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Melungtse: Team retreats - Koshelenko shows signs of HAPE
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May 20, 2005 10: 15 EST
“Yesterday we climbed along the ridge, but after spending the night (at the wall), all of us feel bad. I have symptoms of pulmonary edema,” Yuri Koshelenko reported to Russian Climb. “There are no less than 15 pitches before the top (three day’s work) so we decided to descend.”

The team spent the entire day in their tent discussing their next step. However, Koshelenko’s health left no room for doubt.

A long way down ahead

After having climbed the most difficult sections of the route, turning around was a tough decision. But it’s not just a difficult emotional choice; it will also be physically demanding. The team must climb down the huge wall without fixed ropes or belays to clip on. In addition, Melungtse is an isolated mountain in the Rongshar Valley, with no villages or trails in the area.

American Carlos Buhler and Russians Yuri Koshelenko and Nikolay Totmyanin had already climbed the wall section of the route they are opening on the yet unclimbed Melungtse’s North face. It took them five days on the wall, 31 pitches (60 m each), coping with difficulties up to 6B+ (Russian grade), and an epic night on a 40 cm-wide ice ledge.

American Carlos Buhler joined Russians Yuri Koshelenko and Nikolay Totmyanin for an alpine style expedition on Melungtse’s North Face. Koshelenko wanted to prove that Russians are not just bold and determined ‘heavy style’ expeditioneers, but can also show their colors in pure alpine style.

The first ascent on Melungtse Main was made in 1992 by Slovenians Andrej Stremfelj and Marco Prezlj through the South-East Face. American Carlos Buhler made the first attempt on the North face in 1999, and reached 5800 m.

Melungtse faces Nepal’s Rolwaling Valley to the south, and Rongshar in Tibet to the north. This is a totally isolated area, with no trace of civilization.

Carlos Buhler (Bozeman, Montana) is a major name in American climbing history. He has been climbing since the seventies and is still fully active. He draws from experience gained on thirty-four expeditions all around the world. In 1983, he climbed to the summit of Mt. Everest with the American team that made the first ascent of the Kangshung (East) Face from Tibet. His climbing resume includes: Ama Dablam NE face (1985), Changabang North face (1998), Kangchenjunga North ridge (1988), Cho Oyu Polish route on the W ridge in Alpine style, Dhaulagiri, Dorje Lhakpa NE ridge, K2 north ridge, Nanga Parbat and innumerable rock and ice first-line routes.

Yuri Koshelenko has been awarded the Piolet d’Or for the first ascent of Nuptse East, along with Valeri Babanov. Koshelenko was also a member of the Russian team that opened a new route on the center of Everest’s North face last year. Nikolay Totmyanin was also awarded the Piolet d’Or: He was part of the team that completed the first climb on Jannu’s North face. Both climbs also won awards for the Best of ExplorersWeb expeditions in 2004.

Image of Yuri Koshelenko prior to departure for Tibet, courtesy of Russianclimb.com

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