Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 42.21145°N / 80.17479°E
Activities Activities: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Summer
Additional Information Elevation: 22998 ft / 7010 m
Sign the Climber's Log


NF of Khan Tengri
Khan Tengri's North Face

Khan Tengri is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful peaks in the world. Shaped like a kids drawing of a mountain its summit and sharp ridges form an almost perfect pyramid covered in snow and ice. Anatoli Boukreev considered Khan Tengri perhaps the world's most beautiful peak because of its geometric ridges and its symmetry. During sunset the main summit often glows deep red due to the mountain consisting largely of marble rock. The Kazakh name Kan Tau means "Blood Mountain" in relation to this phenomina.

Khan Tengri's name means "Lord of the Spirits" or "Lord of the Skies" in the Uighur and "Ruler of the Skies" in Turkic as the mountain was worshipped as a god in in the indigenous shamanistic culture. As with many peaks in this part of the world it also has a number of alternative lesser used names: Khan Tangiri Shyngy, Kan-Too Chokusu, Pik Khan-Tengry, Hantengri Feng.

The mountain is located on the Kyrgyz-Kazah border and 7km west of the China border in the remote heart of the Central Tian Shan. Khan Tengri forms the highest point on the Tengri Tag sub-range that lies between the Northern and Southern Inylchek (or Engilchek) Glaciers. The latter is the third largest glacier outside the polor regions after the Siachen Glacier in the Indian-Pakistani border region and the Fedchenko Glacier in the Tajik Pamir.

Khan Tengri is the second highest mountain in the Tian Shan Range after Pobeda (7439m), located a short distance south on the Kyrgyz-Chinese border. It is the fifth highest in the former Soviet Union. As a peak (possibly) over 7000m it is one of the five Snow Leopard Peaks of the former Soviet Union. Whether the peak is actually over 7000m is a controversial subject. It's geographical elevation is 6995m but the glacial cap rises to 7010m. You decide!

Khan Tengri is generally considered to be the third hardest Snow Leopard mountain after Pobeda and Pik Kommunizma. Being the most northerly 7000m peak in the world it can be subject to treacherous whether making it a potentially dangerous place to be under-equipped and ill-experienced. The northern latitude also makes the climbing season very short (mid-July to end of August).

Khan Tengri is a popular mountain to climb but still receives relatively few climbers compared to Pik Lenin. Most who attempt the mountain belong to the former Soviet block (as the Summit Log testifies) and visiters from outside this area are still few in number.

Illusion of Infinity...West Ridge of Khan Tengri

A short history of the Exploration of Khan Tengri

The first European to penetrate the range was Piotr Seminov, already a member of the Russian Geographic Society aged only twenty-two. In 1856 he made his first expedition to the Lake Issyk Kul region. The following summer Seminov, at the head of an army of 1500, crossed the Santas Pass and proceeded east towards the Chinese frontier arriving in the highest area in the enire range. Here he counted at least thirty high mountains, the highest which he believed to be Khan Tengri. Others later visited the region, among them famed explorers like Swedish Sven Heding, Italian Cesare Borghese, accompanied by Swiss mountain guide Mattias Zurbriggen, and a whole set of Russian explorers.

Khan Tengri and Peak Chapaev  from the North
Khan Tengri (l) & Chapaeva (r) from the north

Gottfried Merzbacher of Germany, who was a keen scientist one of the most skilled mountaineers of his time, visited the area in 1902 with the objective of trying to climb the peak. He was joined by climbers Hans Pfann and Hans Keidel and mountain guide Fransesco Kostener. Together they tried to approach the peak via the South Inylchek glacier, but were severly setback by the yearly dam break of the Glacial Lake at the head of the North Inylchek Glacier (subsequently known as Merzbacher Lake) that flooded the region. Merzbacher continued on his own and reached the foot of Khan Tengri. His conclusion however was that the peak was 'unclimable' and left it with the message to the world, "The Tian Shan is just no place for mountain climbing".

Aided by improved climbing techniques and materials in the Soviet Union they developed quite some other thoughts about this. In the late twenties they started mounting expeditions with the goal of climbing the peak, but were first confronted with sever logistical problems of getting enough provisions up to the head of 65 kilometer long Inylchek glacier as it is almost impossible for pack animals to go there. Hacking steps in the ice for their horses, a party under Ukranian mountaineer Progrebitskiy surmounted all the problems in 1931 and succeeded in climbing the peak by what now has become the classical route.

It was in the early years of the Soviet Union that again Khan Tengri got serious attention from mountaineers and in 1931 a party of the Ukranian alpinist M. Progrebetskiy finally scaled the summit via what is today the classical southern route. Two years later a Swiss climber and his Russian guide repeated the feat. For some time these first two ascents were doubted by mainly German researchers but nowadays it is generally accepted that they were genuine. It took 33 years before another route was opened, in 1964 by Russian climbers Romanov and Kuzmin on the North wall. Not surprising as routes other than the classical one are of very serious nature.

