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Russian Everest Central North Face summit PUSH SPECIAL report
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May 24, 2004 09: 13 EST
There is something about the Russians. They are often found on the toughest mountains and the hardest routes, but their dispatches are refreshingly cool, honest and fun.

But now, in their latest stages, it's all business. Today they are probably finishing the last part of the Bastion. This at least was their plan: "Kuznetsov's group heads up to continue fixing, and to spend the night at 8270m.”

They have only 100 meters of the rock bastion to go, and then the climbing should get a little easier.

O2 bottles come hurtling down the North wall, within inches of the team.

Opening a new route on the Everest North Face is hard enough, but the team had some unexpected problems recently: Someone was throwing empty O2 bottles down the North wall; a couple of them missed the Russian climbers, right underneath, by inches.

"We want to think that these incidents have occurred due to ignorance; perhaps those happily throwing their empty bottles away don’t think they are threatening other climbers’ lives."

Australians on their left, Japanese on their right.

To the left of the new Russian route is the route up the Great Couloir first climbed by the Australians, Tim McCartney-Snape and Greg Mortimer (without O’s) in 1984. Tim cut the new route in a pair of cross-country ski boots after losing his climbing boots in an avalanche. To the right of the Russians is the Hornbein Couloir named after the man who traversed from the South side to cut the route. The lower portion is called the Japanese Couloir, first climbed by a Japanese team in 1980.

“When I saw this Wall for the first time, I wanted to climb it right away.”

The Russian North Face crew scouted the North Face already in May 2002, when they planned the line from BC. In a second scouting expedition in 2003 the climbers managed to climb via the center of the North Face up to 6800 meters. This year, it's a full go on the great Everest ascent.

"The main difficulty will be rocks at that altitude. When I saw this Wall for the first time, I wanted to climb it right away... This huge, grandiose, beautiful wall on the highest mountain. Our team is very strong. We promise to do our best to climb the new Russian route to Everest," said Eugeny Vinogradsky, a legend of Soviet and Russian Mountaineering.

The guys are going 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 mountaineering.
Comments Eberhard Jurgalski of AdventureStats: "If they succeed, it would be the absolute highlight of the season! The two couloirs left and right are difficult enough, but the central pillar... I wish them all the luck - they will need it!

Shabalin's group: A Russian Dream Team

Shabaline and his team (Shabaline, Tukhvatullin, Mariev) are now 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 has Ak-Su - 10 climbs, Khan Tengri, Northern face; and El-Capitan. Andrew Mariev has К2, and Nanga-Parbat. Iljas Tukhvatullin has Everest, Ak-Su (6 ascents), and Khan Tengri Northern face.

Ermachek's group: Just Say No to Doping

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.”

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 the funny thing is, these guys aren’t BS’ing either. On the North Side base camp this is the tent to be in at night. There’ll no doubt be some guitars, many liters of Vodka, and perhaps an accordion if you are lucky. The Russians will be the hardest working team on the North Side and also the guys who know how to have the most fun!

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.

The 'Siberia Group': An interview with Eugeny Vinogradsky by Alexey Mjasnikov of alpclub.ur.ru

Eugeny Vinogradsky has Everest four climbs (all with oxygen), three climbs on Cho Oyu, Fall double header Shisha Pangma - Cho Oyu.

He is part of the 'Siberia' group together with Gleb Sokolov; High-speed solo to Khan Tengri (14 hours from base camp and back), Makalu, Lhotse, Lhotse Spur, 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 and Vladimir Arkhipov; Khan Tengri.

Kuznetsov, Sokolov and Ermachek were members of the team that successfully summited the "last unclimbed 8000er" in the world - Lhotse Middle, spring 2001.

Alexey; Eugeny, is your team trying to climb via the center of the North Face or you are looking for the more logical and simple variant of the route?

Eugeny: Our route - via the center of the Wall, a little left from the hanging icefall. One of the problems - we need to set Camp 1 about 6900, but there's absolutely no place for it. Another problem - strong winds, dust and snow avalanches and the stones are falling when the sun shines in the midday.

There's the big snow field just above our route, and it would become the avalanche source if too much snow falls. So, the winds made our route safer in spite of the fact that it isn’t comfortable.

Alexey; What do you use for safety?

Eugeny: We use ice screws mostly, and firn hooks. There're very few cracks in the rocks, so we use pickets.

Alexey: Where are your computer notebooks and satellite phones?

Eugeny: Notebooks are in the Base Camp and we are mostly at the route. I think that communication isn’t going to be possible every day. We have one sat phone - I am using it right now!

As Piotr Kuznetsov said, the Wall appears more serious than we proposed...(Sat. phone interrupted).

Victor Kozlov is the team leader, Nickolay Cherny is senior coach with coach Alexander Pjatnicyn and they also have Doctor Serguey Bytchkovsky in Base camp.

Koshelenko's Group: Backing the young gun and the cook

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 won't work at the wall however - the doctor won't let him - 'he's too young for the high altitude' said Dr. Bytchkovsky.

Ludmila "Ludi" Koshelenko, the Russian Adventure team's BC chef (who bought aprons and over sleeves for the BC cooks) is Yuri's wife, and came with the team to Base Camp to be near her husband. David from ExplorersWeb is fed her excellent BC grub when he is not on the mountain climbing with Abramov.

Front image of Everest from above (North Face is in shadows) courtesy of spaceimaging.com. Image of team(from top left to bottom right) Kozlov, Cherny, Bytchkovsky, Sokolov, VInogradsky, Kuznetsov, ERmachek, Zhilin, Tukhvatullin, Shabaline, Arkhipov, Koshelenko, Pjatnicyn, Bukinitch, Volodin courtesy of RussianClimb.com compiled by ExWeb. Not pictured: Bobok, Mariev, Kuptsov, Shakuro, Borisenko.
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