Lenin Peak Climb: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Preparation, Cost

As one of the world’s most famous 7000ers, Lenin Peak poses an interesting dare for any mountaineer. At  7,134 metres (23,406 ft) it is an ambitious climb and although at this altitude range it certainly shouldn’t be underestimated, its moderate technical difficulty makes it a popular spot for adventurers who want to muster the courage to tackle a challenging yet feasible goal!

Acclimatization is of course a must for mountains this high, and that is why getting to the summit involves a several-day expedition. The best bet is always to go with a seasoned guide who can both point out the way and pace the climb. Additionally, a good guide can organize logistics, including permits and other legal requirements that may be necessary for foreigners heading to this neck of the woods.

Lenin Peak is located in the Trans-Alay Range of the Pamir Mountains between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Most ascent routes are on the Kyrgyz side as the access is easier.

However, climbing Lenin Peak is not only about getting to the summit. With its stunning landscapes and lush valleys this majestic mountain has a special charm. Furthermore, you may find some interesting Soviet artifacts on the way.  Also, the nomad culture in the region is very much alive and open to foreign visitors. If you are passionate about mountaineering and discovering new cultures then this is definitely one mountain that you should visit. Read on to get the 411 on all the considerations you need to take into account before you plan your trip!

Ascent

Lenin Camp
PH: Konstantin Zazdravnykh

Although there are a total of 16 routes to get to the summit of Lenin Peak, the most common is the classic North Face route. It is also the safest and technically, the easiest.  Tours usually start with an 8-hour drive from Osh to the Lenin Peak Achik-Tash Base Camp, located in a beautiful glade at 3600m.  Once there, more complete tours will offer a few initial shorter excursions to acclimatise before tackling the ascent to the Lenin Peak summit.  This 21-day ascent program for example offers an acclimatization hike on day 1 to Petrovskogo peak.

The ascent to the Lenin Peak summit is usually divided into different stages: from Base Camp to Camp 1 (4300 m), from Camp 1 to Camp 2 (5300 m), from Camp 2 to Camp 3 (6100) and finally, from Camp 3 to the summit. Each of these stages may take one or several days, depending on acclimatization requirements and weather conditions. Most of the ascent is technically simple. However, keep in mind that after crossing the Puteshestvennikov Pass (4200 m) there is a glacial moraine that lead up to Lenin Glacier.  Additionally, throughout the whole trek you will encounter many crevices, and challenging weather on occasions.

 Accommodation

Lenin Peak Base Camp
PH: Mario Castiglioni

In terms of accomodation, there are no mountain huts in the area to stay in, so you will stop at different camps on the way.  Organizing the logistics in terms of food and adequate tent infrastructure is one of the key aspects that a good guide will take care of, and this is no minor thing.

In terms of camp facilities, the Achik-Tash Base Camp is fully equipped including showers and electricity. It even has a Kyrgyz yurt, which is a local portable felt-covered house that is used as a dining room. The kitchen at this base camp offers three meals per day. This base camp is open from July to the beginning of September which is climbing season.

Other camps along the way are not so fully equipped as the Achik-Tash. You will need to keep this in mind when choosing your guide as you will find different proposals that either provide tents, food and camping equipment or leave this detail up to the participant. Tour prices range considerably due to this aspect. Here is one possible option that takes care of all the logistics and meals during the expedition.

Physical requirements and technical difficulties

Lenin Peak
PH: Andrey Erokhin

Although Lenin Peak is not considered a difficult climb, no mountain this high is easy to climb. Altitude sickness is very common so make sure you consider adequate time for acclimatization. Also, although this ascent is not technically as difficult as others, there will be parts that require the use of crampons and ice axe. Crevices are very common, and so is very windy weather. Furthermore, whenever you tackle a mountain this high, it is always advisable to have some prior knowledge about mountaineering safety. You can find courses on this topic offered by the guides on Explore-Share.  Additionally, it goes without saying that a good fitness level is essential if you are planning an ascent of this type. A seasoned guide will help you sort out any difficulties with terrain and know how to read the conditions to lead you in the best possible direction. 

