(K2Climb.net) Yesterday we featured the first in a two-part series about the life and climbs (and wives) of Kazakh climber Serguey Samoilov.
In Summer 2005, despite pushing '50', Serguey Samoilov teamed up with Denis Urubko to climb a new route on Broad Peaks SW face. Unlike Denis (a seasoned 8000er climber and member in dozens of Himalayan expeditions), Serguey was a first timer to 8000+ peaks. The climb also marked his first expedition in the Himalaya.
Rookie status or not, Serguey faced the new route with Denis and together they scaled the unclimbed West face in alpine style, the only ones that season to reach BP's main summit.
From rookie to master in one climb
Serguey is now among the nominees for the Piolet dOr, and has been awarded by ExplorersWeb as one of the Best of 2005. In an interview with Russianclimb's Lena Laletina, Samoilov talked about his previous climbs, and his life, not always devoted to climbing. Today, Serguey reveals the details of the climb on BP. So here goes - Part 2 of the interview:
RC: Tell us about the equipment, clothing, techniques. Was it comfortable, or did you suffer?
Serguey: Our clothing wasn't new, but it was well tested. We had to work a little bit on gear, exchange the pitons; Domenico Belingheri helped us a lot. My backpack was no more than 15 kilos, ditto for Denis. We deliberately tried to cut down on weight, expecting a difficult route. We had our "North Face" tent, but left half of the poles, since we didn't expect good ledges.
We saved on everything - only one sleeping bag and one down jacket per team. Socks and sweaters always stayed on us. Of course, we were very cold. We had a minimal reserve, but we weren't quite on the edge. Those who climb big walls will understand me.
RC: How did you feel right before going up during the night you spent at the bottom of the face?
Serguey: There was no anxiety; I slept as I would at home. From the start the wall inspired both fear and confidence; we felt the drive. But I always assumed I was there to climb a new route.
RC: How did you spend the first and second nights, seated on the ledge?
Serguey: Embraced, teeth chattering.
RC: As you were high on the route, you realized a storm was approaching. Did you ever considered retreating? Also, once the storm struck was it the hardest climbing experience you ever had, or have you been in worse situations?
Serguey: When we understood that there was no escaping the storm, we did not panic; after all, there was no option but to continue. If we had been climbing in Himalayan style, with fixed ropes, we would have retreated. This is reasonable.
The weather deteriorated on the fourth or fifth day. We were at 7400m. I can't say that we got to "the edge" at any particular point. We worked our way up at roughly the same pace day after day, even without gas and water. We didn't take our boots off except for the last night. Imagine; during my winter attempt on Pobeda peak I once took a bottle of Pepsi which I had been warming up on my belly it was frozen up when I tried to drink. Here, it wasn't that cold even at 8000m.
The climbing itself was really strenuous on Broad Peak, with very low visibility during the storm. The wind was strong, but I can't say that it was ripping us off from the wall. I felt the strongest gusts on the ridge, probably because of the change in the weather - there it got considerably colder, and the clouds went down to 7000m.
RC: Being your first experience at 8000m how did you endure the nights on the wall and the altitude?
Serguey: The second to last night was the most difficult - very uneasy. Avalanches were coming down everywhere, one of them even grazed us.
I didn't feel any pressure of 8000m, even though it was my first time at this altitude. My main objective was not to restrain Denis. The hardest thing on this route wasn't the altitude, the ice or the coldness; it was the technical rock climbing.
RC: What did you talk about during the nights on the wall?
Serguey: About everything. Denis had the photo of his daughter Masha, he talked about how nice it is at home, made plans for his return. He yearned for his family, his wife. I was thinking about all my women at the same time.
RC: According to reports, you ran out of food. How was that?
Serguey: We planned to climb the route in 5 days, and took food for just that long. We kept eating until there was no more. Because of the bad weather, the climb took us seven days, the last two days we didn't eat and on the last day we didn't drink. Denis had one last tablet of "Renny", against heartburn, which we split and shared.
RC: Did you sleep well?
Serguey: Yes; I always sleep well at altitude, even sitting on a ledge.
RC: How was your time on the summit?
Serguey: We barely spent about 10 minutes at the top. Somehow though, we still had enough strength left for our emotions, and we enjoyed the thrilling view: The clouds low down, and the summit of K2 shining in all its beauty. If I ever get the chance, I will surely try to climb it. Maybe Mother Nature awarded us with the views for the successful climb I attached a small container with 200 Tenge (Kazakhstan currency, about $1.50) to the summit pole, Denis left a small mascot - a Japanese rabbit. We made several photos with K2 in background and hurried down.
RC: Did you faced high avalanche danger while on the route?
Serguey: Risk of an avalanche was present all the time, especially on the descent via the classic route to the top of the fixed ropes.
RC: How were you greeted at base camp?
Serguey: The Italians welcomed us warmly. Roby Piantoni and Marco Astori left BC and met us on the glacier, between the start of our route and the first camp on the classic route. They helped us to carry the backpacks, and we got back to our camp only late that night. Because of the communication problems during last two days the team didn't know when we were coming back. We had no energy left for celebration that night, and by next morning we started going down towards Askole.
RC: Once you said that you had climbed in the style of Kukuczka during the seventies. What has happened to Himalayan mountaineering since then? Has it really never been surpassed?
Serguey: I don't follow the history of alpinism, but I guess there have been lots of strong ascents since then. To climb in a party of two, one needs to be in extraordinary shape. Other than that, we are neither the first, nor the last.
RC: Does something change in the soul after a climb like this?
Serguey: Nothing changed so far - neither in the soul, nor in life.
Less than 300 climbers have summited Broad Peak, 8,051m. The mountain is the only 8000er that has actually become more dangerous to climb. Up to 1990 the Broad Peak summit/fatality rate is 5%, but from 1990 until last year the rate jumped to 8.6 %, or close to twice that of the modern Everest fatality rate (4.4%).
In addition - the mountain had a terrifying wall: There had been many attempts to climb BPs Southwest face, including big names such as Kukuczka but until this year, the face had remained unclimbed.
A killer mountain, and a scary face, destiny threw the climbers yet another obstacle: 2005 proved an uncommonly bad year to climb the peak. Deep snow turned back party after party of mountaineers on the normal route - more than 50 in the end.
A great technical climber, Serguey was however new to 8000+ altitude. Denis instead, had nine 8000ers under his belt and had summitted BP before, through the normal route.
On July 18th, the Kazakhs started their push from 4800m on the SW face.
The pair set six bivouacs during the ascent, but only found space enough to lie down on two occasions. The other 4 nights, Denis and Serguey would just sit and wait for the morning light.
At 7950 meters, the wind turned into hurricane force. Climbers at the normal route were forced back below the true summit. Denis and Serguey pushed on, up the summit ridge to the main summit of Broad Peak, at 8,051m.
The next day, after three days of no word, a remarkable sms arrived to RussianClimb.com: "We're going down through the normal route, currently at 7700 - we reached the top at 11:30 am. It was 25 July 2005.
The only summiteers of Broad Peak in 2005, Serguey and Denis had climbed the 8000+ giant through a new route, on an unclimbed face, in alpine style, on sight - under severe conditions.
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