OverviewNote: Some of the info on this page is from the former caretaker of the page and I'm not sure how reliable it is. I hope to find some time to make some updates soon.
There are five mountains over 7000m in the area which once were the Soviet Union. The second highest and by far the most difficult is Peak Pobeda. It's a border peak between China and Kyrgyzstan.
Its South eastern realms are on the territory of China, and the border with present day Kyrghyzstan runs over its summit and the west and east ridges. On the Chinese side its called Mount Tomur, and as it is so completely different from that side, as well in mountaineering history, in Topography and in the technical details of climbing it, I think that lateron I will compile a seperate page for describing Mount Tomur.
In present years Pobeda is climbed at least by a few parties every year, but the percentage of Western teams is still very low, and an overwhelming majority of the ones that reached the summit have been Russian nationals, not in the last place because one needs to ascend it to become "snowleopard"
Officially nowadays it is given that the mountain was first climbed by a party led by the famous Vitaly Abalakow in 1956, but SP member Peter Schoen recently pointed out that it might already have been ascended as early as 1938.
So, what is the case?: To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Komsomol, the youth organisation of the Soviet Communist party, in 1938 a team of climbers was sent out into the Central Tien Shan and here climbed what they were convinced of was the highest summit of the entire range. They measured the peak with an old airplane altitude meter as 6900 meter and named it "20 Komsomol".
In 1943 another party was out in the region, this time on a geographical sortie to commemorate the Soviet victory over the nazi armies at Stalingrad. Having excellent equipment they were able to determine the exact height of the peaks and came to the conclusion that the highest was a stunning 7439 meter, a value that has held out until the present. They also determined that it was the same peak as "20 Komsomol", but renamed it "Pobeda" (=victory), in honour of the Stalingrad battle.
How to explain the great difference in height? Luis Trenker, an authority on mountaineering history, in his book "Die schonsten berge der welt" comes with the following theory: The old airplane altimeter that the Komsomol party used was broken and indeed they did climb the summit of Pobeda. What is true or not we will probably never know.
Pobeda is difficult an quite dangerous to ascend on all routes. The very elaborate ones the two first parties took to the summit are seldom taken Nowadays, and the most popular route now is the "classical" opened in 1961 by a team under leadership of D. Medzmarishvili. Still it is of Russian Grade 5B, (which might even be slightly underrated), so pretty tough.
The other five routes on the Northern flank are all 5B or more difficult. Succes rate at Peak Pobeda is still very low if compared with other high peaks and the death toll has been frightningly high: There have been times that 1/3 who made it to the summit did not come down alive again, and in this it can be counted as one of the most dangerous peaks there is in asia.
The reasons for the high fatality rate are various: First, the classical route involves following the West ridge for 12 kilometer(!) towards the summit and it is all above 7000 meter. Second, Together with Khan Tengri, Pobeda forms the Northernmost pair of 7000+ peaks on the globe, hundreds of kilometers to the North of the well known Himalaya and Karakoram giants, resulting in extremely cold conditions. Third, on several routes, but specially on the "classical", there is grave avalanche danger.
Last but not Least, the Russian style of climbing differs from Western ones, in the sense that often much greater risks are accepted, and it is also well known that, being often poor, many Russian climbers are not to well equipped.
Although having a great urge to climb this peak myself, (Have done 3 out of five of the "snowleopard" peaks and the other, Korzhenevskaja, should not present to much of a problem), I did not get the chance for it yet. As a proffesional expedition leader I have to go where the clients want to go, and that has not been Pobeda yet in our case. In fact we cannot blame them for avoiding such dangerous and difficult one, if others, equally counting, are available! The one time that I was in the Inylchek region, time was short and the choice fell on Khan Tengri instead.
Getting ThereTo Kyrgyzstan - by air
Most travelers arrive in Kyrgyzstan by air. Manas International Airport is linked with many Asian and European airports. The cheapest fares are found if you look into what Aeroflot and Pulkovo airlines have to offer. A visa can be bought on the spot in Manas Airport. Taxis to Bishkek, which is about half an hour away is readily available at all times of the day, but be sure you know where you are headind as some drivers have commission from some upmarket hotels where you may not want to go.
To Kyrgyzstan - overland
There are two entry points from China: Torugurt Pass and Irkestam Pass. The former can only be traveled in group and by pre-arranged transport. Agents in Bishkek and Kashi (the staging point on the Chinese side) can arrange this for about 100$/person. The travel takes about 2 days in mini bus. Irkestam Pass is easier in terms of permits. You can take off on your own with yur passport only and border formalities are easy and straight forward. Be careful with your gear on the Kyrgyz side though. Reports about stolen equipment are quite common. Expect to wait for long times at the border crossing if you're unlucky to arrive at the same time as one of the large truck convoys.
There are other border crossings to and from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. They can be traveled without any special permits and in general quite straight forward, but rigorous luggage checks are common. If you want to leave the country to Tajikistan's Pamiri-Badakhshan province a special travel permit is needed and it has to be applied for from the ministry of foreign affairs in Dushanbe.
All climbs of Peak Pobeda from the North start from Base camps on the Zvesdochka glacier, a tributary of the great Inylchek glacier, one of the longest non polair ones there is. Trekking in to base camp is thus a very elaborate and not very feasible way of getting there and very few parties do so. If however wanting to try, one should fly in to Bishkek the capital of Kyrghyzstan by any convenient international flight. From here take road transport to the village of Inylchek and proceed the whole length of the glacier. As however porters are virtually absent, (During communizm it was thought of as "not done" to have others carrying your shit and the service has never really developed), and pack animal transport is very problematic, -like it is on all glaciers-, so only for very strong, very lightweighted parties this may be an alternative. It is much more convenient to arrange for flying in from Bishkek by MIG 17 helicopter, a service readily available, but expensive, especially for small parties. I do not want to say that others have not good services, but Bishkek based "Dostuck Trekking" an outfit run by Nicolai Shetnikov is very competent and fair priced for making arrangements for your group.