Climate conditions

Because of the weather, Lenin Peak is usually tackled in the summer months of July and August. This is also the season when the Achik-Tash Base Camp is open.  Climbing in the summer doesn’t guarantee hot weather  though.  In fact, Lenin Peak is known for being moody in this regard. All sorts of climatic conditions are possible, specially closer to the summit, including high winds, below freezing temperatures and snow. For this reason, it is important to be properly equipped and prepared. As the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing.

Although climbing Lenin Peak is usually a summer activity, Kyrgyzstan is a great winter sport destination. So if you’re interested in snowboarding, splitboarding, or skiing in the region you can find some great tour options here.

Equipment

Lenin Peak equipment
PH Andrej Stremfejl

As previously mentioned, adequate clothing and equipment is essential for an ascent of this type. This includes alternatives for warm weather, rain, wind and below freezing temperatures. Invest in good quality clothing, specially shoes, and lightweight gear as it will make all the difference in the world. Additionally, depending on the tour you decide to take, you will need to consider camping equipment including tents, sleeping bags and cooking gear. Most tours however, will provide all of these for you, but make sure to check. As with the clothing, invest in good equipment that can shelter you from strong winds and icy cold nights. Besides, you will need an ice axe and crampons. Ropes and harnesses are also recommended.

Estimated price

The price of a tour will depend greatly on the duration and what it includes in terms of  logistics, accommodation and food. The price range for a 21 day trip is usually between €2000 and €4000 and does not include airfare.  Also, you must keep in mind that you will need a visa to enter Kyrgyzstan, and that for the mountain you will need a permit  and to pay a €30 ecological tax which many guides include in their proposal.

Here you can find a wide range of tours to climb Lenin Peak.

Other attractions in the area

Lenin Peak Kyrgyzstan
PH: Misha Danishkin

While visiting Kyrgyzstan there are plenty of other attractions to discover. Make sure you explore this stunning region! We include some suggestions below:

Osh: This small city from where most tours to Lenin Peak kick off is a stunning location where you can catch historical sites such as breathtaking mosques and Jaimaa Bazaar. Since you will probably need to stop by Osh anyway, why not fit in an extra day or two to explore?

Eolian Castles: This is actually a canyon formed by the erosion of wind and rain. However, it resembles a place of ancient ruins, hence its name. You can enjoy a guided trek to this stunning spot with Andrey.

Inylchek Glaciers: For a more challenging adventure, join Misha on a breathtaking 11-day tour of the Inylcheck Glaciers!

Discovering Lenin Peak should be on any mountaineer’s wish list. Don’t miss out on the incredible sceneries and fulfilling sense of accomplishment waiting for you at the summit!

Powder Skiing in Japan: What are the Best Spots?

Dry and extremely light powder has made Japanese ski resorts and backcountry a “must-visit” destination for freeride skiers and touring enthusiasts around the world. And there is no shortage of it: Japanese ski resorts receive an average of 10 to 18 meters of snow each season!

Japanese ski resorts receive an average of 10 to 18 meters of snow each season. Photo: Ryoko Amano.

The two major skiing areas in the country are the northern island of Hokkaido and the resorts in the Japan Alps, which split in two the island of Honshu. “Both these places are famously cold. Cold air comes from Siberia or China, blows across, and then picks up all the moisture from the Sea of Japan. When this moisture is dropped off after hitting the mountains in Hokkaido or the Japan Alps, the snow remains very dry because temperatures are so low,” explains Explore-Share’s Business Development Manager and Japan expert, Ryoko Amano.

Hiring a local certified guide will make all the difference for foreigners visiting Japan’s ski resorts. Guides will show clients to the best slopes, teach them about the local customs and culture and even act as translators. For off-piste skiing, especially in more remote areas, a professional guide can be key to ensure a safe experience.

Check out guided ski trips in the island of Hokkaido or revel at the fantastic possibilities that the Japan Alps offer skiers.

