After trenching up the infinite couloir I stepped over the crevasse onto the 50-degree head wall. I cursed when I realised there was an inch of powder on glacial ice. – I had left my crampons behind. Smashing a divot into the ice, I pulled myself up, mantled off my axe, placed my toes in the hole, then carefully stood up. I was concerned I might slide down and punch through into the crevasse.
8 hours ago I awoke at 3500m, anticipating my alarm. During the night I heard footsteps in the snow, there was something trying to get at our breakfast that was secured under the fly. Was it a fox, wolf, ibex or a perhaps a snow leopard?
We started touring as the alpenglow illuminated the giants across the valley in Kyrgyzstan. We planned to climb 1700m to meet the sun at the summit of Северцева (5188m). Now, we were about to break 5000m, an elevation that marked the unknown for both of us. The climb was a battle of patience and determination versus the increasing altitude of an indifferent mountain. Elliot reached his ceiling. I kept up the fight alone.
Pulling myself onto the crimson ridge I enjoyed the light breeze wafting up the 1600m face below. Exhaustion and intense views made for a massive sensory overload. There was nowhere to hide and I couldn’t down-climb. I paused to ponder at what was definitely fresh animal tracks leading towards the east ridge.
Dropping my heels, I smeared my ski boots over the rock, climbing short friction slabs and moving over open space. I felt like I was dreaming as I precariously traversed over bluffs to the summit ridge. I sat down and took some photos, my heart rate dropped and my headache faded away, leaving me with a deep sense of satisfaction.. Followed by the realisation that I had earned myself an incredible ski descent! 2000m lower I skied into a grassy meadow. The creek bubbled quietly and the birds were talking about us. After the harsh mountain environment the soft earth and warm breeze was welcome.
Trail runners were donned and packs shouldered. The golden hour cast dancing shadows from thousands of tiny flowers.
We crossed paths with a local driving cattle from horseback. He appeared around our age, black leather jacket and no doubt had a hearty chunk of ‘Nasvar’ under his wide grin. He invited us to stay in his dom but we respectfully declined. I was determined to make it back to our dom, further upriver, for the mighty feast I had spent hours planning to the finest detail. We slept well.