Thomas Senf

The journey

In the footsteps of the Swiss mountaineer Lorenz Saladin (d. 1936), in July 2009 four Mammut athletes made the arduous journey through the Karavshin Valley in Kyrgyzstan, which remains virtually untouched by humans. After several flights, a 75-hour train journey and a two-day hike with burros, the well-earned view of – in the words of Saladin – the climber's Eldorado opened up before them. Neither the prestige of an Eiger north face nor the uncertainty of a K2 awaited the four alpinists here; rather it was a thirst for adventure and the pure joy of climbing that had taken them to the foot of Asan.

Finding a route in the imposing 800-metre face proved to be a challenge. After several unsuccessful attempts with bolt hangers in the brittle, soft stone, Nina, Giovanni, Stephan and David decided to tackle the face from another side. Their aim was to free climb the mountain – a formidable task as all previous ascents in the region were achieved using bat hooks. The project was almost successful on 2 August 2009 via the “Timofeev” (7b/7b+) route. Unfortunately, two pitches could not be free climbed because of the wet conditions. 9 August 2009 was finally the day. Nina, Giovanni and Stephan stood on the summit of Asan with the 800-metre granite face beneath them, climbed cleanly in a red point ascent for the first time. Meanwhile, David was unfortunately already on the way back as he was expected in Barcelona to take part in the world championships.

However, instead of basking in the glory they had acquired, the Mammut athletes used the remaining time to – what else? – climb. Before their departure, the three members of the pro team convincingly made an on-sight and red point ascent of the Slesova peak (4,240 m) in the neighbouring Ak-Su Valley via the inviting "Perestroika Crack" (7b). With their equipment on their back, the three left the basecamp on foot and without mules. Their provisions for the hike were nectarines that friendly Kyrgyzs had given them. After two day’s hiking on foot, Nina, Giovanni and Stephan reached civilisation again, where they quickly exchanged their rucksacks for shopping bags to raid the nearest bazaar.

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