Backcountry skiing in Niseko. Photo: Jun Horie.

Hokkaido: Niseko and beyond

Niseko United Resort, in Hokkaido, is probably the most famous among foreigners. “Because it is really cold during the day, snow doesn’t get icy. It even has very good night skiing,” says Ryoko. The fact that the resort offers controlled off-piste skiing (which is not allowed in many other Japanese resorts) is also a big plus among westerners who flock to Niseko between the months of December and March (although April and May are also great for ski touring). A lively apres-ski scene, with nice restaurants and bars, is also an appealing feature.

Want to check out Niseko? These is this selection of guided ski trips in the area!

Also in Hokkaido, smaller ski resorts around Sapporo — the island’s capital city — provide easy access and great powder. “It’s a great idea to hire a guide to drive you around and take you to the right one for that day,” Ryoko advises. Asahidake, the highest mountain on the island, is also a popular spot for off-piste skiing, while the collection of resorts in Furano is a classic pick among foreign skiers visiting Japan.

A group of skiers explore the island of Rishiri. Photo: Ryoko Amano.
Although quite remote, the island of Rishiri is one of Ryoko´s personal favorites in Japan. Photo: Ryoko Amano

And then there’s Ryoko’s personal favourite: the island of Rishiri, just off the Hokkaido coast. “You arrive by ferry or by small plane and already it feels like an adventure. This small island, made up of this one mountain, has this unmistakable ‘out there’ feeling. There are few skiers during the winter and they generally stay at their guide’s guesthouse. During March and April, when the weather is good, you can ski from summit to sea,” she says.

Ready for a true adventure? Check out the trips offered by guides on this remote Japanese Island.

Japan Alps, a more alpine feel

The ski areas in Honshu, meanwhile, have a more alpine feel than those in Hokkaido. Hakuba, probably the most famous, is the Niseko-equivalent in Honshu and the site of the 1998 Nagano Olympics. The first Freeride World Tour of the 2018 season will take place in Hakuba this year, to take advantage of its abundant snowfall and epic conditions. “It’s more rugged, more alpine than Hokkaido. Mountains are higher and steeper and have drops”, says Ryoko. Unlike Niseko, it retains some traditional local feel but is still a good mix between Japanese and foreign culture. Meanwhile, Myoko Kogen and Nozawa Onsen are also cool spots for those looking to get a taste of Japanese culture. Most resorts in this area have their own onsen (natural hot baths), a great way to relax after an exhausting cold day of skiing in deep powder.

More imposing than the mountains in Hokkaido, the Japan Alps have a more alpine feel. Photo: Ryoko Amano.

For more off-the-beaten-path destinations for backcountry skiing, Ryoko also has a list of recommendations. Shirakawago, a village with tiny ski resorts, provides amazing backcountry skiing opportunities. “It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s also very pretty. It is known for its very deep snow,” she says. Then there’s the Tohoku region, located in the northern tip of Honshu in a very remote area that is also famous for getting tons of snow. And Tateyama, located in the middle of the Japan Alps, is probably also worth a mention. Deeply buried in snow during the winter, it only opens in autumn and spring. There are no ski lifts here so skiers must be ready to hike their way to the top.

Want great snow but also a truly Japanese experience? Check out this selection of trips in Hakuba. 

Ski touring on Mt. Fuji (3776m), the most famous mountain and sacred in Japan, is also popular among foreign skiers visiting the country. It is possible during the months of April and May.

Want to ski down Mount Fuji in the company of a certified guide? Check out what guides offer on Explore-Share and ski the most famous mountain in Japan!

Ski touring in the Niseko area. Photo: Jun Horie

Ready to plan the adventure of a lifetime? Don´t miss our blog post on how to organize your trip to Japan!

Matterhorn Climb: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Preparation, Cost

Known as Matterhorn in Switzerland, Monte Cervino in Italy, and Mont Cervin in France, this is certainly the most iconic peak in the entire Alps. Often referred to as “the Mountain of Mountains”, this large almost-symmetrical pyramidal peak is every mountaineer’s dream.

