Summer Playground. Ekaitz Maiz. Perestroika crack. Ak Suu Valley (Kirguistán)
For years, a trip to Pamirs, to the valleys of Ak-Suu and Kara-Suu in Kyrgyzstan, had been on our minds. The immense granite towers found there, which measure more than a thousand metres, had always captured our imaginations. In 2021 the stars finally aligned, and we could organise the expedition.
The Ak-Suu and Kara-Suu valleys are famous for their clean granite mountains. The peaks of the Odessa, Ptitsa, Asan, Kotina, Kyrkchilta, Slesova and Ortotyubek are all around 4,000 metres high, with walls of more than a thousand metres.
Our idea was to climb several routes on different mountains. The best-known route in the area is the Perestroika crack (900 m 7a+), Rusayev (1200 m 6b A3) on the north face of the Odessa Peak, and the Morov (900m 8a). As is always the case, it is the mountain that decides if we actually get to do the routes that we have planned.
Base camp and the initial climbs
Arriving at base camp, we had the same feeling that you have when you enter Yosemite valley (USA) for the first time. However, instead of entering along with the tourists, we entered with the horses; we were with them and their herder, the only inhabitants of the Ak-Suu valley.
We were greeted by the Ortotyubek, Slesova, Kotina, Kyrkchilta and Odessa peaks, and at the bottom of the valley, the Ptitsa.
Perestroika crack, a great classic of the big walls
We got ready to ascend the pass, and our intention was to climb the Perestroika crack. We prepared all our material and food for two days. Our strategy was to climb up from the shoulder during the day, with just the essentials, carrying as little as possible.
We were climbing at a good pace. There are no easy pitches along the route, but the vast majority are for climbing and they’re well protected. There are some key pitches however, such as the dihedral off-width at pitch 10, the off-width at pitch 12, the triangle roof at pitch 15, and pitch 17.
We were making good progress, but this route should not be underestimated. The sky darkened until, arriving at an anchor, a storm broke out. It started to rain heavily. We radioed base camp and told them we were getting ready to come down.
However, while we were preparing for the descent, it stopped raining and we decided to wait a little longer. More than an hour and a half had gone by since it started to rain and finally it had stopped. The wall was soaking wet, the ledges covered with hail and snow, but being so close to the wall we decided to go on. We let base camp know that we were going to continue climbing.
The rock hadn’t yet dried completely when we passed the off-width section of the penultimate pitch and, with the last rays of sun still visible, we reached the end of the route. From here to the top of Slesova there are several sections of climbing between simple but exposed blocks. Fifteen minutes later we had made it to the top. We were so happy and very relieved by the decision we made, and then we started our descent calmly. We still had 900 metres to abseil down in the dark.
The next day we took a whole day’s rest at base camp.