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ExWeb Everest Debrief: Russian Central North Wall
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Jul 22, 2004 15: 26 EST
On May 30th at 10 a.m. Pavel Shabalin, Iliyas Tukhvatullin and Andrey Mariev summited Everest by means of the first new route in 20 years. The next day, May 31st at 9:15am Petr Kuznetsov, Gleb Sokolov and Evgueny Vinogradsky summited. Then at 9.20 a.m. on June 1st the third group made history twice over by becoming the first to summit Everest in June.

The Russian North Wall team’s line is the most significant new route on Everest, and one of the most significant routes on any 8000-meter mountain. Even though they did climb the North Wall, the team did not take their originally intended ‘direct’ line due to, “objective reasons,” as Pavel Shabaline puts it in his post Everest report.

The first deviation off to the right was between 7500m and 7800m. Shabaline explains, “The reason – there were sections of rock covered with snow, which were vertical and too complex for the organization of the belay stations and passage. Therefore the group ‘Siberia’ deviated on two pitches to the right.”

The major deviation, however, was above 8600m. Instead of going straight up, the team deviated left. Shabaline continues, “..Group 'Siberia' could not physically bring ‘iron’ (pitons/protection) and dynamic ropes for the continuation of work on the wall at 8600m, because Sherpas refused to work and bring up all the loads necessary for life-support from below. In light of the circumstances we had to make the decision to pass a rocky belt at the left on an edging, having deviated from direct line edge of a wall. This variant was scouted by Andrey Mariev in the second day of work above Camp V.”

Despite the deviation, this new route is something very special and will leave its mark on Everest. They worked the route relentlessly through all weather and difficulties and even survived oxygen bottles being thrown at them from above. When they did hit that difficult section above 8600m, they spent three days and two nights there without sleeping bags, with only two oxygen bottles each for survival. That is absolutely outstanding.

All the while, this team maintained a good head about them and had a great time in Base Camp The Russians also probably had the only sauna in Base Camp. Beer, whiskey, wine, Vodka, and a sauna. They worked hard and when they were resting after a push up high, they played hard.

The expedition wasn’t without its snags, however. Even the sherpas wouldn't go up the face, Victor Kozlov reported problems already at 6000m. The team of Tibetan porters refused to go any further even after Pavel Shabalin stood on the glacier in sneakers showing them how safe it was.

The porters refused to go any further, however, and began to descend leaving over 2500Kg of cargo at the foot of the glacier. Despite these problems, the team went ahead and set up about 250m of rope on the bottom part of the route.

They seldom complained. Instead, the Russian tent was the place for a party: Yury Ermachek and Victor Volodin sounded off about the possible use of ‘dope’ or using drugs to improve their ability. Here’s what they had to say:

"We, as the Soviet people did, will reject any dope preparations. We will have the necessary analysis. We will work supported exclusively by the Crystal factory (the famous Vodka factory in Russia). It is our military secret. Let other people be tormented how much the Russians can drink on the Northern Face of Everest."

Who were these guys? In 2001, Kuznetsov, Sokolov, Ermachek, Vinogradsky, Koshelenko, Volodin and Zhilin, coached by Cherny, were members of the team that successfully summited the "last unclimbed 8000er" in the world - Lhotse Middle.

May 30, 2004 at 10.00 Pavel Shabaline, Iljas Tukhvatullin and Andrew Mariev from team Shabaline summited Everest via the new route - the center of the North Wall.

May 31, 2004 - Piotr Kuznetsov, Eugeny Vinogradsky and Gleb Sokolov from team Siberia summited Everest via the Central North Face.

June 1, at 9.29 am Victor Volodin and Victor Bobok from team Ermachek and team Kosholenko reached the top of Everest.

They reached the camp 5 carrying tent, ropes, gas and meals. The backpacks were very heavy for this kind of altitude. The fixed 5 mm rope on the rocks, which were so hard they bent the pitons. Because the technical, hard rock was unexpected, the guys didn't have enough oxygen and had to use what they had sparsely, working on minimal flow.

This was a severe, technical climb to the left of the Hornbein/Japanese couloir. The guys went straight up, on a clean and lofty face. The technical difficulty of the route along with the extreme altitude makes this one of the most difficult challenges in all time mountaineering.

The Shabaline group: Summit May 30.

Already before their unexpected bivouac without sleeping bags at 8600 for two nights, Shabaline and his team (Shabaline, Tukhvatullin, Mariev) were responsible for the very difficult task of fixing the highly technical parts at 8000m and up, the Bastion. The rest of the team said earlier: “Everything depends on Shabaline's group working the Bastion, we are counting on them.”

Pavel Shabaline had earlier Ak-Su - 10 climbs, Khan Tengri, Northern face; and El-Capitan. Andrew Mariev had К2, and Nanga-Parbat. Iljas Tukhvatullin had Everest, Ak-Su (6 ascents), and Khan Tengri Northern face.

The Siberia Group: Summit May 31

Eugeny Vinogradsky has Everest four climbs (all with oxygen), three climbs on Cho Oyu, Fall double header Shisha Pangma - Cho Oyu.
Gleb Sokolov; High-speed solo to Khan Tengri (14 hours from base camp and back), Makalu, Lhotse, Lhotse Shar, Lhotse Middle.
Piotr Kuznetsov; Everest twice (the first time via the classic route, the second the North Face first ascent up to 6400m), Lhotse Middle, and Khan Tengri.

Ermachek's group: Summit June 1

Yuri Ermachek was winner of the Piolet d’or for the ascent on Makalu, Western Face, Everest, Lhotse Middle, Khan Tengri, Northern Face, and Annapurna. Victor Volodin has done Everest before. Nickolay Zhilin is the winner of the Piolet d’or for the ascent on Makalu Western Face and Khan Tengri.

Koshelenko's Group: Summit June 1

Yuri Koshelenko, nominated for the Piolet d’or four times, the winner of the Piolet d’or for the ascent on Nuptse East; first ascents on Ak-Su, Khan Tengri, Petit Dru, Trango Tower, leads the third group. Victor Bobok has Shisha Pangma and Alexey Bukinitch. Alexey is the youngest member of the team, he has experience with ascents on 7-thousanders, He has Koshelenko's recommendation. Bukinitch didn't work at the wall however - the doctor wouldn't let him - 'he's too young for the high altitude' said Dr. Bytchkovsky.

The 20-member team of Russian climbers is supported by the Russian Mountaineering Federation. Many of the climbers were members of the team that successfully summited the "last unclimbed 8000er" in the world - Lhotse Middle, spring 2001. Another Russian team also summited the big wall of Jannu - the peak of horror - a few weeks back. This has been altogether a mountaineering Russian season. Congratulations!
Image of the Russian route courtesy of RussianClimb.com.

Images courtesy of RussianClimb.com.

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