Busy Polish Trio Completes Several Routes in the Tien Shan

Between September 1 and September 18, Polish climbers Piotr Rozek, Tomasz Kujawski, and Wojciech Mazik took on several routes in Kyrgyzstan’s Tien Shan.

Polski Himalaizm Sportowy (PHZ) reports that they targeted the Ala Archa area, a place deeply rooted in Soviet climbing history. Only 35km from Bishkek, this national park includes routes with difficulties up to 6B (the highest level on the old Soviet difficulty scale). It once hosted the USSR Mountaineering Championships.

According to local mountaineers, this September featured the worst weather in years (with hurricane winds, storms, and snowfall). Undeterred, the Polish trio still achieved some interesting climbs.

The Polish team crosses a glacier in the Ala Archa region.

The Polish team crosses a glacier in the Ala Archa region. Photo: PHZ


Four peaks

Rozek, Kujawski, and Mazik established a base camp at Ratsek shelter, at 3,400m. To acclimatize, they ascended 4,560m Uchitel Peak (some sources list it as 4,540m). While not technically not difficult, strong winds and snowfall can make it hazardous.

The team then targeted a rocky route called Schwab (5A, VI, 550m) on 4,515m Beichechkey. After carrying their loads for nine hours, they eventually had to retreat from 4,400m because of bad weather. Their next objective was 4,810m Korona Peak, where they ascended the ice route Plotnikov (5A, 500m). The climb took about five hours.

Taking advantage of a short weather window, the team then decided to move to the shelter on the Uchitel Glacier to try a rock route. They aimed for the Nikiforenko route (5b, V+, A2, 500m) on 4,895m Semenov Thian Shansky peak, the highest mountain in Ala Archa.

Semenov peak.

Semenov peak. Photo: Aksai Travel


A risky traverse

“We climbed the first pitch in a mixed style, performing a quite risky traverse (approximately M5) through heavily cracked rocks (we did not take enough bolts to safely overcome the original variant at the start through highly vertical ice). Unfortunately, it turned out that conditions on the wall were unfavorable, the rock was icy in places and covered with loose snow,” the climbers recalled. They therefore had to give up ascending the classic route.

The Polish trio climbing on one of the routes during their expeditions.

One of the routes during their expedition. Photo: PHZ


They changed their route and ascended by a technically more difficult line past a pillar. After 11 hours, they were on top of the pillar, a few pitches of mixed terrain from the summit. But again, because of an approaching storm and several days of bad weather, they decided to descend.

4,777m Free Koreak peak and the route.

Free Korea Peak and the Polish route. Photo: PHZ


They finished their expedition on 4,777m Free Korea Peak. They ascended the 900m long Barbera ice route (5B), finding good ice conditions on the wall. The crux was a mixed traverse with poor protection in the middle of the wall.

After 8.5 hours in terrible weather, they finally summited. This was the only route of their expedition where they had to descend by the ascent route using the Abalakov system.

Rozek, Kujawski and Mazik.

Rozek, Kujawski, and Mazik. Photo: PHZ

Kris Annapurna

KrisAnnapurna is a writer with ExplorersWeb.

Kris has been writing about history and tales in alpinism, news, mountaineering, and news updates in the Himalaya, Karakoram, etc., for the past year with ExplorersWeb. Prior to that, Kris worked as a real estate agent, interpreter, and translator in criminal law. Now based in Madrid, Spain, she was born and raised in Hungary.