(MountEverest.net) Nobody believes it, but we did it, Russian X-gamer Valeri Rozov declared earlier this month, shortly after making the first BASE-jump from the Alps' Grandes Jorasses. The news were stirring for sure: The Jorasses had been deemed impossible; experts said the huge wall lacked a single spot safe enough to launch a free-fall jump. But here they are, the breath-taking images of the jump that followed a climb on one of the faces hardest routes: The Croz Spur.
The 50-second descent
This first BASE jump from the Grandess Jorasses has been both meritable and pleasant, is Rozov's crisp comment now. For four days, he led fellow Russian climbers Denis Provalov, Maxim Malanchuk, and Dimitry Lifanov up the Croz Spur on the wall. Then he jumped.
The Russian climber and BASE jumper exited the wall at 3800m, from the central buttress of the spur, right by the northeast face. Wearing a wing-suit, Valeri took advantage of a 230-250 meters clean vertical section just below the jump-off spot. The jump saved a total of 1200 meters Rozov free-fell for 50 seconds before opening the parachute.
I almost crashed a hut, he laughed after landing.
'Fortune favors the bold' the saying goes and it proved true in Valeris case: He jumped in beautiful weather conditions. The rest of the team instead, were caught in a storm on their two-day descent.
Valeri Rozov has won Russias, Europes and Worlds championship in Parachuting. The climb and BASE jump was the latest stage in his Russian Extreme B.A.S.E. climbing Project. Previously, Valery climbed and jumped from the Big Sail peak in Baffin Island (2002), Mt. Nalumasortoq in Greenland (2003), and Karakorums Amin Brakk (2004) that expedition was awarded among the best of the year by ExplorersWeb.
The acronym B.A.S.E. stands for Buildings, Antennas, Spans and Earth; the four types of platforms used in BASE jumping.
The Croz Spur is one of the classic routes on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses (Mont Blanc Massif, French Alps). It was first climbed by Meier and Peters in 1935. The 1000 meters-long route is ranked as TD+/ED1 (very difficult+/Extremely difficult) in the European alpine scale. There are several variations and starting points to the original route.
From the ExWeb 2004 award - Amin Brakk BASE jump:
In June/July, 2004 the "Russian Extreme Project" team of 4 climbers, a camera-man and a photographer, set off to climb a new "Russian" route on Amin Brakks (5850m) West face. The Mountain is situated in inaccessible Pakistan Mountains and considered the most technically complex wall in the world at the present. Extent of sites À5-graded (the greatest possible category of complexity) makes 150 meters (!) at the altitude about 6000 m. Lack of snow on this very abrupt wall causes additional complexities, and the climbers have to haul up water.
The expedition leader, 39 year old X-gamer Valeri Rozov's goal was not just to get to the top, but to do a B.A.S.E. jump from the summit. The acronym B.A.S.E. stands for Buildings, Antennas, Spans and Earth; the four types of platforms used in this kind of sport. This was the first Russian climb on the mountain as well as the first BASE jump from this wall ever.
Taming the monster lizard
Bad weather and sheer vertical walls were the main obstacles to overcome for the Russians. They often climbed in low visibility and snow storm conditions.
The six-member team reached Base Camp on June 22nd, just to find how bad the Karakorum weather can be: Before they could even fix the first pitches, snow storms held them up for six days. "It seems the weather decided to check how serious our intentions were, they wrote in their online diary.
The opening of the new route took nearly a month, including delays due to storms, some difficult decisions about the best line to climb, cold, suffering and very exposed passages. As time was running out and the weather didnt improve, the Russian team decided to switch to the Czech route at one point on the upper section of the wall. Therefore, the route is not new in its entire length.
Ur! Ur! Ur! Summit!
Finally on July 19th at 4 pm the Russian Extreme Project team summited the mountain, having overcome ice-covered rocks, deep snow below the summit tower and non-stop blizzard.
"Ur! Ur! Ur!" the team would report "Now the climbers know the secret of Amin Brakk."
The monster-wall had been tamed. The climbers described it: Amin Brakk looks like a giant lizard (the multi-kilometer ridge comes to an end with a colossal towering "head"). The "Lizard" sometimes is deep asleep under cold indifferent stars then suddenly is awoken by the first sunrays at eight o'clock in the morning. By the afternoon the sun livens up the ice, snow and stones. Then the "Lizard" shakes off; provoking avalanches and rock falls, notifying all the area: I'm not sleeping, I guard the secret, the eternal transcendental country by day and night!
The next task was a B.A.S.E jump. The chosen exit point was a small ledge on the summit ridge, about three hundred meters below the top (it is impossible to jump right from the summit because of its domed shape)."
Two days after the summit, in a cryptic message from Valery Rozov, ExplorersWeb got word; "Today 21/07/2004 (Russian Extreme Project) "base-jumping" from Amin Brakk!!!"
We held our breath. The good news came the next day: At 6 pm (local time) Valery Rozov made a successful B.A.S.E. jump from the Amin Brakk wall. The jump-point was slightly below the point where the route joins the summit ridge; located approximately 300 meters below the top, due to the dome-shaped summit.
Wearing an S3 wing suit, Valery bid adieu to his five man climbing team and took the 30 second free-fall before opening his parachute.
We spent hours dropping stones into the void
The jump point was at about 5550 meters. The jump was in a wing-suit (S3). The altitude difference was about 1000 meters; free-fall time was 30 seconds. The main problem was the landing area: A broken glacier and moraine lines:
"It took a long time to make up our mind about jumping; we were dropping stones for two hours to check the fall line instead of making up our mind to jump. 5 seconds of drop and the stones hit a large ledge. If you make a normal push at the beginning of the track you will fly it over but if you do not you will have serious problems. Finally Valery dared to jump and flew over the ledge with three-meters to spare.
A spin in a time-machine
Reported Valeri: The feeling after the landing is simply indescribable. It was like going for a spin in a time-machine. For so many days, you were fixed to a vertical wall, your mind totally focused on holding on to it. Then suddenly, only in one minute, you materialized down below. On a horizontal plane - safe to go where you want, to do what you want. Its Fantastic!
The next night, when the entire team was back and safe in BC, Valeri sat in front of the computer to write a debrief:
The team successfully descended last night. Everything turned out almost without incident (we dropped one backpack and one trunk with a portaledge tumbled down). We are all safe and sound and will leave for Kande already tomorrow. We have fulfilled practically all our plans. We climbed a very serious route on one of the most beautiful and most complicated walls of Karakorum; using the wing suit, we also made a B.A.S.E. jump from the wall in very uneasy conditions."
"The wall is not totally vertical; it has a system of ledges. Unfortunately, we couldnt open a full-length new route. Due to unusually bad weather while climbing the upper half of the wall we had to switch to the Czech variant, easier and faster.
Find images from Amin Brakk in the links section.
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