril on Khan Tengri

More news from northern Kyrgyzstan, this time from Khan Tengri (7,010m). We recently reported last week’s catastrophic summit attempts on neighboring Pobeda Peak. Now, it seems, more climbers have perished on Khan Tengri.

Facts surrounding the situation continue to unfurl, and ExWeb will update as more information becomes available.

Couple caught during ascent, husband perishes

At least one fatality occurred late last week when a married couple got stranded on Khan Tengri. The husband was immobilized, and despite coaxing from Base Camp, the wife refused to leave his side, despite her ability to descend alone. Another climber posted a rough transcript of the wife’s radio correspondence with Base Camp on Facebook.

The image below is an automated English translation of the call.

Radio corresp khan tengri

Transcribed conversation between Khan Tengri survivor and radio operator, Aug 8-9. Image: Mykhailo Poddubnov/Facebook


It is believed that the couple was rescued on August 9. However, the husband perished shortly after due to severe altitude sickness, exposure, or both.

Exodus from Khan Tengri

Khan Tengri (Uighur/Turkic for Lord of the Skies) is also called Kan-Tau (or Blood Mountain) by the local Kyrgyz. It is the second tallest peak in the Tien Shan. Pobeda (Victory) Peak is first at 7,439m. Both peaks are Snow Leopard summits and are largely considered to be the most difficult out of all five.

Terrible conditions have beset the Tien Shan this season. In recent days, various sources in the area have reported severe melt off and glacial crust caused by warm days and frigid nights. Recent heavy snowfall lies delicately on these ice sheets, waiting to slide. At press time, a lot more snow is forecast for Khan Tengri.

Avalanche on Khan Tengri, Aug. 2021. Screen capture of live footage. Credit: Rick Wilton/Instagram


Khan Tengri, Aug. 2021. Screen capture of live footage. Credit: Rick Wilton/Instagram


A belt of avalanches and the snowy forecast has caused an exodus from Base Camp. Just two hours ago, British mountaineer Rick Wilton posted footage from a Russian teammate of an avalanche ripping down the mountainside and engulfing the area near Base Camp.

“Let’s get out of here!!”

Wilton wrote: “Khan Tengri, caught on camera by one of our Russian team. This avalanche ran straight across our route between Camp one and Camp two. With another half metre of snow forecast, it was time to get out.”

According to his social media channel, Wilton and others evacuated the area within the last day. His shortest post from August 12 reads simply, “Khan Tengri, evacuate!!! Let’s get the F@&K out of here!!” as a helicopter approached to lift him and his group to safety.

It’s unclear how many have exited the area in recent hours, how many are missing, and how many, if any, have opted to stay behind. We are awaiting more details.

A helicopter arrives to lift the group out of Khan Tengri, Aug. 2021. Screen capture of live footage. Credit: Rick Wilton/Instagram