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Russian stars for Tibetan Big Wall North Face in Alpine style
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Mar 1, 2005 11: 33 EST

Two stars from last year’s Everest North Wall expedition are back for another challenge this spring: Early April, Yuri Koshelenko and Iljas Tuhvatullin will try to solve one of the remaining problems in Himalayan climbing; Gaurishankar or Menlungtse’s North faces – two of the most challenging Himalayan big walls.

The problem solvers

Both walls are considered ‘remaining unsolved problems’ in Himalayan climbing, much like Jannu North face was, until a strong Russian team opened a direct line there last year. Another example would be Nuptse East… but it was finally climbed by Koshelenko himself and another Russian: Valeri Babanov. Both climbs received the prestigious Piolet d’Or.

The game of the Alpine style

The Russians are back to prove that they are not just determined and bold, but that they can play the ‘pure alpine style’ game too.

The expedition will get to the isolated Gaurishankar and Menlungtse area, trekking in from from Tibet. They will observe both North walls and, depending on the conditions, launch an alpine style attempt on one of them. It will be a tough decision though: Both walls are very difficult and 2500 - 3000 meters long.

Idea was born in a Kathmandu book store

The team leaders told RussianClimb how they came up with the idea. June last year, Yuri Koshelenko had a revelation in one of the book-stores in Kathmandu:

“I saw a postcard with a picture of Gaurishankar’s South Face (which, by the way, contrary to Elizabeth Hawley's statistics, was climbed expedition style in 1984 by a Slovenian team). The North Face is totally unknown, unseen from Nepal and, of course, unclimbed. There are very few unclimbed walls in the world, and it occurred to me that someone should climb it.”

Ask the Yeti for directions

“Both walls pose serious problems and uncertainties. The climb will be complex, most of all when attempted in alpine style, but it also hold top quality standard in current mountaineering.”

Iljas Tukhvatullin said: “It's a wild area; we will be climbing a North face no one has seen. Only the Yeti wanders there; we are searching for a dictionary to talk to him when we meet.”

Gaurishankar and Menlungtse face 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.
A sacred peak for Buddhists and Indians, it remained closed to climbers and trekkers until 1979, when American Roskelly and Nepalese Dordzhe Sherpa made the first climb through its SW face.

The first ascent on Menlungtse 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.

Yuri Koshelenko has been awarded the Piolet d’Or for the first ascent to Nuptse East, along with Valeri Babanov.

Koshelenko and Tuhvatullin were members of the Russian team who opened a new line on the center of Everest’s North face last year. The feat was awarded as one of the Best of ExplorersWeb expeditions in 2004.

Image of Yuri Koshelenko with the Piolet d’Or 2003, courtesy of russianclimb.com.

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