Standing at 4,478 meters (14,692ft), Matterhorn is the fifth highest peak in the Alps. It is located on the border between Switzerland and Italy, in the Monte Rosa area of the western Pennine Alps. The mountain dominates the Swiss village of Zermatt, in the German-speaking canton of the Valais, to the northeast, and the Italian alpine resort of Breuil-Cervinia, in the Aosta Valley region, to the south.

Matterhorn is probably the most photographed mountain in Europe. It is famous for its four picturesque ridges (Hörnli, Furggengrat, Liongrat, and Zmuttgrat), which split the mountain in four steep faces that rise above massive surrounding glaciers, pointing to the four compass points. Three of Matterhorn’s faces (north, east and west) lay on the Swiss side and one (south) on the Italian side.

About 3,000 people climb the Matterhorn every year. However, it is not an easy ascent. It is quite technical and physically demanding, therefore it is advisable that you do it along with a professional mountain guide. Those who endeavor to attain the summit need to have prior climbing experience and a good fitness level, as well as to warm up with other less demanding ascents first.

Interested in venturing up to Matterhorn? Below you will find all the essential information for you to start planning your trip!

Matterhorn Climb: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Cost
Photo: David-Henzen
  1. WHERE AND WHEN

Matterhorn can be climbed from both the Italian and Swiss sides, depending on the route you choose.

If you decide to climb it from the Italian side, you will have to travel to the resort town of Breuil-Cervinia, located in the beautiful Aosta Valley, in the commune of Valtournenche, in the country’s northwest. Cervinia is about 30 kilometers from the main Aosta Valley motorway (A5 Torino-Aosta), so it is easily accessible by car and public transportation. The most convenient airport is Turin Caselle (118 kilometers away from Cervinia), followed by Milan Malpensa (160km) and Geneva (210km), all of them offering transfers to Cervinia. The nearest train station, Châtillon/Saint-Vincent, as well as stations in Turin and Milan, offer coach service to/from Breuil-Cervinia, as well as regular bus connections.

If you choose to ascend Matterhorn from the Swiss side, the starting point will be the village of Zermatt, located in the German-speaking canton of the Valais, in the country’s south. International flights usually arrive at Geneva or Zurich airports, which offer hourly rail connections to Zermatt (3 to 4 hours-long). Private cars are not allowed in the town; if you are traveling by car, the closest you can get is the municipality of Täsch, from which you must travel the remaining 7 kilometers by train or taxi. Driving time to Zermatt from Geneva, Zurich or Milan is 3 and half to 4 and half hours.

Today, all ridges and faces of the Matterhorn are climbed in all seasons. However, given the weather conditions, the best time to do it is in summer, from June to September.

Matterhorn Climb: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Cost
Photo: Gauthier Poncelet
  1. ROUTES

Matterhorn is usually climbed through its four ridges. There are multiple ascent routes and variations to the summit:

Two most popular routes

The normal route from the Swiss side is through the Hörnli ridge (Hörnligrat), Matterhorn’s northeast ridge. It was the route of the first ascent (1865) and it is considered to be the easiest way to the summit. It departs from Zermatt (1,608m). On the first day, climbers usually take the lift to Schwarzsee (which means Black Lake), a small lake on the foot of Matterhorn, at 2,552 meters, and then hike uphill for about 2 and a half hours (700 meters ascent) to the Hörnli hut (3,266 meters), where they spend the night, as suggested by IFMGA-certified guide David Henzen. Alternatively, mountaineers can directly set off on a 950m-climb from Zermatt to Schwarzsee, which takes about 3 hours. On the second day, they try to reach the summit, which involves a 6-hour sustained climbing over a distance of 1,700 meters and a vertical rise of 1,200 meters. In good weather days, during the high season, this route is usually very crowded. The descent is through the same trail and takes about 5 hours.

