Internet and crumbling borders are changing everything. We meet and it's a good thing: Image of Lena's housewarming gift of "Putinka vodka" to ExWeb crew during a visit in Colorado (click to enlarge).
Dazed, we watched videos of famous Russian Climbs all weekend...
"Due to similarities in mentality and experience we are able to write about the really important events, the really strong climbers and personalities, the real explorers and adventurers - and focus away from those putting on shows..." Image of Lena (right) and Tina (left). All images by ExplorersWeb.
ExWeb interview with, final: the internet and old vs. new media

Posted: Jun 22, 2009 02:28 am EDT
( In the past entries, Lena covered how very different conditions were for Russian mountaineers compared to western climbers, and how this difference still lingers today - in clashes between styles, difficulties and values.

Today Lena lists her own favorite climbers. Mountains offer a miniature version of our world and this final interview touches another current affair: the internet and old vs. new media.

ExWeb: How do you think that RussianClimb is different from websites such as and Risk?

Lena: and cover areas beyond mountaineering and climbing; such as adventure races, hiking, base jumping, kiting, paragliding, mountain skiing, ski mountaineering, traveling, etc. Risk is a forum where readers can write their own posts; editor in chief Anna Piunova is a rock climber so there are lots of articles about rock climbs. occasionally writes about rock climbing and ice climbing but the main area of coverage is mountaineering, especially high-altitude expeditions. I write about people and expeditions that interest me, and try to give my editorial view on the events.

More importantly, Russianclimb is independent of any federation. My opinion is my opinion; I can write what I think about Russian mountaineering. RISK today is a carrier of RMF views. The federation does many controversial things, and I believe it pushes Russian mountaineering in a questionable direction.

ExWeb: Who are your own top three favorite Russian climbers and why?

Lena: In technical climbs Alexander Ruchkin, of course - for his famous solos as well difficult team climbs, such as Jannu North Face. He isnt a high-altitude climber though and usually feels bad on altitude; so it was very risky for him to manage the difficult line to the very summit at 7710 meters on Jannu. I also respect his independent mind; he's a man of freedom and justice.

In high altitude climbs Nickolay Totmjanin, Alexey Bolotov, Gennady Kirievsky. All very strong, experienced, and intelligent mountaineers. They have high personal- as well as team spirit, and can climb fast and strong while also being able to endure terrible conditions and prolonged exhaustion in extreme situations. And they are ethical; ready to lend their hands to anybody who needs help.

ExWeb: And top three favorite foreign climbers?

Lena: Ueli Steck. Jorge Egocheaga. Robert Jasper. They invent and perform beautiful and bold projects; they are strong, experienced and excitable - real athletes and explorers. Although its too difficult for me to choose only three, Russians or foreigners, I know too many great guys. And, of course, Denis Urubko I just dont think about him as a foreigner :)

ExWeb: You have often collaborated with ExplorersWeb in rescue attempts, news exchange and to bring out "untold" stories and climbers. What has been most memorable to you and why?

Lena: Well, it started at the Polish K2 Winter attempt in 2003, when we published news from the harsh mountain, where Urubko managed his incredible breakthrough, and rescued Marcin Kaczkan.

In 2007, we covered K2 again, first the normal route, then the West Face. Myself in Saint Petersburg, and ExWeb editors - Tina in Colorado and Angela in Madrid - we sat at our computers, waiting and publishing hot news. It was such an exciting time. We wrote e-mails to each other: news are arriving every minute, it's impossible to leave the computer, I'm out of food and cigarettes but can't even go to the store We didnt sleep in our quest to make all readers feel the beauty of those climbs, and the tremendous drive involved

Another memorable story was very sad. Last spring, when Inaki was in trouble at 7400 on Annapurna, we did our best to help to organize the rescue team, to find additional possibilities, to provide useful information for those who worked on the route and for the relatives. A lot of people from different countries tried to do something for Inaki, and we coordinated their impulses.

ExWeb: Online journalism is at times criticized by traditional media for being inaccurate and sensational seeking "blogs." How do you feel about this and how do you collect and fact check your stories?

Lena: has real-time contact with a lot of current expeditions; we exchange messages daily, there is help with coordination, weather forecasts and media relations. I have first-hand news from the expeditions, so how can I write inaccurate stories?

I think traditional media criticize online media because internet is becoming increasingly important and has many advantages. Readers, athletes and especially their friends and relatives can get instant news. Sponsors and advertisers get better exposure. Online statistics make it easy for anyone to find all kinds of data and verifications.

In addition to news, internet offers video, slideshows, and even live discussions with the athletes. All of this is possible thanks to modern expedition technology in collaboration with online media, while traditional magazines have roughly the same capabilities as the XIX Century.

Traditional magazines take most of their content from internet these days (usually without credit to the real source)! Only after expeditions, which they read about on internet, can they ask climbers to write articles for them. I like nice magazines but dont think they are MORE important.

As for newspapers ("Dont read Soviet newspapers before dinner!" © Mikhail Boulgakov) their mountaineering articles are often absolutely awful. Of course, I can only speak for Russian newspapers, but let me give you an example.

Following the successful Russian K2 expedition, 'Arguments and Facts' (a famous Russian newspaper) wrote: Russians never leave their dead friends bodies at 8000 meter altitude. They cut them up in pieces and bring them down for the joy of families and friends."

No comments except that all Russia read that opus, because A&F is popular media. And I can list hundreds of such examples.

ExWeb: Still, there are plenty of climbing publications around; are online complements such as RussianClimb and ExWeb really needed?

Of course, and very important: First for the premium reports as RussianClimb and ExWeb have info straight from the expeditions, and second - as history already showed - we can quickly help to unite rescue efforts from different countries as with Annapurna in 2008.

Due to similarities in mentality and experience we are able to write about the really important events, the really strong climbers and personalities, the real explorers and adventurers - and focus away from those putting on shows. Cooperation such as ours extends reach of readers, and provides better promotional opportunities.

Lena Laletina has two kids and resides in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Educated at the Faculty of Physics at Saint Petersburg University, she was as bio-physicist until 1989. She later graduated the Art Academy and managed PR and catalogue design for an outdoor gear manufacturing company.