Russian traveler Sergei Romanenkov spent 37 days exploring the undiscovered mountain ranges and peaks of the Pamirs in Tajikistan. He tells Asia-Plus about the difficulties and pleasures of his explorations.

“I am very happy to come to Tajikistan, where people are very welcoming. We spent the night several times in the Pamirs and were honored guests with the locals. When you come down to the valley after a day trip and you don’t have the strength to pitch a tent and cook dinner, you can be sure that any house will accommodate you for a night and feed you »says Sergei Romanenkov.

“We exchange contacts with our hosts, keep in touch and receive them in Moscow when they come on business”, explains the explorer. Sergei Romanenkov is an entrepreneur, but the mountains, sports and travel occupy an important place in his life. He is a professor of alpine tourism, snow leopard (an honorary award given to distinguished mountaineers, editor’s note)five-time Russian champion in sports tourism and world champion in sports tourism.

On the mountaineering site, his team won the Crystal Peak award in the best trek and best climbing categories. Sergey Romanenkov is chairman of the routes committee of the sports hiking club of the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI), where he studied. Its mission is to approve the hikes of each excursion group to ensure that it is safe.

The athlete is also involved in ski tourism, carrying out expeditions to high mountains in winter and to polar regions, such as the island of Spitsbergen, the Arctic, the Kara Sea, the Pamirs, etc.

The Pamir road

Sergei Romanenkov has visited Tajikistan several times and met Tajik mountaineer and pilot Shams Kakhorov. Trekking reports and route descriptions by Alexander Rjepakovsky, a mountaineer from Dushanbe who hiked the Pamirs in Soviet times, also greatly helped the Russian adventurer in organizing his trek. In the Pamir Mountains, Sergei Romanenkov went on ski tours in winter and on foot in summer.

His team crossed the Pamirs from east to west for the first time in 2011, starting in Murghab, crossing the frozen Sarez Lake and descending to the Fedchenko Glacier. Along the way, they had to climb Soviet Officers’ Peak, the highest point in the Eastern Pamir region, and Independence Peak.

Read also on Novastan: In the footsteps of the Fedchenkos, a family of explorers in love with the Pamirs

During the same hike, they visited the Kyrgyz Pamirs, the Alay Valley and Lenin Peak, on the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The most difficult trek was that of summer 2014 with the ascent of Korzhenevskaya peak and the crossing of Ismoil Somoni peak, the highest peak in the former USSR. The first place Sergei Romanenkov came to Tajikistan as a student 18 years earlier was the Fann Mountains. The trip itself was made in five days by train, from Moscow to Tajikistan, via Astrakhan.

A grueling journey

“Many of us were seeing Central Asia for the first time then and discovering the beautiful city of Dushanbe”remembers Sergei Romanenkov. “After visiting the Fann, we went to Pendjikent, then to Samarkand, to see the Muslim shrines. It was great! At first, I brought back memories: tioubeteïkas (traditional headgear, editor’s note), wooden board games and Asian knives, but now I have so many that I don’t buy any more. »

Choughnon Pamir
The district of Choughnon, in the Tajik Pamirs. Photo: Asia-Plus.

The traveler likes to photograph nature. This is one of the reasons why he appreciates the virgin mountains. According to him, the Pamirs are very varied, with peaks and landscapes that are as hypnotic as they are unique.

Read also on Novastan: The wanderings of the Kyrgyz of the Afghan Pamirs

The 2022 trek in the Pamirs was long, both in distance and duration, but the team had been to similar areas before and everyone knew they would reach their destination. The bodies were put to the test and, in 37 days of walking, the participants lost between 7 and 12 kilograms. They lost not only fat, but also muscle, because the amount of food taken in was no longer enough for the body.

After each hike of this type, a recovery and reacclimatization period of two to three weeks is necessary, then follows a usual training regimen: between hikes it is important to do sports and climbing, as well as to run marathons.

Summit Addict

When asked why he likes going to the mountains, Sergei Romanenkov answers with the words of the famous German mountaineer Reinhold Messner: “Because they exist! » For him, the mountains are a real drug that gives him a range of positive emotions and allows him to meet people who look like him.

“Despite the difficulties and deprivations it requires, the mountain illuminates my urban life”says the mountaineer. “During a month of expedition, you start to miss the food, the cozy bed and other amenities. »

Read also about Novastan: In the hot springs of the Pamirs

Sergei Romanenkov never thinks about possible injuries and the possibility that one day he will not return from a hike, but he is aware of the risks.