Mountain moneyAs seen the Kyrgyz 100 Som note: Essential souvenir for anybody attempting the mountain

Overview of Routes

The Russian grading system is explained here. The system is similar to French grades and based on overall difficulty. There is no distinction for the hardest move, nor a separate grade for rock, ice, aid, or free climbing.

In the Soviet Union mountaineering was considered serious business and it was very popular. Many of the documented routes in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are remnants from the era of Soviet-sponsored training camps. Only when climbers reached the highest level of training were they allowed to set new routes. This legacy has left a series of standard routes and a large number of very difficult routes on Khan Tengri. For a mountain of this size and remoteness there are a large number of opened routes compared with mountains of other ranges.

Khan-Tengri -Pobeda sunset panorama, seen from Camp 5800m.The West Ridge of Khan Tengri at sunset (left) with Pobeda in the distance

Possibly the most outrageous route of ascent was in 1990 by a Soviet team from Kazakhstan. They reached Khan Tengri’s summit in 14 days via a long traverse that began from Pik Vazho Pshavela (6918m) and included Pik Pobeda (7439m), Pik
Sovetskoy Armenii (6900m), Pik Pobeda East (7030m), Pik Topografov (6873m), Pik Druzhby (6800m), Shatyor (6700m). This is undoubtedly one of the most impressive high altitude traverses of all time.

The standard west ridge can be approached from the north (Kazakhstan) or south (Kyrgyzstan). The southern approach is technically easier but objectively more dangerous with fatalities in 1991, 1993 and 2004.

Southern Routes 

The South and West Faces of Khan Tengri
Khan Tengri from the South

Progrebetsky Route (Classical)
Difficulty: Russian Grade 5a
First Climbed: 1931

Romanov Route
Difficulty: Russian Grade 6a
First climbed: 1964

Voronin Route
Difficulty: Russian Grade 5b
First climbed: 1973

South Wall Route
Difficulty: Russian grade 6b
First Climbed: Unknown

Left Southeast Face Route
Difficulty: Russian Grade 6a
First Climbed: Unknown

Central Southeast Face Route
Difficulty: Russian grade 6a
First Climbed: Unknown

Southeast Ridge Route
Difficulty: Russian grade 5b
First Climbed: 1986

Northern Routes

The North Face is 3000m high and direct routes are very hard and unclimbed by anyone from outside the former Soviet block. The classic route from the north does not tackle the north face directly and makes for a col to the west from where the west ridge can be gained.

Peak Khan Tengri view from...
The West Ridge

Solamatov Route (Classical Northern)
Difficulty: Russian Grade 5b
First Climbed: 1974

Benkin Route
Difficulty: Russian Grade 5b
First Climbed; 1975

Khudiakov Route
Difficulty: Russian Grade 5a
First Climbed: 1970

Mislovsliy Route
Difficulty: Russian Grade 6b extra
First Climbed; 1974

Studenin Route
Difficulty: Russian Grade 6b extra
First Climbed; 1974

Gorbenko Route
Difficulty: Russian Grade 6b extra
First Climbed; 1987

Moisseev Route
Difficulty: Russian Grade 6b extra
First Climbed: 1988

Western Routes

West Ridge
Difficulty: Russian grade 5a
First Climbed: 1931

This forms the final part of many of the less direct southern and southern
routes that climb to the saddle between Khan Tengri and Chapaeva at 5900m.

Bad weather on summit day
The West Ridge
Sunset over Khan Tengri s summit
West Ridge Sunset
Flying over Tien-Shan...Flying over the Tian Shan
Khan-Tengri - Pobeda panorama.The Inylchek Glaciers

Getting There

Two logical starting points present itself for expedition into the Central Tien Shan and Khan Tengri. The first one is Almaty, Kazakhstan, which can be reached by many international flights and has good hotel accomodation and so on. For climbs on the Northern routes of Khan Tengri it is preferable to start from Almaty. Bishkek the capitol of Kyrghyzstan however has the better climbing infra structure and many capable agencies have their offices here. Bishkek can also be reached by a few international flights, mainly coming from Frankfurt, Moscow or Urumqi. There is also a short connecting flight from Almaty to Bishkek, but flying into Almaty, with most airplane companies you are entitled a free seat on the shuttle bus to Bishkek. In both towns helicopter transport into the Tien Shan is available.

Helicopter arrives at Khan Tengri and Pik Pobeda s base camp
Helicopter arriving at the Southern BC (Pobeda in background)

The southern and northern base camps can be reached by helicopter from Karkara (2200m) in the foothills of the Tian Shan a day's drive from Almaty or Bishkek. It's located just across the Kazakh border but if you are approaching from Bishkek for the Southern BC then you don't need a Kazakh visa if you are with a company (such as Aksai for example). Karkara is very well equipped with Restaurant, Hotel, Sauna, Tents for hire and so on.