Red Tape & Permits
For most nationals a pre-arranged visa isn't necessary anymore. You can fly straight to Bishkek international airport and buy one upon arrival. The cost varies for different passport holders. Count on $30-$100 depending on nationality and planned period of stay. Usually 7 day, 1 month and 1 year visas are available, but sometimes it's possible to get other validity times. Multiple entry visas are also available at the airport. An odd thing is that visas are actually cheaper getting them in the airport than getting them from a Kyrgyz embassy.
Make sure you have cash handy as it's sometimes close to impossible to get any at the airport until you have passed the customs, which you of course can't pass until you have a visa for Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyz embassy in USA
Kyrgyz embassy in Germany
Peaks in between 7000 and 8000 meters cost 1080$. The permit is officially valid for a group up to 10 persons + leader. The price isn't negotiable, but the group size is. I encountered a 23 person group climbing on the same permit once.
Applications for a climbing permit should be sent to the local Chinese Mountaineering Association (CMA) office well in advance. For popular peaks the procedure can be handled in a couple of days, but for a peak like Tomur it may take a long time.
When To Climb
The best period for Pobeda is mid June to mid August.
Very few attempts have been made out of season.
CampingKyrgyzstan is a country of nomads and there's a lot of people "camping" all over the place. It's usually not a problem to pitch a tent anywhere in the country. If in doubt, ask. On the walk in to Pobeda camping is the norm and at BC you either camp in your provider's area or if you have none - pitch your tent wherever you like.
If there's space you can rent a place in one of the providers larger tents.
On the Chinese side the normal Chinese rules apply. Officially camping is forbidden, but I've never been bothered and if you ask if you can pitch a tent there's a very slim change anyone says no. There's no semi permanent BC like the one on the Kyrgyz side.
The peak is infamous for it's hard weather. No 7000m peak is further north (not counting Khan Tengri, more here) and it's located in place which is perfect for fast and violent weather changes. In the east the mighty Taklamakan desert, with enormous amounts of hot air rising. In the west a long valley which leads straight down to a big lake (Issuk Kul) and to the north and south huge mountain areas are located.
Very fast weather changes is the norm and so is hard wind on the long summit ridge. Avalanches are frequent on all routes.
Tomur Feng - The Chinese side of Peak Pobeda
Few mountain ranges form such a natural border as the Central Tien Shan. The group to which Pobeda and Stina belong to forms a rough and high, but also very beautiful barrier which is sometimes called the Marble Wall. The chain has throughout history been an international border, geographically and politcally between China's Western extremities and Turkish and Russian influences. Although in the 19th century Tsarist Russia frequently invaded Western China, even the Tsarist Imperialist saw the logic of having the Marble Wall as the border and thus the Eastern and Southern approaches of Pobeda have always remained on Chinese territory.
In China the peak is called Tomur, which means iron mountain in the local Uyghur language. One thing is however not to much different from the other sides: Tomur is very difficult and dangerous to climb. A strong team from the China Mountaineering Association finally succeded to scale it in 1977 after several fruitless tries. As far as I know the climb has up to now never been repeated.
Thanks to Vladimir for providing the information.
The first persons to attempt to climb up Pobeda were a three-man team of mountaineers led by L. Gutman. They went up the northern side of the Zviozdochka (Little Star) glacier in September 1938, when the temperature was -30 °C. To this day there are serious doubts as to whether they really succeeded in conquering the peak. In any case, the three alpinists were not aware they were trying to climb up the tallest peak in the Tien Shan system. The true geographic "discovery" of the peak was made only in 1943. The first successful climb dates from 1956, when an expedition headed by V. Abalakov reached the summit after a 30-day climb. Abalakov called it Peak Pobeda, or Victory Peak, as a tribute to the Red Army's triumph in the war against the Nazis. Many mountaineers had attempted to climb the forbidding peak before Abalakov and the outcome was often tragic, as in the case of the 1955 Kazakh expedition: eleven of the twelve members of the team died in their tent at 6,900 meters during a violent snowstorm. In 1958, I. Erokhins expedition made the first climb via the Chon-Teren glacier. The complete crossing of the massif from east to west was made in 1970 by A. Riabukhin's expedition.
Set amidst the Kokshaal-Tau (Forbidding Mountains) chain, Pobeda Peak is the northernmost peak over 7,000 meters high in the world. The weather conditions during climbs are extremely rough. The rare days with good weather are separated by long periods of bad weather in which the icy wind from the Takla Makan desert - significantly called "Thousand Devils" - often buffets the mountain, making it impossible to climb
Info about the 2002 Russian ski expedition to Pik Pobeda
The feats of the late Anatoli Boukreev in his long mountaineering career.
Vladimir Kopylov's company now concentrates fully on a varied program of expeditions in the Caucasus, but he remains a great specialist on all the mountains of the former Soviet Union.
This company offers guide climbing on Pik Pobeda.
Slide show about the K2 adventure 1998 expedition to peak Pobeda
This company offers climbing expeditions to Pik Pobeda
About skiing and snowboarding possibilities on Pik Pobeda.
Danish outfit offering cheap climbing expeditions to Pik Pobeda.
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