Peak Korzhenevskaya was a peak in which I had no idea how to pronounce. In fact, I still have a hard time telling people that I can attempted this peak in 2016.
This expedition was my training trip for Mount Everest, which I planned since 2015 Nov after I had summited Lenin Peak. You can read more here on my Everest Journey called Prima Taste Everest For Cancer 2017.
This was one trip where I felt I was most well prepared in terms of my physical and mental fitness. With that said, I only had 1 month plus to train for this trip as I had three trips prior to this expedition. Before Tajikistan, I was leading an expedition to Everest Base Camp, Mount Pulag and Mount Fansipan and I came back on 5th June. Despite having said this, I felt nervous because this expedition involved two mountains of massive scale and there were no Singaporeans that have attempted Korzhenescaya and Communism peak before.
Before I left, I always constantly reminded myself that I was a professional cause it was the phrase that my manager at the sports hub told me during my internship when I confided in her. I remembered her saying this, “You are a professional and you will do just fine!”
So with that, I left Singapore on the 15th July and reached Tajikistan after a long 28hrs flight through transiting at Oman and UAE. From the start, the standard of the service provider was an interesting experience throughout the trip. Apparently, there was only one service provider and all foreign companies that clients sign up for will be using the same local company for the expedition.
At the start of the expedition, I had initially planned to have a guide however, after meeting a friend in base camp, we decided to partner up since he needed a partner and so did I. It was very scary when I had planned to go alone and I could not find anyone from Singapore to go with me. So there I was, taking the flight to Tashkent alone and with all my gear.
When I reached the airport, 28 hours later, I was alone and my agent was no where to be seen. I finally made a call and I realized that I was the only one from an Asian Country attempting the mountain.
We first took a flight to base camp and our plan was to acclimatize on Chetiroch peak for 4 days and then after, head up for our main objective. With Vincent from Geneva as my partner, we moved together with another friend from Czech Republic.
We acclimatized well for the peak and made a bad move to camp out of nowhere on the mountain. After sleeping at almost 5600m, we then proceeded down to the base camp for a good rest. It was also on this peak that I felt I always had super crazy good sleep as compared to Everest this year. It always felt that I had died when I woke up as I was dead asleep.
Finally, we had rest enough and we made our way up to camp 1.5. It was called that way because it was just below camp 2 and we couldn’t proceed further because I felt that heading up to camp 2 was dangerous since we forgot to bring our rope and there were many crevasses. It was only after climbing down the next day that we saw many other just walking down with any ropes. Well, to each its own ya!
We rested for almost 1 week in base camp before finally receiving some good information about the weather and we had decided to borrow a helmet from the famed high altitude skier, Andrzej Bargiel and a rope from one of our friends in base camp.
As we made our way back to our camp 1.5, we had left our boots up there. We stayed there a night and the next day, we started super early around 5am to reach camp 3 at 6000m. It was a tiring day, almost 10 hours of climbing. We finally reached camp 3, perched on a weird campsite in which I had a few close calls while heading for a pee break.
Finally, the next day, we met many friends from Iran, Czeh and Spain who would aim for the summit in the following days.
Vincent and I waited for day break the next day around 7am before we finally set out for the summit. From the start, I was moving very slowly as compared to the day before and I was literally having problems seeing through my googles.
The truth was that I was lagging behind Vincent and he was an extremely patient climber who waited for me many times on that summit day. We trudged on and the going was winding up and down, traversing side to side and it was a real struggle. There was one point where I saw that we had reached a really high point and then I saw my Polish friends coming down after a successful summit. Jakub told me that it wasn’t far now but then the winds started picking up and I was really suffering. I could see that Vincent was also having a hard time. We took turns to lead in front and finally, Vincent was climbing on the final summit path up the summit pyramid of the peak.
We reached at around 2.30pm. It was fabulous and there was no one in sight. It was just Vincent and me and what a wonderful summit day. We spent about 10 minutes on the summit, taking photos and celebrating while the winds just picked up tremendously. Finally, we sent forth to head down and reached camp 3 around 5pm. It was super exhausting and I remembered just having to sit down and Vincent was calling me, saying, Allez, we are almost there!
We finally reached camp 3 and decided to sleep for the night and head down as quickly as possible to base camp the next day. We planned not to sleep any longer on the mountain.
The very next day, we spend almost 8-9 hours having the long walk back to base camp with everything, tents, stoves, food etc. It was extremely exhausting and I realized I was the 1st Singaporean to summit 2 x 7000m peaks in central asia.
It was an amazing survival story, as I had many close calls on this peak, twice as I was coming down. As soon as we came down, we discussed whether we wanted to continue to climb Communism peak but it was unanimous that we wanted no more climbing after this peak. Close calls on this trip included having a fall on the way down from summit and having to self arrest and cutting into my thigh with my ice axe, getting stuck on an abseil at 6200m, and having falls near camp 1.5 on slushy icy and rocky terrain on the way down.
It was an amazing trip and I swear I would not head back to Tajikistan because of its poor system and monopoly of the program. However, after returning back from this trip, I actually really miss the ruggedness of Tajikistan and how it really makes the expedition feel that you have got to own the expedition and know what you are doing. There is no space for self doubt and lack of self-confidence in Tajikistan or the Pamir Mountains!
Looking forward to my next adventure!