The Central Tian Shan as seen from the Helicopter to Khan Tengri s & Pobeda s Base Camp
View from helicopter to BC

Helicopter flights usually run from around the second week in July to the end of August.

Trekking to the southern base camp is possible in about three days however it would be advisable to have supplies for the climb flown to base camp.

Helicopter crash at Khan Tengri and Pik Pobeda s base camp
Lead Balloon!
Pobeda & Khan Tengri s Commercial base camp
Commercial BC on the South Inylchek Glacier
Make shift high camp 1 on the classic southern route of Khan Tengri
Bad place to camp! (see photo description)

Video footage of the flight to Khan Tengri's Southern BC

Camping & Accommodation

Camp at approximately 5600m
Camp made at around 5600m

Three commercial base camps are situated at the confluence of Sviozdochka with South Inylchek Glaciers serving climbers to Khan Tengri, Pobeda and any other peaks in the area. Besides large tents being available food is also prepared and of course vodka and beer is readily available! Possibly the best thing about these camps are the saunas. To say that it is slightly surreal to be stark naked at 4000m in the middle of one of the largest glaciers outside the polar regions with minus temperatures outside (sometimes snowing) while you are sweating you b*****s off in a sauna is an under statement!

It is perfectly fine to independantly camp in the vacinity of the mountain if you can resist the lures of the commerical camps.

A short glacier crossing from base camp there is a convenient camp spot at the foot of the normal route at 4100 meter. The Frequently used spots for camps on the climbing of the normal route are found at 5200, 5900, 6400 and 6700 meter altitude.

Early in the morning. Sun is coming to the Saddle from behind the Summit of Khan-Tengri
The West Ridge
South faces of Khan Tengri and Chayaeva from base camp
Khan Tengri and Chapaeva from the Southern BC
Foreshortened view of Khan...
Foreshortened view of Khan Tengri from camp 1 on the classical southern route


Night over Khan-Tengry
Stars over Khan Tengri

The best bet is to buy a package that generally includes the following:

• Airport transfer and accommodation in either Bishkek or Almaty;
• Transfer to and from Kakara;
• Tent accommodation (with mattress) and food at Kakara;
• Helicopter flights to and from base camp;
• Tent accommodation (with mattress), three meals and drink in a mess tent, and sauna at base camp;
• Border permit

The alternative is to just take the helicopter and bring all your own tent and food.

Local companies running expeditions to Khan Tengri

Kan Tengri Expeditions

More to follow...

Red Tape

Avalanch - Flying Death...
Avalanche off the slopes of Chapaev peak


No permits are currently required in climbing in Kyrgyzstan (the government abolished them a couple of years ago). Anyone who wants to visit the border areas of the Central Tian Shan however requiers a Propusk (this Russian term translates to Military Border Permit). The Propusk is available through Khirgiz travel agencies and will cost about 30 Euros. The border permit requires your passport number and there is usually a soldier-type person checking this piece of paper at the camps so don't leave without it and keep it in a safe place.


Check the Lonely Planet Thorntree forum for latest info on visas as things are always changing.

Kyrgyzstan has dropped the visa requirement for many nationals and visas are available at the Manas international airport in Bishkek. Arriving overland, you still have to get a visa prior to arrival, but it’s easy to get from a Kyrgyz embassy and a letter of invitation is generally no longer required.

When To Climb

Night over Khan-Tengry
Stars over Khan Tengri

The main climbing season is very short running from mid-July to the end of August. Outside this period conditions on the mountain are often severe. Due to Khan Tengri being the most northerly 7000m peak it receives little shelter from northerly winds and hurricanes are not uncommon. The Inylchek weather station has several times in history recorded the lowest temperatures on earth during the Northern winter meaning a winter ascent is only for masocists. Some consider an ascent of Khan Tengri or Pobeda on par with an 8000m peak in terms of conditions indicating severity. A winter ascent has been proved not to be impossible though and a Kazakh expedition managed to summit during the winter of 2002/2003.

Map of Khan Tengri

There is a 1:500,000 Soviet topographical map online here which good for their scale.

A German sketch map is also available here which labels all the peaks in the Khan Tengri area.

EWP publish a good map of the Central Tian Shan, scale 1:150,000. The reverse side has a 1:250,000 map useful for access to the area.

