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Three to take on Melungtse NF in alpine style: American Carlos Buhler joins Koshelenko's team
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Apr 7, 2005 12: 01 EST
Yuri Koshelenko has set some plans in his attempt to prove that Russians are not just bold and determined ‘heavy style’ expeditioners, but can also show their colors in pure alpine style.

The climbing goal will be Melungtse’s north face, and Koshelenko will climb with Nikolay Totmyanin and American Carlos Buhler! The expedition is set to kick off on April 10th.

A change of plans

Several weeks ago the Russian ace announced he would be climbing the north faces of Melungtse or Gaurishankar this spring. Both walls - very difficult, and 2500 - 3000 meters - are considered ‘remaining unsolved problems’ in Himalayan climbing.

Yuri’s climbing mate was originally Iljas Tuhvatullin. The pair would decide which peak they would be climbing once they arrived at the location, depending on the snow conditions. The new team – including Totmyanin instead of Iljas - and the definite goal have been made public just days from the expedition’s beginning.

A job left undone

There is almost no information on these unclimbed faces, which must be approached from the isolated Rongshar Valley, Tibet. Montana-based Carlos Buhler is the key to cracking the walls, for good reason: His is the only confirmed attempt to date on Melungtse’s North face. Back in 1999 Carlos Buhler, Andrew Brash, and Mark Price reached 5800 meters on the wall, before a terrible storm forced them to retreat.

Yuri contacted Buhler, they started spinning ideas about the project, and eventually Carlos couldn’t resist the temptation: He would return to finish the job and climb with the Russians!

Beyond the Cold War

In the environment of tension caused by the “Cold War” between large expeditions and alpine-style purists, the resulting team is living proof that the real climbing spirit goes beyond methods and nationalities. Both the Russians and the American have impressive climbing résumés, as part of large expeditions and alpine-style smaller groups.

They are joining forces for a first climb, light and clean, on a virgin 7181 meters peak. But they also know how it feels to stand on the top of the world after opening a new route: Yuri, along with a Russian team, climbed a new route on Everest’s central north wall last year; Carlos was part of the team who first summited the Big E starting from the Kangshung face on October 8th, 1983.

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.

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.

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 who opened a new line on the center of Everest’s North face last year. This climb was awarded one of the Best of ExplorersWeb expeditions in 2004.

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. Among his climbs, he has climbed 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.

Image of Carlos Buhler courtesy of Risk.ru

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