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Jannu latest "The wall furiously resists us"
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May 6, 2004 14: 52 EST
A few days back, the Jannu team, decimated to two climbers at a tough pitch, reported some rough climbing. The team is climbing the equivalent of the walls of Empire State building, in hurricane force winds, at an altitude where American Airline jets fly. One climber works the wall, bathing in sweat, the other stand still frozen stiff to the wall, while securing his mate. Here's straight from the climbers today:

"The two-man team Bolotov - Borisov continued climbing the wall. They made only one pitch in the entire day; our ascent goes slowly. And the reasons are obvious: High altitude (more than 7000m) and a vertical wall with hanging sites.

It's a sunny day but there is a strong wind and it is very cold. The rocks are frozen. That last part we had to climb reminds very much the American diretissima on Petit Dru. We have to climb fixed ropes for three days up to 7000 m before we could continue the work on the wall.

We have two entrance-gate camps at 5600 m and 6700 m, i.e. we spend the night in them and go further. The camp at 7000 m has a special status: we live in it. It should be maximum comfortable to offer us a rest and restore our strength for working on extremely difficult surface.

Our group spent all day to cut out a 2х2 meters platform in ice for a tent. I have been on "7-thousand" mountains 35 times, but never before have I experienced such a hard time to organize a 7000 m bivvy. Half of the tent is cut into the slope, closed from above by a 3х4m awning. Dust avalanches fly above it, not causing harm.

We have to climb 70-90-degrees rock with blocks of ice and rocky cornices. We use 2-5 mm universal rocky pitons, 3 sizes of bent channels, stoppers, friends and camelots for aid climbing. Unscrewed bolts and sky hooks at some places. There are blocks of firm ice covering the rocks with a thickness from several centimeters up to one meter. For those parts we use ice screws and other ice gear. Including the weight of clothes, footwear and crampons - the lead climber is carrying around 15 kg.

Free climbing in "Millet" footwear, warm multilayered clothes and Polartec gloves is rather problematic. The rocks are dry, but cold. Temperature is negative 15-20. While the leader goes ahead covered in sweat, the belayer struggles with cold. From the camp at 7000 m there are 5 pitches prior to the beginning of the fixed ropes, it took us 4 hours just to get there this morning.

The immediate task of the advanced group is to fix two more ropes and to hang up one more portaledge closer to the beginning of the fixed ropes. The advanced two-man team climbed 5 m of the cornice today and straightened the fixed ropes: It makes it easier to ascend, haul gear and will save us at least 1-1,5 hours.

A bad consequence of our work at high altitude is the constant cough. The doctor prescribes different treatments in base camp, including herbal inhalations. We have an electric inhaler, very effective for respiratory illnesses. Another problem at this altitude is dehydration. It's obviously not enough to drink just in the morning and evening.

The advanced two-man team brings a thermos on the wall, but they can drink only on the top point of the pitch. Further up, the leader climbs on without the ability to drink. The basic drink is teabags of " Princess Nuri" "boiled" at 7000 meters. Other drinks are instant coffee, cocoa, juices and milk in different combinations. In base camp we prefer da beer and fruit drinks.

The wall furiously resists us. But the team has a fighting spirit.

Our greetings to everybody!
N. Totmyanin from base camp.

P.S. Yesterday we had some bad news. A strong wind broke the poles of a skeleton for the portaledge we had prepared to haul and hang at 7000 meters. A spare complete set of poles will be brought up by Mikhailov's group in 2 days, but all this does not exactly speed up our ascent.

In the autumn of the last year the Russian climbers managed to reach the record altitude - 7200 meters, this year they have reached 7000 in two weeks. So far they are ahead of last years record attempt. But the team led by Alexander Odintsov does not consider that record the victory they strove for. Only a completely laid "Russian" route can satisfy them. They are sure that such an ascent will become a symbol of the highest climbing achievement, a combination of brilliant techniques, hard work and high altitudes.

Recalling their trip through the ice-fall last year, Alexander Odintsov, the team leader, said, “It was terribly terrible. It is indescribable! Every time, you had to force yourself to move. You reached the safe part on the serac, and there was something to the right and to the left of you. You thought that you had only to traverse that way and to climb the serac, then to rappel from it to a crevasse, climb the next reeling serac and then to rappel again into a crevasse. Then there was another serac and you needed to move to the next serac on fixed rope… It was indescribably terrible. The seracs were really hanging above you, above your head, here - just about ready to fall… And the most interesting thing is that they were falling with certain regularity. There were 15 collapses a day as Ivan Samoylenko counted.”

The Russian Big Wall project was born 10 years ago. The Russian dream-team lead by Alexandre Odintsov aimed to establish 10 new routes on the hardest Big Walls. Six of them have being completed already. Last fall they attempted Jannu for the first time, but the weather was just too rough.

Images of the route and climbers hacking out a camp, courtesy of Mountain.ru.

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