Peter Schön

Ski Alpinist, Ski Guide, Photographer

Pik Pobeda East (6762 m) - The First Ski Descent 

Skiing my dreamline in the Kyrgyz Tian Shan 

In the summer of 2010, Anders Ödman and I travelled to the Tien Shan of Kyrgyzstan. Just back from a difficult ski descent of Skhara (5193 m) in the Georgian Caucasus, I was motivated for more - a sustained, long and aesthetic ski line on a big peak. Our initial objective was the north face of Pik Pobeda (7439 m), but, as so often, it was too avalanche-prone for a serious attempt. After some scouting, we discovered the NE ridge of the remote East summit (6762 m). We acclimatised on Khan Tengri (7010 m) first. Skiing was less the objective than acclimatisation and just standing on top of this stunning peak. The views from the summit to Pik Chapaeva, an elegant, airy ridge above the clouds, were stunning. A few days later, we started the several-days-long approach up the Zvezdochka glacier, skinning into a world of ice and snow far away from the base camps. The over 2500 m north face of Pik Pobeda was towering above us, and the noise of avalanches was constant. One morning, the powder cloud of a massive avalanche whips over our tent at 4800 m. Steeper terrain led us to the Chon Teren pass (5450 m). Several days after leaving base camp, we started the ascent of the up 50+° steep NE ridge of Pik Pobeda East.
Anders turned 200 vertical meters below the summit, sparing his energy for a safe descent. I continued alone, punching through wind slabs on crust and loose snow on rocks. Exhausted, I reached the summit at 14:30. To the north, the Chinese, to the south, the Kyrgyz Tian Shan. The vast scale and extent of the mountains are just beyond anything I had seen before. With time ticking fast, I snapped a few summit images with my Contax T3, clicked into my skis and descended back to the tent on the pass. A lone ski descent - steep, exposed and above a remote desert of ice and snow - and, indeed, my finest. A short article on the descent is found in the >> AAJ.

Mkinvartsveri/Kazbek (5054 m)

 First Ski Descents and the Road of Dreams

February 2019. It is a stormy winter day at 3000 m in the Georgian Caucasus. A dog looks at me as if he knows me as if I have been here before. In the background, Mkinvartsveri (5054 m) rises, the sun shining on the upper slopes of the southeast face. Somewhere up there, my fascination with the Caucasus started. First with an image of these slopes in my father`s geology book, my fingers tracing lines up and down snowy slopes and ice faces; later standing with skis at the drop-in to my dream line - the SE face direct or “3B”.  The pursuit of skiing this and other lines on this beautiful peak would lead me back to Georgia year after year. However, it was not just about the mountains. It was the unique mix of mountains, culture, immense hospitality and the chaotic, charming and vibrant Tbilisi transitioning into a modern future. 
In 2008 I skied the SE face direct (50°+) with Andi Riesner and several other new steep routes. In May 2013, I returned to Mkinvartsveri one more time to climb and ski the last unskied line. Trevor Hunt, a Canadian steep skiing legend, and I ascent the rarely climbed Japharidze ridge and N-NE face to the summit in less than three days. Together with Georgian climbers a few weeks before us, we are the first people to climb this route in over 50 years  - and the first ones to ski it. This descent was the fourth steep line I skied in the course of seven years. A full article can be found over at >>Mountain Life.
In 2017, I returned to the area with three Ukrainian friends, climbing Mkinvartsveri`s neighbour peak Maili Khok (4600 m). Some refer to the route along its ridge and onwards as the "Road of Dreams". It was a memorable climb during a time when the mountains of the Caucasus seemed to have no borders. Little did we know about what would follow and how plans and dreams would vanish because of decisions made by men.

Today, I live part-time in Georgia. The image of Mkinvartsveri from February 2019 hangs in my living room in Norway. The print was a present of my wife, whom I had met in Georgia. We married a few months after I took the image.

Chatyn-Tau (4412 m) - the 1st Ski Descent of the SE Couloir. 

