KAZAKHSTAN - The Marble Wall and Khan Tengri Traverse

10 Aug 2011 - Stuck on Glacier at 5270m


All content copyright © Ashley Burke 2011. Not to be copied, duplicated or used for any purpose without permission.


Highlighted area shows today's climbing

Another extraordinary and very hard day. All you can do just to survive. We left the high altitude Marble Wall camp at 9am. We now had to descend into a different valley via a glacier. We jumped a crevasse to reach level ground. After meandering down an ice shelf we reached the top of an overhung cliff of ice on the glacier. Edik and Danat talked among themselves and then retreated back up the slope. I realised they wanted to attempt an alternative route involving a heavily corniced ridge. They abandoned this idea eventually and we returned to the overhung ice cliff that we had reached before. We abseiled down this, smashing huge icicles that were hanging down from the roof of the overhung ice cavern. We continued down the glacier until the way was blocked by an icefall. This was followed by a lot of faffing around and uncertainty, backtracking, and no good decision making. The weather deteriorated. We were supposed to reach Khan Tengri Base Camp tonight and our supplies of food and gas were almost completely gone. With no way down the glacier we were forced to camp here at 5270m. I am now feeling like we are in a potentially serious situation with no obvious solution except the prospect of another long hard day ahead.

The weather today was fair but at times the visibility was poor. After descending from our high camp and jumping a crevasse to reach level ground, we took a meandering route down gentle ground until we confronted steeper ground further on.

There was much indecision regarding which way we ought to be going. Upon reaching an ice cliff, we retraced our steps for some distance until I began to realise that they were planning a completely different route ...
The knife-edge ridge ahead was heavily corniced and extremely steep. Part of the ridge is visible in the centre of this photo. I couldn't believe that they would contemplate attempting this ridge, and I truly began to doubt their judgement when Edik suggested we would reach base camp by 5pm via this route!
Here is a closer view of the ridge they were considering. It is extremely steep and heavily corniced - extremely dangerous.
All of this by 5pm? I don't think so.

Sanity prevailed in the end and we returned to the overhung ice cliff that we had turned back from before and abseiled down.


Ice pinnacles hung everywhere, and when we abseiled the overhang, we pendulumed into these ice pinnacles!
Here is Danat abseiling. Their technique for retrieving the rope was ingenious, if a little risky. We abseiled the rope on the right - single strand - as in this photo. Then, once we were all down, Edik pulled on the leftmost rope. This pulled out the ice axe that had been used as the anchor, and both it and all the rope came down.

Danat abseiling the overhang.



Now we were stuck. Instead of reaching the North Inylchek base camp today, we were confronted by icefalls everywhere. After trying in vain to find a route down the dangerous icefall, we were forced to retreat to level ground and pitch the tent for another night. This would render us 1 day overdue, and by now most of our food and gas was gone.



All content copyright © Ashley Burke 2011. Not to be copied, duplicated or used for any purpose without permission.

Page created 29 Nov 2011, last updated 5 Dec 2011.