My memories of this sauna close to the Pik Lenin base camp (about 5km away) make me smile. I anticipated our group all sitting together having a relaxing social sauna. Instead the sauna - based at the TV relay station overlooking the base camp - was in a tiny room that fitted 1 adult and 1 child maximum at a time. Still, a sauna is a sauna, and there is no substitute for getting clean. If you look in the photo, you will see 2 taps. One is for cold water, the other is for hot water. You stand in the tin basin. You decant your own mix of water into a pot, to your desired temperature, and pour it over your head. It cost us maybe $2 per person, and I would have paid 10 times as much for the pleasure!
Pik Lenin is one of the most accessible and least difficult peaks above 7000m to climb. It does require snow/ice experience, but is a good introduction to the high altitude peaks of the Himalaya and Pamirs. This was why we were there. The base camp was at 3720m, and it was not possible to see Pik Lenin from base camp itself. There were 4 groups of people (4 tour operators), totalling about 70 tents, and 200 people trying to summit that season. Base camp is like a small village in an onon field (see pic), a buzzing metropolis. Our facilities included 9 tents in our area, plus a canteen tent and a kitchen tent, 2 toilets, a shower of sorts (very complimentary to call this a shower), a sink (double bowl even), and a curio yurt (believe it or not!). At this sort of altitude, we walked slowly everywhere. I hiked to 4300m and did not feel breathless or headachy because ... I ..... walked ... very ..... slowly. (See pic)
The place reminds you constantly that although it is accessible, it is also the sight of the biggest mountaineering disaster in history: the entire Camp 2 was wiped out by an avalanche in 1990 and more than 40 people lost their lives. (see pic)
The sister peak of Lenin - right next to Achik Tash base camp, is amusingly called "The 19th meeting of the Communist Party Congress" Peak.
The ascent takes about 16-17 days including acclimitisation walks.
On the other side of the valley you'll see some snowcapped mountains. It is just overwhelming to watch the first light glow on the glaciers early in the morning.
One of this impressive 7.000m high mountains is Pik Lenin. In 1871 it has been called Pik Kaufman after der former general gouverneur of Turkestan the Russian Konstantin Petrowitsch Kaufman. It was renamed in 1928 to Pik Lenin.
Pik Lenin belongs to the Trans-Alay-Range of Pamir Mountains. It is the second highest mountain in Pamir. It is located between Kyrgystan and Tadjikistan. The summit of Pik Lenin has been first climbed in 1928 by the members Karl Wien, Eugen Allwein und Erwin Schneider of a German Expedition.
In 2006 the Tadjikistan Gouvernement announced, that Pik Lenin is now called Pik Indipendence (Tadjik: Qullai Istiglol). But the Tadjik President announced, that the correct name is Pik Abuali ibni Sino after a Persian philosopher. He says, that 100km away former Pik Revolution now is called Pik Indipendence. Very confusing...
There are 16 routes to climb the summit. Some of the routes are technically not very complicated or dangerous, so every summer there are expeditions to the summit. But there can be strong winds or avalanges, that have costs some lifes in the last years.
The food served in the yurts is simple but very good. I was quite astonished to find a salad of tomatoes and cucumber seasoned with dill on the table. As it is impossible to grow vegetables at this height, people have to bring it from somewehre else. With the salad we were served delicious Manty, like Samosas in India, filled with minced meat.
For Breakfast we had bread, butter and jam. And also some fantastic milkrice with a compott of cherries. I think most of us had eaten something like that only during childhood. So this sweet rice brought back the memories of childhood and everybody just loved it! The cherries were small and delicious.
From Osh to Pik Lenin Basecamp took 10 hours for 300km. We did it there in our trusty 4x4 mitsubishi minibus, and back in the truck in the picture. It was organised as part of the support for the Pik Lenin climb by Dostuck trekking.
As there are no trees in the high valley, they traditional main resource for heating the yurts and cooking is dried cattle manure. It is collected on the graslands and brought into staples for further use. As long as they are dry they do not smell. But the fire made of cattle manure has a special but not always an unpleasant smell. You can see this kind of fuel in many Asian countries.
Favorite thing: Sary Tash is a small village up in a high valley of the Pamit Alay mountains. It is the first available stop after coming from the Chinese border at Irkeshtam Pass. There is no restaurant or hotel here. BUt the local people offer accommodation and simple food along with a very friendly smile. The village has about 400 inhabitants, who are mainly Kyrgyz. It is 3.150m high. There are spectacular views on Pik Lenin and other high mountains.