Mountain Conditions

Avalanch - Flying Death...
Avalanche off the slopes of Chapaev peak

[img:40299:alignleft:small:Possibly a bad day for a summit push!]
There are several meteorological websites giving detailed information about conditions and weather forecasts for the Central Tien Shan. But all of them require membership and are not exactly cheap in many case.
At the, now largely deserted, mining town of Inylchek at the end of the Inylchek valley, there is a meteorological station. A capable local or foreign agent can provide you with forecast details from this station as well as about the general conditions on Khan Tengri.
Informing in Bishkek and Almaty with parties just returning from the area also can yield fairly accurate information.

External Links

Kyrgyz Alpine Club Excellent information on mountaineering in Kyrgyzstan

Elbrus.comVladimir 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 and there is some excellent information here.

Saxon Tian Shan Expedition 1994
Expedition report: Tian Shan (Khan Tengri and others) and China (Kashgar), Karakoram (some small peaks) (German Language)

Alpine Club of Saxony 1991 Khan Tengri Expedition (German language)

Alpine Club of Saxony: Mountaineering in Tian Shan Lots of useful information on climbing Khan Tengri and other Tian Shan Mountains, big link collection (German language)

Alpine Fund Climbing and trekking information for Kyrgyzstan Romanian climber Alex Gavin's web page has some excellent info on his climb from the north side in 2004

Paul & Fiona Adler 2004 Expedition to the North side of Khan Tengri

Flight to Khan Tengri's Southern BC (You Tube) Excellent footage

Avalanche from Khan Tengri's North-Eastern aspect (YouTube)

Huge avalanche from Chapaeva's North Face (YouTube)

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

Viewing: 1-9 of 9

Corax - Feb 2, 2007 9:42 am - Voted 10/10


Finally a new maintainer. I vote ten already, as I know the result will be great. If I were you, I would detach all the routes which are now attached to the page. I can't judge the quality of them as I haven't climbed them. The submitter hasn't climbed any of them either and telling from his other route submissions they are at best misleading and potentially dangerous.


BigLee - Feb 2, 2007 1:58 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Good!

Thanks. Yes, I will detach them if need be! I'll have a read of those routes this weekend and see what I make of them.


BigLee - Feb 3, 2007 6:24 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Good!



zoomloco - Jul 16, 2011 3:59 pm - Hasn't voted

Harder than the page lets on

The Khan Tengri main page currently (July 16 2011) states: "Khan Tengri is generally considered to be the third hardest Snow Leopard mountain after Pik Lenin and Pik Kommunizma." This statement is misleading and almost certainly incorrect. Lenin is well known as one of the easiest 7000m peaks in the world, and it is also well established that Pik Pobeda is the most difficult Snow Leopard peak. But the general interpretation of the quote would mean both Lenin and Kommunism are more difficult than Khan and Pobeda, which is simply, and in the eyes of everyone who has climbed those peaks, false. There may be some quibbling in the ordering of the middle three peaks, but those at the easiest (Lenin) and hardest (Pobeda) are very well established. The truth is that Lenin and Khorzhenevskaya are definitely easier, but that is not how the page is worded. A more accurate statement would be " Khan Tengri is generally considered to be the second hardest snow leopard peak after Pik Pobeda," which is true and clear. Some think Kommunism is harder than Khan because of the altitude. But there is no way Lenin is more difficult.


BigLee - Aug 6, 2011 5:21 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Harder than the page lets on

That was a typo error. Should have said Pobeda and Kummunizma

DD2013 - Sep 11, 2013 10:04 pm - Hasn't voted

Details on Khan Tengri expedition

Hi, I am so glad that I saw this page online, I have been going around in circles trying to get some information from tour agents and guides who are being very slow in replying to queries... I am really hoping that someone here might help. Does anyone know the distance (km) that is covered when doing the Khan Tengri ascent from base camp when starting the trek in Kazakhstan? (or any info about km covered would be great!!) I really hope that you can help. Cheers! Davina


AlpineGT - Oct 11, 2013 8:51 am - Voted 8/10

Khan Tengri West Ridge

Hello, I Spent July and August of 2013 climbing in the Central Ala-Too Range and on the West Ridge of Khan Tengri. Also did some exploring around Khan Tengri BC Valley. Let me know if anyone would like any beta on routes, ranges, logistics, or just the experience. George


highman - Apr 2, 2015 1:57 am - Hasn't voted

Khan Tengri from north video

Hello, - short 13m film showing our last year expedition to Khan Tengri - North Face, B. Solomatov Classical (Solomatov) Enjoy!


runout - Dec 22, 2018 7:14 am - Hasn't voted

South Base Camp

In 2018 the camp leader Dimitri and his friend Alex were very unfriendly and had lots of discussions with several customers. People with 'Full Package' were not satisfied with the food and they were hungry every evening. But even for the danger of avalanches and ice fall i'd suggest going from the north side. There are often accidents on the south route which is not that much easier than the north route.

Viewing: 1-9 of 9



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The Tian ShanMountains & Rocks
The Snow LeopardsMountains & Rocks