A passion for the unknown

Hikers are attracted by white spots on the map, by unexplored places. These places are rare, but there are peaks, mountain valleys and unclimbed ridges. The harder it is to get to, the more exciting it is to find a safe and passable route.

In the “trade mountains” as he calls them, the Korzhenevskaya and Ismoil Somoni peaks, regularly visited by tourists, are ready-made alpine camps with guides, which does not seem very interesting to Sergei Romanenkov.

Read also on Novastan: How five young people fight for the preservation of the languages ​​of the Pamirs

“In these places the climbs are difficult and the weather can vary, but someone has already hung ropes for you, taken the path to the top, set up a tent. It’s hard to feel like a real hiker”explains the mountaineer. “This year, my team climbed four new peaks, which no one had ever climbed before. And it’s very moving: you are the first to see such beauty! 100-200 years ago, when exploring the Arctic and Antarctica, remote islands and continents, it was possible to make great geological discoveries. We only have the mountains left. »

An introspective adventure

“It’s psychologically easier to climb a peak described and photographed by someone else, and you never know what awaits you”says Sergei Romanenkov. “You have to try to think of all the possible situations and how to deal with them. And if you don’t succeed, you have to come back a few years later with different equipment and try again. »

Read also on Novastan: Tajikistan: China continues to establish itself in the Pamirs

“I always plan great routes that will be visible on the globe. The 500 kilometers of crossing the Pamirs are clearly visible on the map »jokes Sergei. “In winter 2015, we crossed Kamchatka from north to south, covering 700 kilometers on skis. Last year we were on the Putorana plateau in the north of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, where the winter is very harsh and very beautiful with frozen waterfalls. The temperature was around -40 degrees Celsius and we walked 600 kilometers. We have named new passes and new summits, these are our little discoveries. »

Sergei Romanenkov has visited the Alps, the Arctic, the Caucasus, Kamchatka, the Tian Shan, the Fanns and the Pamirs. He dreams of visiting the Andes, Transbaikalia, Eastern Siberia, the Himalayas and Alaska to climb over 8,000 meters above sea level.

Alpine tourism as a legacy

Sergei Romanenkov’s parents, who are also high mountain hiking instructors, have been taking their children hiking since they were young. Today, Sergei Romanenkov and his wife Nastya, whom he met in the Caucasus range, are hiking in the mountains with their children.

Nichgar Pamir Tajik
The Nichgar pass in the Pamirs. Photo: Asia-Plus.

“We don’t think the mountains are dangerous for children. When they were born, we were already experienced sportsmen”explains the explorer. “We weren’t afraid of the weather, or the difficulties of the terrain, or anything else. With our eldest son, Petia, we went camping for the first time when he was only two weeks old. It was summer, the baby was healthy and there was no reason to be afraid. »

Read about Novastan: Tajikistan: the great Pamir road celebrates its 80th anniversary

Their son Petia, 12, and daughter Katia, 9, have been doing easy hikes since they were little and try to do it every year. Today, Sergei Romanenkov’s life is divided between sports expeditions lasting more than a month with complex routes, crossing unique places and ridges, and trekking routes with his children. From three to four months, children were transported to the mountains in baby carriers.

“We and our friends have a rule: no extreme sports when trekking with children! The main objective is to have a good time in nature, for everyone to have fun and for the children to play with their friends during the breaks. If something doesn’t go as planned, just change the route”explains Sergei Romanenkov.

A leisurely hobby

In trekking, children learn very early to overcome difficulties, to help their parents, to organize their daily life, to saw wood, to pitch a tent, to cook, which promotes the development of their autonomy. During these trips, sports tourists visit regions with easier access to summits but with unique nature: waterfalls, gorges, forests, lakes, but also some cities. The children of mountaineers have already visited Italy, Armenia, Turkey and Georgia, but they have not yet gone to Central Asia, because the cost of the trip is higher.

Want Central Asia in your inbox? Sign up for our weekly newsletter for free by clicking here.

Alpine tourism is not a cheap hobby, but sports enthusiasts prefer to spend their holidays in this way. They save money and prepare all year round, so they can get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and do what they love.

Sergei Romanenkov is sponsored by the Sport Marafon department store and receives part of his equipment for free. “It is possible to make money from alpine tourism by organizing trips, but this job is not for everyone. He is definitely not suitable for a family man”he explains.

Anna Miftakhova
Journalist for Asia-Plus

Translated from Russian by Leonora Fund

Edited by Lucas Morvan

Thank you for reading this article to the end! If you have some time, we would like your opinion to improve us. To do this, you can answer this questionnaire anonymously or send us an email at [email protected]. Thank you so much !