Patrick Tirler

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Kyrgyzstan – Climbing Expedition KaraSu 2022

The following report is addressed to climbers who are considering a trip to Kyrgyzstan. Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information. Happy reading! 🙂

Team: Moritz Sigmund, Hannes Niederwolfsgruber, Alexander Obertimpfler, Moritz Plattner, Patrick Tirler, Elisabeth Lardschneider

Time: 15. July – 13. August 2022

Location: Kyrgyzstan, Karavshin, KaraSu Valley

Summary:

The trip was absolutely amazing. We had an incredible time, acquiring numerous valuable experiences and knowledge along the way. Every single person we encountered was exceptionally friendly, making us feel constantly welcomed. The travel agency executed their responsibilities flawlessly, leaving us with no worries or concerns. While a certain level of patience was necessary, we could always depend on the support of the people around us. The cook, along with her husband and son, resided at Basecamp during the summer and took excellent care of us.

The Basecamp can be reached in two days from Osh with one day of driving and one day of hiking and is located at the beginning of the valley on a beautiful meadow with a water source. It takes between one and two hours to reach the walls. If you want to climb on the western side of the valley, you should fix a rope across the river right at Basecamp.

The climbing is usually very adventurous, as there is often little information to be found. Many routes are not documented or even completed. It is advisable to search for topos in Russian on the internet, as the Russians sometimes have very good topos. There is a Russian guidebook in which the most famous routes are described in great detail. It is advisable to translate it in advance.

Most routes have been climbed in technical climbing and many are still waiting for a free ascent. The rock is almost always excellent and there are still some opportunities for first ascents, especially on the north-east side of Asan, Usen and Little Asan, in the right area of Christianity, on the wall to the right of “Alperina” on Asan, on Odessa and on Silverwall. Kotina, Yellow Wall and the central part of Asan, on the other hand, are already very crowded.

Temperatures can be very high, so you can climb at 4000 m in shorts, but it can also be very cold. The weather can be very changeable and it can rain for several days. We were very lucky and there was only one completely rainy day and 5-6 days when it rained in the afternoon.

Diary:

Day 1 (15/07):

  • Flight from Bergamo(IT) to Osh via Istanbul.

Day 2 (16/07):

  • Arrived at the airport at 7:00am. 
  • A minibus of our travel agency “Central Asia Travel” with a driver and our organizer was already waiting for us. After a warm welcome, they brought us to the hotel “Sunrise”.
  • In the hotel we immediately had to pay the whole amount (€1800 per person) in cash.
  • In the afternoon, our travel agency brought us to a big supermarket, where we bought some food. (50 Snickers, Beer and some food for the approach)
  • In the evening we made a little city tour and had dinner in one of the restaurants.
  • Accidentally, we found out that the travel agency already put up the Basecamp, but in the wrong valley. The cook and the tents were already in the Aksu-valley, but we always wanted to go to the KaraSu-valley. After some stressful phone calls, our organizer managed to solve the misunderstanding and everything seemed to be alright.
  • We never received a detailed program from our agency, and so we were convinced that we would have to hike two days to get to the Basecamp. But our organizer told us that in the year 2020 a new street was built which reduces the approach to one day. Good news!

Day 3 (17/07):

  • At 8:00am, our driver takes us from the hotel with the minibus and drives us to Batken. After 4 hours of wild driving, we arrived at the house of our organizer, where we got some lunch packets. 
  • After 2 more hours of driving, we stopped at a meadow where three jeeps were waiting for us. A Russian team was already there.
  • We wondered why the Russians have big water canisters and discovered that in the place where we sleep there is no water. We informed our organizer that we have no water with us, and he called somebody and told us that another team is still coming, which brings us some water.
  • There was only one spot left in the jeeps, so Patrick got on it and the others had to wait until the jeeps returned for the next turn.
  • After 2 hours of driving over a pass, we reached the military post where the road ends.
  • The Russians set up their tent. We slept under the free sky because our tents were already in the valley.

