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We have covered hundreds of expeditions in 2004. It's difficult to choose the best, as they all contributed in their own way, sharing their story - their very soul in fact - with us and the world.
And yet, there are those who continue to linger in our minds long after their final debrief. We have chosen 8 expeditions who have contributed in an extraordinary way to the Spirit of Adventure in the year of 2004.
Today number 7: Russian Extreme Project - 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 А5-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 Valery 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.
The Russian Extreme Project Amin Brakk stays in our memory for pioneering, ingenuity and courage.
By their performance, the awarded expeditions have proved themselves outstanding in all or most of the following:
- Self reliance
- Respect towards competition
8 expeditions have been chosen best in the world of adventure in 2004.
Previous in the countdown:
8. Fiona and Rosie (South Pole) for their record-breaking performance and respect for each other.
An additional 4 expeditions received a special mention award:
Edurne Pasaban and Juanito Oiarzabal (K2) - for their courage and honesty.
Henk De Velde (NW Passage) - for his battle to the bitter end.
Pavel Rezvoy (Ocean rowing) - for his power of will and refusal to retire.
Nawang Sherpa (Mount Everest) - for his determination and ground-breaking performance.
More on Amin Brakk & the team:
Amin Brakk is located in the inaccessible Pakistan Mountains that represent a real climbing Mecca. Amin Brakk is one of the most complex and extended walls on Earth, considered even harder than Trango Tower.
It was first attempted in May 1996 by Basque climbers and got the attention of rock climbers back in 1997. The Spanish made several attempts until 1999 when Pep Masip, Miguel Puigdomenech and Silvia Vidal climbed this virgin tower and named their route Sol Solet (VII 6C+, A5). The ascent took 34 days. The route has a technically complex part of 1650m in length and 22 pitches of A5 and 6C+ (vertical!).
The Amin Brakk walls include 150m-long sections of А5 (maximum difficulty level for aid-climbing) at about 6000 m altitude. Lack of snow on the wall force the climbers to haul up water.
The Russian Project Extreme to Amin Brakk team-members were : Arcadi Seregin (Ussuriisk,45), Alexander Lastochkin (Moscow, 42), Sergey Kovalev (Lenensk-Kuznetsk, Kemerovo region, 38), cameraman Lev Dorfman (Moscow, 43), and photographer Dmitry Lifanov (Moscow, 37). They all have impressive big wall climbs all over the world. Valeri Rozov is also Russias, Europes and Worlds champion on Parachuting.
Facts and results:
Difficulty of the route: А3, 6А.
Vertical meters (altitude difference) in the technically complex section: 1250 meters (from 4600 to 5850 meters over sea level).
Length of the route: 31 pitches.
The ascent took 22 days (11days fixing the rope, 11 days on the mountain).
The team stayed in the area for 33 days. During the ascent there were only three days of actual summit weather; the rest of the time it was raining or snowing.
Images of the climb and Valeris BASE jump, courtesy of the team and Mountain.ru
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