Khan Tengri – China, Asia
Khan Tengri (Uighur, literally “King Heaven”, translated as “Lord of the spirits”, or “Lord of the sky”; or Turkic translated as “Ruler of the Sky”, “Ruler Tengri”) is a mountain of the Tian Shan mountain range. It is located on the China—Kyrgyzstan—Kazakhstan border, east of lake Issyk Kul. Its geologic elevation is 6,995 m (22,949 ft), but its glacial cap rises to 7,010 m (22,999 ft). For this reason, in mountaineering circles, including for the Soviet Snow Leopard award criteria, it is considered a 7000-metre peak. It is also known as Khan Tangiri Shyngy, Kan-Too Chokusu, Pik Khan-Tengry, and Hantengri Feng.
Khan Tengri is the second-highest mountain in the Tian Shan, surpassed only by Jengish Chokusu (formerly known as Peak Pobeda) (7439 m). Khan Tengri is the highest point in Kazakhstan and the third-highest peak in Kyrgyzstan, after Jengish Chokusu (7,439 m) and Pik Lenina (7,134 m). It is also the world’s most northern 7000 m peak, notable because peaks of high latitude have a shorter climbing season, generally more severe weather and thinner air.
Khan Tengri is a massive marble pyramid, covered in snow and ice. At sunset the marble glows red, giving it the Kazakh name “Kan Tau” (blood mountain). Located just across the South Ingelchek (or Inylchek) glacier, 16 km north of Jengish Chokusu, Khan Tengri was originally thought to be the highest peak in the Tien Shan because of its dramatic, steep shape, compared to the massive bulk of Jengish Chokusu. This perception was probably also due to Khan Tengri’s visibility across the plains of southern Kazakhstan while Jengish Chokusu remains out of view of civilization. Khan Tengri is the highest peak in the rugged Tengri Tag subrange, also known as the Mustag, that also contains peaks Chapaeva and Gorkova. Anatoli Boukreev considered Khan Tengri perhaps the world’s most beautiful peak because of its geometric ridges and its symmetry.
Although it is almost 430 m (1,500 ft) lower than its neighbor, Khan Tengri was believed to be the highest peak in the range until Jengish Chokusu was surveyed in 1946 and determined to be higher.
Peter Semenov was the first European to see the scenic panorama of the Tengri Tag, and its most beautiful peak, the colossal Khan Tengri (in 1847).
The first ascent of the peak was made in 1931 by Mikhail Pogrebetsky’s Ukrainian team by a route from the south (Kyrgyzstan side), then along the west ridge. M. Kuzmin’s team made the first ascent from the north (Kazakhstan side) in 1964. Khan Tengri is one of five peaks that a Soviet mountaineer needed to scale to earn the prestigious Snow Leopard award.
The peak appears on the Kyrgyz 100 som bill. In 2004, it was the site of a terrible catastrophe as more than a dozen mountaineers were killed in a large avalanche on the Pogrebetsky route, the most popular route on the mountain.