Day 4 (18/7):

  • At 8:00am, the first horses came, and the Russians loaded them. After they left, we were still there waiting alone for our horses.
  • At 10:00am, our horses came. The loading of the horses took a long time (30 min per horse). Each horse carries a maximum of 60 kg and the bags must be balanced exactly on both sides.
  • At 12:30 we finally started hiking in an extreme heat. We had not much water left, and there were only very few potable water sources along the way.
  • Halfway, a horse fell into the river, but luckily it could save itself. Otherwise, a fifth of our material would have been lost. 
  • At 21:00 we finally arrived at the Basecamp where our cook already waited for us with a dish of rice.

Day 5 (19/7):

  • We slept until the sun was shining onto the tents (10:00am), sorted our material and washed us in the river.
  • After lunch, Hannes, Lisi and Patrick hiked in the valley for the first time to take a closer look at the walls. 
  • Motz did not feel good and remained in the Basecamp.
  • Mo and Obi wanted to climb “Eastbegehung” on the Green Wall, but they missed the first pitch and retreated.

Day 6 (20/7):

  • Motz was still not very fit and decided not to climb. He hiked to the base of Pik Odessa, taking some pictures of the walls and watching out for a possible new line.
  • Hannes and Lisi wanted to climb “Für einen Freund” on Little Asan, but they didn’t find their route and returned.
  • Obi, Mo and Patrick chose for the classic “Diagonal” in the Yellow Wall. Mo and Patrick could send all pitches and all three reached the summit without any problems.
  • Mo and Patrick detected a huge crack in the headwall of the Yellow Wall and could not take their eyes off it. They were convinced that this kingline is still virgin and, although they were very tired in the evening, they decided to try it on the next two days.

Day 7 (21/7):

  • Hannes and Lisi climbed the “Diagonal” route on the Yellow Wall.
  • Motz and Obi climbed “Eastbegehung” on the Green Wall.
  • Mo and Patrick stood up at 8:00am and prepared to attempt the beautiful crack in the headwall of the Yellow Wall. They named it the “Commander Crack” and planned to stay in the wall for two or three days. With extremely heavy haulbags and in the heat of midday, they dragged themselves to the wall. They already found some bolts at the belays of their planned line and decided to follow them. They struggled a lot with the hauling and at the end of the day they reached the ramp, where the “Diagonal” crosses their line. They set up their portaledge a lot lower than expected and Motz tells them, through the walky talky, that he found an existing route to the left of us in the topos of the Russian climbers. He also spotted some bolts in the headwall from below.

Day 8 (22/7):

  • Motz, Obi, Hannes and Lisi wanted to climb “Czarna Wolga” on Kotina. They planned to climb it in two days, sleeping on the ledge. But already after the first pitch it was clear that hauling the whole water, food and sleeping bags takes too much time and energy, and they decided to give up and try again on the next day with better tactics (fast and light).
  • Mo and Patrick left the Portaledge and all the bivy material behind and climbed into the headwall of the Yellow Wall. After four pitches, they reached the big flake. Their idea was to climb the flake and then take a pendulum to reach the “Commander Crack”. But the crack behind the flake was much wider than expected, and they had only one cam of size #6, which was not enough. They put three bolts under the flake, which still did not bring any breakthrough, so they decided to give up. They were physically and mentally exhausted and did not want to drill themselves through the whole flake. They rappelled over the route and hiked back to the Basecamp.
  • After this day, we all knew that we had to optimize our tactics and especially to reduce weight to be able to climb efficiently.

Day 9 (23/7):

  • Mo and Patrick stayed in the Basecamp, making a rest-day.
  • Motz, Obi, Hannes and Lisi started a new attempt on Kotina. This time they avoided hauling, and all four climbed with a backpack, the leading person took a light backpack and the follower a heavier one with water and food. They discovered from the Russians that there is water (not always) on the ledge, which made the backpacks much lighter. After approximately 18-20 pitches with beautiful climbing, they arrived at the big ledge in the middle of the wall on sunset. On the ledge, there are two nice sleeping places and enough space, so they didn’t have to belay themselves overnight. Unfortunately, they forgot the lighter and so they could only eat lyofoods with cold water. Absolutely disgusting!

Day 10 (24/7):

  • Motz, Obi, Hannes and Lisi climbed to the summit without finding any human traces. Only afterward, they found out that they had climbed a completely independent line. The descent also turned out to be very complicated, because they could not find the rappel line of the Russians and had to set up their own line. Since this was very time-consuming, they only made it to the bivouac site from the night before, and decided to spend another night there.
  • Mo and Patrick got diarrhea overnight and stayed in the Basecamp. They expected the others to come back in the evening, but nobody came. At 22:00 they went into the valley to search for lights. They saw no lights and had no connection with our walkie-talkies, and assumed that the four climbers would have to sleep another time on the mountain.

