Lenin Peak Base Camp (Kyrgyzstan)

Day 10: Kashgar – Lenin Peak Base Camp (Kyrgyzstan): An early start for a long day. We drive due west out of Kashgar along the main artery of the Old Silk Road to the Irkishtam Pass. It is one of only two main border crossings between Kyrgyzstan and Xinjiang, China, the other being Torugart, some 165 km to the northeast which we had navigated 3 days earlier. The road the Chinese side was being completely reworked, with the result that no road surface existed on the temporary road we had to travel for many hours. Past the new, but weed ridden, Chinese border control building to eventually the Irkishtam Pass where we crossed back into Kyrgyzstan. Our driver was 80 years old, and had started to drive in 1948. Unfortunately he drove like a maniac - it was said that he was fasting because of Ramadan and was "hyper" - if true, I did not find it sufficient excuse for his driving at a speed from which the van could not possibly have stopped safely, and on at least three occasions he narrowly missed collisions with oncoming traffic and donkeys.

We then continued on to Sary Tash along another rough road, this time with the high Pamirs rising to the south. Beyond Sary Tash a dirt road leads up to Lenin Peak Base Camp. We started up this track in the fading light, and with a sprinkling of rain. The rain was enough to make the underlying mud of the track turn into a skating rink, and first one of our vans, then the other, then both, ground to a standstill. A passing 4WD did the necessaries the first time, but then another 4WD had to be summoned by phone from Lenin Base Camp, and we all transferred to this vehicle, whilst the drivers brought the two non 4WD vans up without passengers.

We arrived in Lenin Base Camp in pitch darkness, and ate dinner - not a great dinner, I have to say - in a very cold unheated dining tent. The normal clientele of this camp are mountaineers scaling Lenin Peak, so perhaps are made of sterner stuff than I. It was then a quick crawl into sleeping bags in our tent, and goodnight world.

Next morning delivered the reason for being there. Soon after 6am we woke to a clear blue sky and Lenin Peak was revealed in the sunlight. Lenin Peak rises to 7,134 metres (23,406 ft) in Gorno-Badakhshan. It is considered one of the easiest 7,000 m peaks in the world to climb if you are in to that sort of thing, and it has by far the most ascents of any 7,000 m or higher peak on earth, with every year seeing hundreds of climbers making their way to the summit. Hence the need for this base camp (and a couple of others) with over 100 tents between them. It was thought to be the highest point in the Pamirs in Tajikistan until 1933, when Ismoil Somoni Peak (known as Stalin Peak at the time) was climbed and found to be more than 300 metres higher. Two mountains in the Pamirs in China, Kongur Tagh (7,649 m) and Muztagh Ata (7,546 m), are even higher.

After a walk, photos and breakfast, we were on our way again

Click on any of the thumbnail images to get a larger photo

The road from Kashgar to the Chinese border was one of the worst we travelled on. The new border post was not well maintained.
A better road in Kyrgyzstan We turn off for Lenin Base Up a dirt track and a smattering.. .of rain gave us this.
A tented camp, built for intrepid mountaineers. The boys grabbed the best sleeping bag, and Chris booked into the nearest loo.
The morning sunlight gave us a truly stunning vista of Lenin Peak. So there was time to admire the view before breakfast.
Breakfast was a mountaineers breakfast - that is non gourmet. The morning was chilly at altitude in spite of the sunshine.
The boys took a short walk, admired the snow, but decided against climbing Lenin Peak - they heard it was too easy.
Olga and Amanda agreed with the boys, so we all packed our bags and headed down to the main road.
The driver was 80 years old! Looking back to the camp. Marie Christine met two new friends  

On to Osh

Back to Silk Road journey