New Route on Pik Alpinist in Kyrgyzstan

Dane Steadman, Jared Vilhauer, and Seth Timpano have set a new route on the wild ice of Pik Alpinist in Kyrgyzstan. The name and the appearance of the mountain say it all.

The aesthetic line goes up directly up the northeast face, following alternating rock bands and steep snow fields for 1,100m from the bergschrund at the base to the summit. The climbers have named it Trophy Hunt and graded it as AI5+, M5.

They posted a few belated details recently on social media. (The climb took place in late September.) But their final report has just appeared on the American Alpine Club’s site. Like the White Sapphire expedition we reported on yesterday and the team that climbed the north face of Jannu, the Kyrgyzstan trio received one of the AAC’s Cutting Edge Grants.

Ice symphony

The climbers traveled to Central Asia with an unclear goal but trusted in Seth Timpano’s theory that the region’s combination of latitude and altitude could produce unusually good alpine ice. This theory proved true, Dane Steadman wrote on Facebook.

After an adventurous road trip to the Western Kokshaal-Too Valley in the Tien Shan, the climbers saw many good options. But they looked no further once they confronted Pik Alpinist.

“Icy blue tendrils streaked the 1,100-meter wall, some thin, some thick, all stunning,” Steadman wrote. “Directly below the summit, one streak in particular caught our eye.”

Kokshaal-Too Valley map

The red pointer marks the Western Kokshaal-Too Valley, south of Lake Issyk Kul.


The team acclimatized in the area, stocked an Advanced Base Camp, and waited for a weather window. On Sept. 23, a good forecast prompted them to move to the base of the mountain.

The climb started on the following day at 3 am and included no bivy gear. The plan was to do it non-stop.

Climbing on a vertical ice section.

Photo: Dane Steadman/American Alpine Club

Details of the climb

Steadman continued:

By 4 am, we were at the base of the first pitch, an unexpected crux of steep, aerated water ice. A few hours later, we were at the 300m crux ice streak, as the wall above began to glow orange. Steep, lovely ice in the sun followed by steeper, iron-hard ice in the shade brought us to the top of the headwall. From there, snow slopes and another long ice pitch brought us to another crux: a frightening icicled water-ice pillar at 5,200m.

it was Seth Timpano’s turn to lead. This was quite a task after 14 hours of climbing, but as the sun set, the team bypassed the pillar up a thin ice gully.

Climbers in an ice gully at the light of their headlamps.

The climbers progress in the dark. Photo: Dane Steadman


“A long traverse in the dark under the overhang led to a spot where Jared Vilhauer could chop through, and finally we pulled onto the summit in a biting wind at 8:30 pm,” Steadman concluded.

The descent, down the same face they went up, took all night. The climbers crawled into their tents right at dawn.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.