Arne Schwietering and the unexpected face of Peak Lenin

Tour name: Peak Lenin (northwest track)
Degree of difficulty: Difficult alpine trekking
Altitude: 7134 m
Route length: 30 km
Total elevation: 2800 m ascent and 2800 m descent
Alignment: Northwest
GPS: route and track as GPX

Peak Lenin, 7134 m, is the highest mountain in the Trans-Alay Range in north Pamir (central Asia). And these are the experiences of Arne and his summit day:

having break on the trek
having break on the trek ©Arne Schwietering

It is 2:45 am. I turn off the alarm clock, crawl out of my sleeping bag and get dressed. Just a quick coffee muesli mix and then I can go. I am leaving Camp 2 at 5300 m. Actually, we wanted to go to Camp 3, sleep there one night and go from there to the summit. Unfortunately, my two partners no longer tolerate the altitude. But they will wait here at Camp 2 for me one day longer to give me the opportunity to reach the summit.

I am making good progress. As planned, I reach Camp 3 at 6100 m around 6:00 am. The first sun rays are reaching the surrounding mountains. What a panorama!
Finally, I see the first group in front of me. They started this morning from Camp 3 to the summit. The Pik Lenin is a very popular mountain. Because of its easy access and some uncomplicated routes. No wonder a real tourist industry is grown here.

The distances between the pioneering flags are now increasing. However, a clearly visible trail in the snow shows the track.
I’m getting closer to the other group. They look exhausted. A little while later I walk past two mountaineers. Both rather zombies on poles. They walk slowly forward, staggering dangerously in all directions.
I reach the next snowfield. Despite the relatively firm snow, I always break into the snow cover. Meanwhile, it is 10:30 am. I am taking a break.

Arne and the Peak Lenin in the background ©Arne Schwietering

For 7 hours I have been walking hard at my limit. And there is also the high altitude.
But ok, I am still feeling well. One or two snacks, a bit of water and I can keep walking. Above me, I see more climbers. They laboriously drag a person down the slope. I quickly get my things together to run to them. The drawn person is a woman. She has just vomited and is on the verge of unconsciousness. Two men try to put her back on their feet. We try to support her down the slope, but it does not work – she is fainted again and again.
So we have to pull her again. Damn hard at this altitude! Iam realizing we need more people and point to the other group that I have overtaken. But they are still a good distance away. “Yes”, they agree and start waving at them.
“You want summit?”, one of the helpers suddenly asks. “What?” “You want to go up? Summit? With Simon?” He points to a zombie, who has just waddled past and now stands a little farther up on his sticks.
I shrug. To the summit? That’s actually why I came here.
“Go up and give Simon Walkie-Talkie, summit!” OK, let´s go. Get the Walkie-Talky and finish this. Twice I have to stop briefly on the way to Simon and gasp, then I push the device into his hand. “Hi, I am Arne.” “Hi, I am Simon. We go up together?” I shrug. “Yes, you know how far it is?” He looks at his GPS. “We are at 7014 m, 700 m to go. Let’s go up, take pictures and then fast down again.”
So still relatively far, I think. “Ok, let´s go!” He walks about 8 paces and then has to catch his breath. Maybe the one with the Walkie-Talkie was his guide and wanted me to take care of him? I wait for Simon walking a bit ahead, then I run afterward and sit down again. This happened about 2-3 times. Down they still take care of the unconscious woman. It looks tedious.
What the hell am I doing here?!, shoots suddenly in my head. I should be down there and help to rescue this woman! Instead, I am on the way to the summit with this swaying zombie. And for what? For a photo with Lenin? Photos that I may boast myself at home? That is stupid!!

“You do not want to go up? It is not far, just 103 m more up.”, Simon asks with a glance at his GPS. Only 103 m up… we are so damn close to the goal! But it is no longer my goal: „Iam not into summiting high mountains that much. It is enough for me, I rather help.” I answer him and turn my bag on Peak Lenin to get back…

Rescue of the woman at 7000 m on Peak Lenin ©Arne Schwietering
elevation profile of Pik Lenin
elevation profile of Peak Lenin

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