Day 11 (25/7):

  • In the morning, Mo and Patrick went into the valley to look for the others. They spotted them with the binoculars while abseiling.
  • On this day Motz, Obi, Lisi and Hannes found the rappelling slope and started rappelling half starved and totally exhausted. The rappelling belays were in a very bad condition, and partly they had to climb down several meters. After more than 6 hours they reached the wall foot totally exhausted.

Day 12 (26/7):

  • Patrick was still sick and Motz now too.
  • Hannes and Obi were resting.
  • Mo and Lisi prepared to climb Pik Odessa via the easiest route, “Ovtcharenko” (russ. 6A). They planned to go to the base of the wall today, to climb to the summit the next day, to sleep on top of Odessa and to descend the day after. In the evening, they hiked to the Odessa glacier. The route goes through the north face of the mountain and therefore the glacier has to be passed before. Since Mo and Lisi had only one pair of crampons, they chose to pass the glacier on the rockfield on the right side. About halfway, a huge rockfall almost hit them. Totally shocked, they decided to go back to the Basecamp. In the next few days we discovered that such rockfalls are no rarity on this glacier and that climbing this glacier on the right side is very dangerous and absolutely not recommended.

Day 13 (27/7):

  • Patrick felt slightly better and hiked to the base of “Pik 1000 years of Christianity” to look for some new lines and to carry up some material. He and Motz set their sights on the wall on the very right of “Christianity”. But Patrick could not spot a promising line and decided that it was not worth it.
  • The others were resting in the Basecamp.
  • In the afternoon, our four friends from Tyrol arrived. We met them before our departure in Innsbruck and discovered that they planned to do the same expedition as we.

Day 14 (28/7):

  • Motz was still sick.
  • Hannes and Obi were resting.
  • Mo, Lisi and Patrick started in the morning to climb the “Tyrolean” on the Silverwall with one bivouac in the wall. After one hour and half of approaching, they noted that they forgot a gas cartridge. Mo takes the blame and runs back to the Basecamp. Lisi and Patrick waited for him, but after four hours, Mo still did not come back. They deposited some climbing staff and returned to the Basecamp. Mo became nauseous and had to remain in the Basecamp waiting for Patrick and Lisi to return. 

Day 15: (29/7)

  • The weather forecasted rain in the afternoon.
  • Mo and Motz were sick.
  • Obi, Hannes, Patrick and Lisi decided to try “Rocket Donkey” on Silverwall. Patrick struggled on the approach as his stomach began to complain again. After nine pitches a storm came up, and they had to abseil in heavy rain, completely wet and frozen.

Day 16: (30/7)

  • Everybody was resting in the Basecamp as it was raining the whole day.

Day 17: (31/7)

  • Diarrhea felt normal, and we managed to ignore it.
  • Little hike in the valley to inspect some lines. Motz’s and Patrick’s current objective is a free climb attempt of the “Pugachev-Maksimenya”-Route on Asan because the line looked simply amazing. They also spotted a very promising crack between “Pugachev-Maksimenya” and “Alperina”. Obi and Hannes instead looked for a new line on the neighboring “Michael Volkov” Peak, to the right of the huge Asan west face.

Day 18: (1/8)

  • The weather was still very unstable.
  • Mo and Lisi were still not completely fit, so they decided to rest. 
  • Obi and Hannes started their first attempt of a new route on the “Michael Volkov” Peak to the right of the huge Asan west face. Due to rain, they had to return to Basecamp after only one pitch.
  • Patrick and Motz made a first attempt on a new line on the North-East-Face of Little Asan. They managed to climb the first five pitches.

Day 19: (2/8)

  • Obi and Hannes went for a new attempt on the  “Michael Volkov” Peak. After four pitches, it began to rain, and they had to abseil.
  • Patrick and Motz continued to work on their new route and managed to get to the summit. It turned out that the rain reaches the valley to Pik Odessa later than in the rest of the valley.
  • Mo and Lisi wanted to give the Commander Crack another try. They aimed to traverse the blank slab to reach the promising crack on the old technical route, which Mo and Patrick spotted on their previous attempt. But some blank sections prevented them from reaching the crack. 

