In August 2021, Ivan Temerev and Alexey Tyulyupo from Tomsk and I climbed several routes in Western Kokshaal-Too.
The biggest — Korolyova (5816) via a couloir on the north face and west ridge.
The most beautiful (afraid to say that, but it seems like it’s the most appealing mountain I’ve ever stick my tools into) — Alpinist (5482) via NW face and north ridge
The most technical — Marona East (4610) via the south face. Ivan and Alexey did it without me. Meanwhile, I soloed two mountains and one pass:
Kaliningrad (4560) by its easy NW ridge and Skalistiy (4850) by its south ridge. Also, I crossed a col between Skalistiy and Kibalchicha, which connects the basin of Korolyova glacier with the valley of Korzhenevskogo.
The first time I came to Kokshaal-Too was in 2019 within a big team. Max Ten and I climbed beautiful north face of Chon Turasu and a few smaller peaks. The initial plan for that expedition was to climb Korolyova as well. However, after Chon-Turasu, I was drained, the weather became terrible, and winter began.
This year we came as a small team of three. As soon as our truck left for Naryn, we went for a hike. I know the area, so I was less impressed than my friends. Being newcomers to the area, they were blown out with views: giant faces of Marona and Chon-Turasu were flying over the valley.
Peak Alpinist, 5482m
Back at the camp, we decide to climb Alpinist for acclimatization. It was a strange decision—to climb a mountain almost 5,5 thousand meters high for acclimatization. However, I was sure of my abilities and believed in the mighty willpower of my friends. It worked precisely that way: I felt pretty comfortable, while others were heroically struggling with the lack of oxygen. The first two pitches of the route were rotten ice, the rest of them—more or less straightforward ice up to the ridge. Later that day, we got to the summit and got down to where we entered the ridge. For acclimatization’s sake, we decided to bivi on the ridge. While Alexey was cooking water, Ivan and I built a platform and put a 2-person tent. The following morning we put something like 12 rappels to the flat glacier.
Peak Korolyova, 5816m
After some rest, we headed towards our primary objective—Korolyova. Slowly it grew up from behind the moraine, asking, “Dare you?”. Yes! Well… Perhaps! Or… well… let us think. Slowly we got to the Letaveta pass, which we chose to start from. There was a thin smear of water ice on otherwise mostly rocky face. Well, we love ice, so this is the route! The next morning Alexey spent eternity scratching his way up dry rocks and aerated ice to claim the first ascent of the first pitch of the north face. The sun shone onto our north face when we ascended the ropes (as climbing them would take another more eternity). Alexey led one more pitch of crappy ice. When I climbed to belay, he was ready to go down. Little pieces of ice constantly were whirling around us. Ivan came in a minute.
— Vanya, Lyosha suggests to be wise and go down. I suggest being brave and press up. What do you think?
Ivan is older than us. He climbs big mountains for 25 years and is still alive. He is wise. So down we went.
We discussed the route and coincided on the couloir to the right from the face. It will lead us to the ridge, which we’ll walk up to the very summit. The plan looked fabulous.
Some 15 moderate to easy ice pitches led us to the icy gulley. Two pitches there, some vertical ice, snow cornice, and here we are on the ridge. In a normal place, it would be a satisfactory route on its own. Here we did the easy half of the route. Alexey and I went for reconnaissance while Ivan built a luxury ledge for our small tent. Storm-alert in my watches was beeping wildly, while the InReach weather report suggested light snow the next day.
We took out poles from the tent in the morning without any real reason. As it cleared later, our maneuver saved the tent. It was a bit windy in the morning. We climbed to the top of a gendarme, dead-ended, and rap into couloir beneath it. Then the demanding rock section began. Alexey did a great job on the first pitch, climbing steep, vertically to overhanging, corner. We shamelessly jumared. The next pitch was the crux. Technically it wasn’t hard (M4/5?), but visibility was nill. Snow was falling from all sides at the same time. Glasses were covered with ice. Without them, one couldn’t look anywhere except for the zipped hood of a down jacket. Alexey climbed some ice and stopped for a while. Then fell. Oh. Ivan lowered him to belay. I hesitantly suggest to change him.
— No, I’m just hungry. Do you have a chocolate?
After the short lunch, he finished the pitch. We followed: I was climbing blindly, Ivan—jumaring to save time. A couple of pitches more, and we got to the ridge. My turn to lead!
The snow was deep, and the wind was horrible. At noon, we decide to start the descent from any place at 6 in the evening. At 5:47, we got to the summit.
Three-second fixation and rush down to find the beginning of rappels before dark. Anyway, it took a while—we got to the tent at 11 p.m. We suggested going down, but Ivan (the wise guy in our company, remember?) insisted on staying on the col. It was easy to convince him:
— If we put a tent, the wind will tear it apart, and we’ll have to go down anyway.
Many Abalakovs after we landed on the glacier. It was 4 a.m., we were exhausted but satisfied. The light snow was falling.
Peaks Kaliningrad, 4560m and Skalistiy, 4850m
We still had a week before the departure. Ivan and Alexey eagerly waned to climb Marona’s south face. I was satisfied with our results so far. So when two men went for Marona, I stayed in camp until the following day. In the morning, I climbed Kaliningrad to shoot some pictures. After Kaliningrad, I slid the scree to the valley bottom and hiked to our camp below Korolyova. Some days ago, my smartphone with most of the photos slipped out of pocket somewhere there. Alas, no phone. I’m too lazy and curious to go down the same way, so I chose to scramble to the unnamed pass to the right from Korolyova massif. While on the pass, I got a radio talk with the Marona team. They are good and pushing up despite light snow falling. I hid beneath the cornice and hibernated. After some time, I woke up, talked to friends, and decided to climb a peak over me—Skalistiy. After looking around and touching the rock, I jumped onto the least steep rock and started up. Some 200 meters of easy climbing and scrambling bring me to the top. Later I learned, that most probably it was the first ascent of the mountain.
I start to descend towards Korzhenevskogo glacier. What from the col looked like joyful scree, in fact, was scree but cemented with ice. Descent it in running shoes wasn’t very (or any) wise. But Ivan (the wise guy in our expedition) was far. I was on my own, so I slowly and gently weighed every possible part of a surface at the same time and climbed down the loose tiles, somehow joined with ice. At least I convinced myself that they were.
I came to the camp in a couple of hours. Ivan and Alexey came the following day. They were happy with the route, and unhappy with light frostbites on fingers.