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

Alpine style Climbing
khan tengri By Kirill Skorobogatko shutterstock
Photo: Kirill Skorobogatko/Shutterstock

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

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About the Author

Jilli Cluff

Jilli Cluff

Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college.
After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing. In 2020, Jilli left her corporate position to pursue an outdoor-oriented life.
She now works as a contributor, an editor, and a gear tester for ExplorersWeb and various other outlets within the AllGear network.
She is based out of Austin, Texas where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.

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Apy
Apy
3 months ago

Let’s pray the casualties stop now as, according to their social media, some climbers such as the Hungarians Peter Vitez and Albert Kovacs and the British Jon Gupta are starting their summit pushes of Pobeda.

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Abdulelah alharbi
2 months ago

I actually met the couple while I was going down from Khan Tengri. Unfortunately, my colleague and I could not convince them to reverse the husband’s decision to go back. They were on one of the only ropes we could go down with. I remember that they were next to each other in one of the long walls on the mountain. We stayed with them for about a minute. Trying to convince them to come down and at the same time we needed the same ropes in order to get down, fortunately we found one of the old ropes and… Read more »

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