Day 20: (3/8)

  • Patrick and Motz were resting.
  • Hannes and Obi finished their first ascent on the  “Michael Volkov” Peak calling it “Iron Horse”.
  • Mo and Lisi tried again to reach the Commander Crack in the headwall of Yellow Wall. They climbed to the last bolt, which Patrick put during the first attempt, and from there they took a big pendulum to the left where the bolts from the old technical route continued. A some exhausting technical climbing, running out of gear, they finally managed to reach the crack. But it looked hard, and they were so destroyed that they decided to abseil.

Day 21: (4/8)

  • Mo, Hannes, Obi and Lisi were resting.
  • Patrick, Motz and Phillip (Tyrolean, his climbing partner got sick) worked on the new route on Little Asan for a free ascent. Patrick managed to climb the first pitch, and Motz and Phillip could decipher the moves on the second crux pitch.

Day 22: (5/8)

  • Hannes and Obi were resting again.
  • Patrick and Motz completed the first free ascent of their new route “Ak-Kalpak” on Little Asan. Mo and Lisi accompanied them, shooting some pictures and enjoying the beautiful climbing.
  • After the ascent, Motz and Patrick deposited their material on the way because they wanted to climb Pik Odessa on the next day.

Day 23: (6/8)

  • Mo and Lisi were resting.
  • Obi, Hannes and Phillip set off at 4:00am to climb “Gorbenko” on the North-East-Face of Asan in one day. They didn’t find the route and returned to the Basecamp.
  • Motz and Patrick set off at midday to the base of Pik Odessa. They planned to stay in the wall for four days, trying the route “Сахарова” through the west face. They managed to climb four pitches before they set up their portaledge on one bolt, one friend and a nut.

Day 24: (7/8)

  • Obi and Phillip tried again to climb Asan on the North-East-side. Again they couldn’t locate the right entry point and had to give up after some pitches.
  • Mo, Hannes and Lisi departed early to climb the classic “Alperina” on Asan. They slept on the ledge on pitch 9. 
  • Patrick and Motz continued to climb. The climbing was very hard and hauling required a lot of time and energy. At the end of the day they had climbed 14 pitches and set up their portaledge below the headwall.

Day 25: (8/8)

  • Obi remained in the Basecamp, preparing some firewood for the final campfire.
  • Mo, Lisi and Hannes reached the summit of Asan and descended afterward.
  • Motz and Patrick left their portaledge behind and aimed to make a fast and light summit push. They underestimated the difficulty of the climbing, but they managed to pass the steepest part of the wall. At 15:00 they reached a height of 4400 m (about 400 m below the summit) and sadly had to admit that they wouldn’t reach the summit without a bivouac. Since they left all their bivy material behind to minimize weight, they decided to return to the portaledge.

Day 26: (9/8)

  • Mo, Lisi, Hannes and Obi stayed in the Basecamp enjoying the last days in the valley.
  • After another night in the west face of Pik Odessa, Motz and Patrick rappelled over the route. There were some bolts at the belays which made the descent happen without bigger complications.

Day 27: (10/8)

  • Last day in the Basecamp!
  • We all stayed in the Basecamp to prepare for the journey homewards.

Day 28: (11/8)

  • Hike (6h:30) down to the military post where the Jeeps were waiting for us.
  • The drive home went without problems. At 3:00am we arrived at the hotel “Salam” in Osh.

Day 29: (12/8)

  • Shopping in Osh
  • In the evening, we went into town for dinner and ended up in a restaurant with live music. More and more people showed up, and at some point we found ourselves in the middle of a wedding party.

Day 30: (13/8)

  • Our flight to Istanbul departed at 4:00am.
  • Our taxi showed up with 40 minutes delay, but in the end everything went well, and we safely arrived in Italy at 17:00.

Routes Climbed:

  • “Diagonal” (7a) Yellow Wall:

The line is very obvious and cannot be missed. The major part of the route is easy climbing, and there is only one harder pitch. The crux pitch (7a) is steep and felt very strenuous, especially because of the altitude (~3500 m). The descent on the backside of the mountain was very obvious and fast. Compared to the other walls, the rock quality is not as good, but the route is well suited as a warm-up route.

