Ines Papert and her Slovenian climbing partner Luka Lindic claimed a prestigious first ascent in October when they put up a new line on the 5842 metre peak Kyzel Asker. The mountain, located in China along its border with Kyrgystan, has attracted numerous climbing parties over the past decade and thwarted many of them.
The two existing lines on Kyzel Asker’s prominent South Pillar – the 2007 Russian line put up by Ruchkin, Mikhailov and Odinstov and the 2013 French/Belgium route led by Sean Villaneueva and Nico Favresse – overlap as they wind their way up the rock. Papert and Lindic’s more ambitious route, named Lost in China, follows an ice line to the left of the existing routes.
The line is so tricky Papert herself failed to reach the top in 2010 and 2011. Indeed, as Papert reports in her blog about the successful climb, “the line I had in mind before had seen over ten attempts over the course of the past years but so far no team had managed to climb this route to the peak.”
In 2010 Papert was forced to turn back just 300 metres short of the summit because of heavy snowfall and avalanches. Conditions on Kyzel Asker are the primary challenge. Sunlight exerts a destabilising effect on the snow and ice on the face, triggering spindrift and other hazards. No wonder Papert took to Facebook to enthuse about the favourable conditions she and Lindic encountered this year: “The conditions of the ice were great! Never before have I seen ice this perfect at such a high altitude.”
The pair began their summit attempt before sunrise on the morning of September the 30th. They simul-climbed the first section, aware that haste was required if their Alpine style assault was to be successful. Higher up the mountain they switched to climbing in pitches determined by regular rope length, “stretching them out sometimes to gain height quicker.”
Papert recalls Lindic screaming in delight while leading and catching up with him to learn the good news. Her partner had caught the first glimpse of the inviting ice leading towards the summit. “The same route had cost us incredibly much time in 2010 because of the difficult conditions,” Papert recalls. “This time it seemed almost easy.”
A brief hail storm brought them to a halt and, despite their excellent progress throughout the day, they were forced to bivouac for the night. The sheer South East face of Kyzel Asker wasn’t the most comfortable place for a bivouac. “Quite a place to spend the night,” Lindic observed on Instagram. “It turned into a terribly long night with endless thoughts of the warming rays of the sun,” Papert recalled. “Luka said it was one of the toughest bivys.”
Nonetheless, the pair knew they were only a few pitches below the summit and when the sun restored some warmth to their limbs they set out for the top. Gentlemanly courtesy and an awareness of Papert’s travails on the mountain led Lindic to step aside and allow her to ascend the summit pinacle first.
At midday on the 1st of October the two climbers stood on the summit and savoured their achievement before rappelling down the route using Abalakov anchors. They made it down not a minute too late, chased by a thunderstorm.
All in all, it was a highly successful trip for Papert and Lindic. To warm up for their effort on Kyzel Asker the pair claimed the first repeat and first free ascent of Border Control on the northeast face of Great Walls of China, a 5000m peak. Not a bad way to acclimatise!