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Mount Everest - The Russian Way! VIDEO
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Jun 2, 2004 11: 47 EST
Published Jun 1, 2004 00: 01 EST

A record 300 climbers summited Everest this year, a handful of them decided to do it the impossible way - straight up the North Face.

Today, 9.29 am local time Victor Bobok and Victor Volodin reached the top of Everest. With their summit, the Russian Everest Central North Face mission is accomplished.

Tonight marked the final conquest of the Face, as Russia put another two climbers on its summit. End March, the guys opened the season and now they are closing it - for the first June summit in Everest history.

Even the sherpas wouldn't go up the face, Victor Kozlov of the Russian North Face expedition reported problems already at 6000m. The team of 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.

So these guys must have climbed Everest like ten times via the normal route before, right? Nope, they've been busy elsewhere: Already 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.

The Everest Central North Face direct (The Russian NF Direttissima) opened yesterday is the most significant new route on Everest, and one of the most significant routes on any 8000 meters. It also marks the twenty year anniversary of the last new, clean route made on Everest; the Great Couloir 1984.

It took the guys three months of unimaginable hard work to get to this. Nobody, who hasn't spent two nights at 8600 with only 2 os bottles and no sleeping bags, only to climb 6 grade rock to 8848 the next day and descend alive can truly understand the fear and pain overcome and the astonishing perseverance involved in this achievement.

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."

And these guys weren’t BS’ing either. Dave from ExWeb met the Russian North Face team on his way to Everest. He got a taste of a Russian Alpine party: “It was great to see Yuri Ermachek, who was the BC manager in Khan Tengri - everyone was very friendly and soon Alex was bringing out the dried fish to drink with the beer, and the vodka, and wine.

Yuri kept telling me to drink beer with the fish, something about the salt? But I opted for water instead. The guitar was broken out and all the Russians started singing, was really a great first night, except for my stomach thing. I retired a bit early, but they all stayed up rather late.”
They were the hardest working team on the North Side and also the guys who knew how to have the most fun!

Comments Eberhard Jurgalski of AdventureStats:
"This is the absolute highlight of the season! The two couloirs left and right are difficult enough, but the central pillar... This is something like the 'North Face Direttissima'."

The groups of Shabaline and Kuznetsov are continuing to descend via classic route and will come to base camp today. There are only two Russian expeditions left in BC now, all other climbers have left the mountain.

Truly great achievements are rare. This was one such.
We have chosen a Video by Blue Sky to illustrate it. Lars Cronlund summitted the Hornbein Couloir to the right of the face (check map) some years ago, and these are the shots.

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.

The guys worked the route relentlessly through all weather and difficulties. They even survived oxygen bottles thrown at them. The final crux was unexpected. They hit 6 grade rock at 8600 m. This forced them to spend three days and two (!) nights at 8600 meters (camp 5), without sleepingbags, with only 2 os bottles each for survival. That is absolutely outstanding.

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!

Video by Blue sky. Image of the route, Camp 5 (red dot), rock crux (orange line) RussianClimb/ExplorersWeb.

Surgeon General's warning to top Image: Climbing and smoking can be dangerous to your health. (Check also story Everest vs Big Mac killer stats in link).



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