  • “Rocket Donkey” (7a) – Silverwall:

The route is well suited for unstable days, as the belays are equipped with a bolt and a retreat over the route is possible. The climbing is great, and can be well protected.

  • “Ak Kalpak” (8a+) – Little Asan:

Beautiful free climb on the north face of Little Asan first ascended by Moritz Sigmund and Patrick Tirler.

  • „Сахарова“ (~7c???) – Pik Odessa:

The route was first climbed by Russian climbers in 1994 and follows a logical line through the entire west face of Pik Odessa. Due to glacier recession, the beginning of the route is lower than original. To get to the start, the short glacier slope must be overcome. Since we did not have crampons with us, we had to hit steps into the hard snow. After the first pitch, we crossed far to the left where we met the original line. The climbing is very technical and more difficult than expected (maximum 7a). The compact granite slabs are sometimes difficult to protect and bolts are very rare. After the first third of the wall, the wall becomes steeper and finally ends in a slightly overhanging wall. The line follows a crack system and therefore the bolts disappear almost completely. After many hanging belays and two difficult pitches (estimated 7c), you reach a ledge from which the wall becomes flatter. Here we turned around. The rappelling worked very well, as we were not the first to rappel above the wall. We only had to drill one piton ourselves.

The route offers beautiful freeclimbing and a great adventure. The line is not always obvious, but we always followed the easiest path and were always right. Some bolts are for rappelling only and are sometimes located outside the climbing line. There are no ledges on the whole route where you could sleep, so a portaledge is required. For abseiling, we recommend bringing enough slings to leave behind and some bolts.

  • “Commander Crack” – Yellow Wall:

The prominent crack in the headwall of the Yellow Wall was named the Commander Crack by us, but unfortunately we could not climb in it. At the first attempt, we planned to climb the huge flake and cross the blank slab with a pendulum traverse to reach the tree, where the crack begins. But the crack behind the flake was too big for our cams, and the rock was very splintery and partly fragile. After drilling three bolts, we gave up because we didn’t want to drill ourselves all the way up. With two or three cams BD#6 it would be possible to climb the flake without bolts. (yellow line in the topo below)

An unknown aidclimb route crosses the slab and leads to the beginning of the crack. Whether the route follows the crack is unclear. However, this route was climbed with copperheads and is no longer original climbable because some copperheads have broken out. (green line)

Moritz Plattner and Elisabeth Lardschneider succeeded in the third attempt to swing from the flake into the aid route and climb to the tree. However, they did not climb the crack anymore, because the way to the tree has already cost them too much energy. (blue line)

  • “Alperina” – Asan
  • “Iron Horse”  – Michael Volkov Peak:
  • “Czarna Wolga”  – Kotina

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3 Comments

  1. Tom Bennell 3. June 2024

    Hello Patrick,

    thanks a lot for posting this info! I am part of a trip to the area this August and was hoping to ask you a few questions about the climbing logistics if that is okay. The main information I am looking for is to find out which routes are possible without a portaledge? I know that Perestroika Cracks has a ledge which people can sleep on. do you know if Diagonal or Rocket Donkey are possible without a ledge? Is anything on Odessa good without a portaledge?
    Thanks in advance for any info!
    Tom Bennell

    • Patrick 3. June 2024 — Post Author

      Hi Tom,
      Sure, we climbed Diagonal and Rocket Donkey without a portaledge in one day. In both routes you probably can find some uncomfortable ledges to sleep, but I would recommend to climb them light and fast in one day, since they are not that long.
      On Odessa westface there is no ledge for sleeping. We encountered only two ledges in the whole route where we could sit on. If you dont have a portaledge you could try to climb the north ridge in one day and sleep on the summit, this is also probably the easiest route on Odessa from the KaraSu valley.
      Patrick

      • Tom Bennell 3. June 2024

        Thanks for getting back to me! that sounds good we will try light and fast for those routes. would you be able to recommend any routes in either Kara su or ak su that are particularly good without a portaledge preferably in the low to mid grade level? I am struggling to find detailed information about the routes in the area so if you know of any good guides that would be greatly appreciated thank you!

        tom

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