Unforgettable on Peak Lenin

We quickly realize how hearty things are at the base camp of Pik Lenin (that’s how it’s spelled here in English). A large tent serves as a canteen and of course almost all other guests are already standing in line in front of the buffet when our group arrives punctually at 7 pm for dinner. Some spend here already weeks and acclimatize themselves in full board between the base camp and different higher situated intermediate camps. To these they haul up provisions on several days. They are supported by horses and Sherpas. Almost all of them have the same goal in mind. They want to be on the 7,134-meter peak of Peak Lenin when the weather conditions are favorable.

48 gelbe Zelte können in den Monaten Juli und August ca. 100 Gäste unterbringen. Im übrigen Jahr ist das auf 3,600 Meter Höhe gelegene hügelige Tal nicht mehr von den Shuttlebussen erreichbar, die im Sommer das Basecamp direkt vom 330 km entfernt gelegenen Flughafen Osch hierher bringen / © Foto: Georg Berg
48 yellow tents can accommodate about 100 guests in the months of July and August. During the rest of the year, the hilly valley, located at an altitude of 3,600 meters, is no longer accessible by the shuttle buses that bring the base camp here in summer directly from Osh airport, 330 km away / © Photo: Georg Berg

The names of the Pamir peaks still recall the legacy of the Soviet Union, and in 2019 there is nothing to suggest a Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. Alpine groups from Russia and Ukraine are peacefully preparing only an attack. The summit of Pik Lenin is to be conquered – and all of them have a surprisingly big hunger. Peak Communism is the highest Pamir peak at 7,495 meters and the second highest, Peak Lenin, is in front of me as it is hit by the last rays of the day’s sun.

Blick vom Basecamp am Peak Lenin, Kirgisistan / © Foto: Georg Berg
View from Basecamp at Peak Lenin, Kyrgyzstan / © Photo: Georg Berg
Adapter und Ladegeräte der Expeditions-Funkgeräte scharen sich um den wertvollen Stromanschluss im Basecamp. Wifi bucht man stundenweise für 2 US Dollar / © Foto: Georg Berg
Adapters and chargers of expedition radios cluster around the precious power connection at Basecamp. Wifi can be booked by the hour for 2 US dollars / © Photo: Georg Berg

Summit of contrasts

The scenery could not be more contrasting. While batteries are being charged at Basecamp and the full moon rises over the mountains, the thin plume of smoke from the stoves fired with cattle dung rises from the yurts of the frugal Kyrgyz nomads. I tuck myself into my thick down sleeping bag with the intention of getting up early.

Vorgebirgslandschaft am Fuß des Pik Lenin. Die Berge im Hintergrund gehören zum Tian Shan Gebirge / © Foto: Georg Berg
Foothills landscape at the foot of Peak Lenin. The mountains in the background belong to the Tian Shan range / © Photo: Georg Berg

At dawn, the gentle high mountain landscape with hills and small lakes captivates me. In the distance the Tien Chen mountains can be seen and behind me the glacier-covered Pamir giants. Horses graze sporadically and occasionally a whole herd passes me at a loud gallop.

Erscheinung im Morgengrauen. Der Schimmel ist gerade auf der Flucht vor seinem ärgerlichen Besitzer. Wie das Nachspiel ausgesehen hat, lässt sich nur vermuten / © Foto: Georg Berg
Appearance at dawn. The white horse is just fleeing from its angry owner. What the aftermath looked like can only be guessed / © Photo: Georg Berg

A single white horse stands out against the dark background, but also attracts attention by its behavior. A short time after passing me at point-blank range, (presumably) its owner arrives and, out of breath, looks off into the distance where the gray horse grazes as if it had never bolted.

Die Szene scheint unschuldig. Der Schimmel ruht sich aber nur aus, bevor ihn sein Besitzer erreicht - um dann erneut die Flucht anzutreten / © Foto: Georg Berg
The scene seems innocent. But the white horse is just resting before its owner reaches it – only to make another escape / © Photo: Georg Berg

Meanwhile, plumes of smoke from nearby yurts announce that a busy day is beginning for Kyrgyz herders. Women are milking cows, men are preparing horses and children are washing themselves at the ice-cold water in the riverbed.

Für die kirgisische Nomadenfamilie am Fuß des Pamirgebirges beginnt ein neuer Tag / © Foto: Georg Berg
A new day begins for the nomadic Kyrgyz family at the foot of the Pamir Mountains / © Photo: Georg Berg

The local with whom I exchange my first words this morning is a boy who first waves to me shyly and then asks for my name in English. He introduces himself as Dschangube and points to the bridle above his arm: “Horse?”. I nod and wordlessly we set off together. I don’t worry about the destination. It’s no big surprise when Dschangube finds a horse that willingly lets him put on the bridle. Skillfully he swings himself on it, pulls the reins around and poses for my photo.

Raureif bedeckt noch die Vegetation. Der junge Dschangube hat sich gerade auf sein Pferd geschwungen / © Foto: Georg Berg
Hoarfrost still covers the vegetation. The young Dschangube has just swung himself onto his horse / © Photo: Georg Berg

Then, using only sign language, Dschangube makes it clear to me that he can photograph me on the horse. Just as I am completely clueless as to how to mount without stirrups, he also accepts his challenge. So while I somehow manage to get on the horse’s back, Dschangube has kept which is the shutter button of my camera. In any case, he succeeded very well in taking the photo.

Das höchste Glück der Erde ... liegt auf dem Rücken der Pferde / © Foto: Georg Berg
The highest happiness on earth … / © Photo: Dschangube

Reportage: Pamir stage of the Silk RoadReportage
: Tajikistan’s capital DushanbeBackground Reportage
: Special Adventures on the Silk Road

Calendar

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On the road in the footsteps of Marco Polo

The Silk Road leads to the most promising places in the world. On the so-called Pamir Highway, the old trade route in High Asia leads through the Pamir Mountains, where, along with the Himalayas, the Karakoram and the Hindu Kush, the highest mountains on earth can be found. Even Marco Polo used some of the routes on his journey to China, which still lead across the roof of the world today.

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The costs of accommodation with half board were covered by the organizer

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