Chatyn-Tau is a 4412 m high mountain in Svaneti, Georgian Caucasus. Three summits give it a distinctive, impressive shape. Still, the peak stands in the shadow of its famous neighbour, Ushba (4710 m). Still, Chatyn-Tau holds some of the best steep-skiing lines in the Caucasus. One is the large Southeast-Couloir of the West Summit (4310 m), clearly visible from Mestia. Since my first trip to Svaneti in 2010, the couloir had been on my mind.
In May 2013, just days after the first ski descent of Mkinvartsveri`s NE face, Canadian steep skier Trevor Hunt and I arrived in Svaneti. With a lot of ice on the large south-facing walls of Janga-Tau and Shkhara, we turn our attention to the SE couloir of Chatyn-Tau. 1800 m vertical, wild bergschrunds and crevassed at the bottom, seriously steep and exposed at the top.
The surface was hard; deep runnels covered the middle section of the couloir. The sheer size, combined with the hard conditions and misty weather, gave the route an uncomforting, heavy aura. The ski descent ranks perhaps as my hardest and scariest. A thin snow cover on ice, 55° and more. A day later, we skied the SW face. Both would be my last steep ski descents in the Caucasus. Four years later, Miroslav Peťo and Maroš Červienka repeated the line in better conditions. They rated the route at Traynard S5/S6, E3, 50-55° >> Link to report

A full article can be found over at >>Mountain Life.

Bezengi Wall - One Day...

In June 2010, Boris Avdeev and I stood on top of Shkhara, a 5193 m high, challenging summit in the Caucasus. Shkhara is the highest point of the Bezengi Wall, a 12 km long mountain massif largely above 4500 m along the Georgian-Russian border. Shkhara also marks the eastern end of the wall and is either the last or first summit of the Bezengi traverse – a traverse of the entire massif over multiple 4500-5000 m summits and one of the greatest alpine challenges in the Caucasus and Europe. A few weeks later, Boris writes to me - “one day, we have to do the traverse”. This day will never come. Boris perishes in an avalanche in April of 2012. We were to climb Janga-Tau (5058 m), a remote peak seldom climbed in the central part of the Bezengi Wall, a few weeks later. After two months in a mental hole, full of doubt about the sense of going to the mountains, and filled with a lack of motivation and self-discipline, I travelled to Georgia again. On 22 June 2012, I summit Janga-Tau with Robert Koschitzki. As I sit on the summit and watch Robert coming up, I look to great Shkhara rising behind him, where Boris and I stood two years earlier, and then look behind me to the remaining summits of the Bezengi wall to the West. I wonder if I will ever make the traverse. Maybe, one day...
(LFI Mastershot. Published on the Leica Fotografie International Blog, One Photo, One Story)

Janga Tau (5058 m)

In 2005, I came first to the Caucasus of Georgia. The place captured me instantly like no other had before. Soon, the idea to climb and ski all three 5000m mountains of Georgia was born: Shkhara (5193 m), Janga-Tau (5058 m) and Mkinvartsveri (Kazbek, 5054 m). In 2006 and 2008, Deon Louw, Andreas Riesner and I made two first ski descents from the summit of Mkinvartsveri. In 2010, Boris Avdeev and I stood on the summit of Shkhara, the most difficult and dangerous of the three. Before I started the difficult ski descent from Shkhara, I saw in the distance the east flank of Janga-Tau emerging from the clouds, and I imagined skiing it one day. In June 2012 finally, after numerous adventurous trip to Caucasus, years of preparation and training came down to that one moment, as I reach the summit Janga-Tau with Robert Koschitzki, and then ski down the east flank of Janga-Tau, finishing the project, with great Shkhara looming in the background….
(Published as Leica Fotografie International Photo Story)

Ushba (4710 m)

Moment of Relief

In August 2012, I diagnozed a young alpinist high on Ushba (4710m, Caucasus) with accute pulmonary edema, a form of accute altitude sickness. After a night of first aid, phone calls and long waiting, finally a rescue helicopter arrived in the early morning. Ushba almost would have claimed another life (like so many times before), but the young climber survived, miraculously without permanent damage. He fully recovered and has become a close friend. But I lost the camera I took this photo with during the hectic moments of the rescue.
A year later, in August 2013, a climber found the camera and brought the SD card down. I picked the card up two weeks ago in Tbilisi and found this image.
(Published as Leica Fotografie International Photo Story.

A Matter of Balance

After every difficult climb or ski descent I am momentarily filled with joy and relief, but as time passes, a certain emptiness takes over. When you have put everything into reaching that one goal, what is left when you reach it? It’s a matter of balance – the harder and higher I climb, the more important becomes returning to the valley and to home, to friends, loved ones and family, and embracing the life outside the mountain world. All that is just as much part of alpinism as the mountains themselves.
(Published as Leica Fotografie International Photo Story)

Arctic Norway 

My home since 2015. My years in Norway began working in the Arctic North as a ski guide. I live in Trondheim today, but I still head north whenever I can, to Skjervøy, Arnøya and Kågen. Each time I go, I am amazed again by the unique landscape. Nowhere else in Europe are the mountains, glaciers and sea so close together.