Matterhorn Climb: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Cost
Climbing via the Hörnli ridge. Photo: Gauthier Poncelet

From the Italian side, the normal route is via the Lion’s ridge (Liongrat or Cresta del Leone), Matterhorn’s southwest ridge. It was the route of the second ascent, accomplished in 1865 as well, and it is considered to be slightly harder than the Hörnli ridge. It starts from Breuil-Cervinia (2,006m). On the first day, mountaineers climb 1,800 meters over 6 hours to the Carrel hut (Rifugio Carrel) at 3,829 meters, where they spend the night. The less tiring alternative is to take a cable car from Cervinia up to the Plan Maison station (2,548m) or a jeep to the Abruzzi hut (also known as Rifugio Orionde) at 2,802m, and then hike to the Carrel hut, as suggested by the guides in the Peakshunter team. On the second day, they attempt to reach the summit, on an estimated 5-hour ascent with a 650-meter vertical height gain. Descent is along the same route.

Matterhorn Climb: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Cost
Climbing through the Lion’s ridge. Photo: Gauthier Poncelet

Other routes

The third most popular track to Matterhorn is through its northwest ridge, the Zmuttgrat. It is slightly more difficult than both mentioned above, especially because it is often out of condition given its northern exposure. The ascent’s starting point is usually the Hörnli hut – or alternatively the Schönbiel hut (2,694m) – and it takes around 2 to 3 days (10 hours).

The Furggengrat, Matterhorn’s southeast ridge, is the hardest and it is not frequently climbed. It was the last one to be ascended. It involves an overnight at the Bivacco Bossi hut (3,345m) and a 7-hour hike to the summit.

Finally, the Schmidt route climbs Matterhorn via its north face, which consists of a 1,200-meter wall, one of the longest in the Alps. It is a very technical ascent, first attained in 1931. For safety reasons, it can only be climbed during fall and spring. IFMGA-certified guide Enrico proposes a 3-day trip departing from Zermatt with descent via the Hörnli ridge.

Whatever the route you take, it will certainly be a unique experience. If you are a mountaineering fan, you will definitely enjoy the challenges encountered on the way up, as well as the most rewarding and breathtaking views from the summit over the Alps’ major snow-covered peaks and far away valleys.

Matterhorn Climb: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Cost
Photo: Gauthier Poncelet
  1. DURATION

As mentioned above, most guided ascent and descent expeditions to Matterhorn take between 2 to 3 days, and involve climbing to a mountain refuge on the first day, while reaching the summit and returning to the starting point on the second day.

However, please note that before climbing Matterhorn you will need some acclimatization. Given this, plus the fact that unpredictable weather often forces mountaineers to postpone the ascent, you should estimate to stay for a week and a half or two in the area.

  1. WHERE TO SLEEP

Both Zermatt and Breuil-Cervinia are important mountain resorts with numerous lodging alternatives of all types and price ranges.

During the ascent to Matterhorn, overnights are in mountain huts. These usually provide beds with blankets, gas stoves, and half-board meals (breakfast and dinner). Be mindful that, due to the lack of a water source, there is no drinkable water available in the refuges. You should carry your own water bottle or boil mountain water before using it.

The Hörnli hut has capacity for 120 climbers and the Carrel hut for 45. Half-board overnight accommodation costs around 150 CHF (€138) at the Hörnli Hut and €15 at the Carrel hut. Payment is done on site, only in cash in Swiss francs or euros.

Mountain refuges are quite crowded during the summer. So make sure to book in advance!

Matterhorn Climb: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Cost
Carrel hut. Photo: Gauthier Poncelet
  1. FITNESS AND TECHNICAL LEVELS REQUIRED

Matterhorn is not an easy climb. Both ascent and descent are technically and physically demanding, given the mixed terrain and high altitude weather conditions. Trails feature some very steep sections, covered with snow or ice, and there is risk of rock fall. In addition, while there are fixed ropes on some parts of the track to help alpinists, they often have to climb unbelayed.

All routes to Matterhorn require prior high altitude mountaineering experience, an excellent fitness level, and hard physical preparation and acclimatization on one of the surrounding peaks in the area (see “How to prepare for climbing Matterhorn” below).

