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

In summer 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. Our main objective was skiing the north face of Pik Pobedy (7439 m), but it was too avalanche-prone for a serious attempt. We picked the lower, but very remote East summit (6762 m - some sources quote 6782 and 7020 m) as alternative, which would take us into a world of ice and snow in the last corner of the Kyrgyz Tien Shan.
Prior to attempting Pobeba, we head for Khan Tengri, a beautiful marble pyramid. Skiing is less the objective than acclimatization and just standing on top of this stunning peak. The views from the summit to Pik Chapaeva are stunning, an elegant, airy ridge above the clouds.

Soon after we started the several-days long approach up the Zvezdochka glacier. We travelled between the massive north face of Pik Pobedy, some 3000 m high in places, on our right, and 6000 m summits on our left. Frequent noise and sight of avalanches accompanied us, some with proportions I had never seen before. One powder avalanche hit our tent - in the middle of the glacier - at 4800 m. The release was probably at around 6500 m.

Steeper terrain led us to the Chon Teren pass (5450 m). From here we would start the summit push up the 35-50+° steep ridge of Pik Pobedy East. On the summit day, Anders had to turn around 200 vertical meters below summit, wanting to spare energy for a safe descent. I continued alone, punching through wind-slabs on crust or tiring loose snow over rocks. Exhausted I reached the summit at 14:30. The views all around are immense, particularly into the vast Chinese Tien Shan, and to the Pik Pobedy main summit (7439 m). After a photo session, including one with an oversized AIDS Awareness Day banner, I clicked into my skis, and descend the peaks beautiful NE ridge. A lone ski descent - steep, exposed and above a remote desert of ice and snow - and certainly one of my finest.


Peter Schön is a photographer based in Trondheim/Norway & Tbilisi/Georgia. His passion for photography started in the mountains, during several first ski descents of 5000-6000 m peak in the Andes, Pamir, Tien Shan and South Caucasus. Later, he ventured into documentary photography, with several portfolios about refugees and internally displaced people (IDP) in the South Caucasus.
Peter currently pursues a Ph.D. in Urban form, mobility and CO2 emissions at NTNU Trondheim, and also works as certified ACMG Ski Guide and CAA Level 3 avalanche technician.