Matterhorn Climb: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Cost
Photo: Gauthier Poncelet
  1. WEATHER CONDITIONS

The best season to climb Matterhorn is from June to September (see “Where and when” above), after the winter snow has melted and before the less stable fall weather arrives. During the summer, temperatures in the mountain are around -10ºC (14°F), and snowstorms and thunderstorms are quite frequent. However, given its great height, its steep faces and its isolated location, Matterhorn is exposed to high winds (about 70km per hour) and rapid weather changes, often forcing climbers to postpone their plans.

For a safe ascent, the weather window in Matterhorn needs to be absolutely clear. Therefore, it is advisable to include a few extra days on your itinerary.

Matterhorn Climb: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Cost
Photo: Gauthier Poncelet
  1. GUIDE RATIO

Most guides only take 1 climber to Matterhorn. This allows a personalized experience, and ensures a safe and successful ascent.

Matterhorn Climb: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Cost
Photo: Gauthier Poncelet
  1. WHAT TO PACK

Given the unpredictable weather conditions in Matterhorn, you should pack thoroughly but light! It is advisable to apply the “layer system”, selecting lightweight and functional gear, that doesn’t take much space in your backpack and dries quickly.

Below is a list of the recommended personal gear for ascending Matterhorn. Guides usually provide the group equipment, but remember to reconfirm this and go over the list with your guide before the expedition.

  • Clothing: summer alpine mountaineering boots, warm and windproof top and bottom layers, waterproof top and bottom layers, rain jacket, warm hat, 2 pairs of gloves (light and warm), warm socks
  • Climbing gear: classic crampons, ice axe, harness, 2 screw carabiners and slings, helmet. These can usually be rented in sport shops in Zermatt or Cervinia.
  • Other items: rucksack (30-45 liters), head torch with additional batteries, daisy chain or longe, sunglasses, sunscreen, 2-liter water bottle, snacks, travel insurance details, cash (Swiss francs and euros).
Matterhorn Climb: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Cost
Photo: Gauthier Poncelet
  1. ESTIMATED COST

A normal 2-day ascent to Matterhorn can cost around €1,300, such as the guided climb via the Hörnli ridge led by IFMGA-certified guide Guy Robert May. Longer programs that include acclimatization days can cost between €1,800 and €5,000, like the 8-day ascent along with IFMGA-certified guide Eric Guertzenstein.

Price often includes only the guiding fee and the group equipment. Some possible additional expenses you should consider are:

  • Guide’s expenses (transportation/lifts, lodging and half-board meals)
  • Accommodation costs (€15-140/ person)
  • Lift fees (€30-45/ person)
  • Transportation costs
  • Equipment rentals
  1. PERMITS

There are no official permits required for climbing Matterhorn.

  1. HOW TO PREPARE FOR CLIMBING MATTERHORN

As mentioned above, this ascent requires previous acclimatization. If the selected program does not include preparation, you will need to book it separately.

Acclimatization for Matterhorn often involves climbing other 4,000-meter peaks in the area, with progressive difficulty, during 1 to 8 days, including overnights in high altitude mountain huts. Below you will find a few itineraries as examples:

  1. WHAT TO DO NEAR MATTERHORN

The section of the Pennine Alps where Matterhorn is located comprises most of Western Europe’s highest mountains. Therefore, besides Matterhorn, there are several other mountaineering and trekking activities available in the area, some of which can also serve as acclimatization before your ascent. Many of these outings depart from Zermatt and Breuil-Cervinia, as well as from other surrounding towns.

A few recommended summer programs are:

Some guides also offer longer adventures that include climbing Matterhorn as well as other iconic peaks in the Alps, such as the 12-day ascent to Mont Blanc, Matterhorn and Eiger with preparation suggested by IFMGA-certified guide Francis Kesley.

Climbing the legendary Matterhorn is definitely a unique and memorable experience. Check out the numerous Matterhorn ascent programs you can book through Explore-Share.com!