(K2Climb.net) "K2 West Face - BRAVO" writes Pablo from Madrid. American Mary Clare chimes in: "I have always had the utmost respect for Russian climbers. My respect has been taken to a new level!"
The world is in awe over the Russians on K2. And it's not over yet. The young Kazakh team of four is in camp 2 on the NW ridge, while Denis and Serguey are sharpening their tools in BC.
Teamwork on the West Face
"Team work has summits that these times egos and solo minds could never top out," writes Pablo. "A team is richer in experiences and returns more knowledge, more life. Difficulty is always a good lover."
"When everything runs wrong, storms hit your mood and no happy ends can be found, solitude is not a problem; but when sky is blue, sun warms your tired body, summit is achieved, and BC is reached, how can you be alone? Success is better if shared," Pablo states.
"We can't compare feelings. We can talk about alpine style, expedition style, siege style, russian style, or je-je style, but no style is better than others, so we can't say a word about pure style. Purity belongs to Gods, not to human beings. HURRAH!!! K2 West Face Climbers; you have achieved a team that works and this is really one of the highest summits. Congratulations!!!" Pablo ends his mail from Madrid.
"All excellence is equal," states an old quote. In later years, a battle have erupted within Piolet d'Or about the worth of different climbing styles - rather than the targets achieved. The community is now reviewing its guidelines, dividing mountaineering into better suited categories for a more fair evaluation.
ExWeb has requested an interview with the Russian West Face coach on the topic, to see if the world has something to learn from the astonishing teamwork, that has won the most difficult high altitude ascents in modern times.
Young guns on the NW ridge
The NW ridge is otherwise were all the action is right now. Make sure you check the special report on the guys posted last Friday.
The who, when and where have been a bit confusing on the team this weekend - but now it stands clear that the summit team is down to four hard-core climbers.
Maxut and Vasily have 11x8,000er summits each, Sergey Bogomolov has twelve 8,000ers bagged. The only high altitude rookie is Andrey Puchinin, the well known speed- and technical climber out on his first, and very serious, 8000er experience. The core team of four planned to reach camp 2 today - reportedly in snowy and foggy weather.
In spite of the general young age of the team, it's hard to beat 33 8000er summits between three climbers. The men have a very tricky and dangerous last part to solve above their highest camp on the ridge, but if anyone can do it it's these guys.
Two for the dream of the North Face
Also this weekend, the camel caravan arrived in the Chinese side of K2's BC delivering much needed supplies to the ridge guys - along with their friends Denis Urubko and Sergey Samoilov.
Denis described in a letter to RussianClimb what now lies ahead.
"It was a cloudy day and I sat in front of the computer, watching a piece of paper. The light could hardly penetrate the dirty window of my home; a narrow room in an Army barrack. This was spring 1998, and I was thumbing a black-and-white picture; a simple print copied on a plain sheet of paper. Frankly speaking, that's when everything started."
In the recent drought of new routes on our tallest peaks, the Russian climbers, plus Kazakhs Denis and Serguey have been the very few truly pushing the envelope.
In alpine style, Denis and Serguey did a new route on an unclimbed face of Broad Peak two years back and another on Manaslu last year. K2's North Face is the ultimate of them all.
"9 years have passed since I first saw the North Face in the picture. 9 years already or is it 9 years yet? Another spring is arriving, and with it a strange feeling that I have chosen the right path," Denis wrote a few months back.
He had decided to climb only what he wanted to climb, setting his own standard: "Throughout my athletic career I longed to be free. To be free for real - not just seemingly so. So for the last three years I have done only what I dreamed off exploring new routes in Himalaya. Unlimited access!"
Those priorities led him to the unclimbed, dark side of the Mountaineers' Mountain.
Serguey Samoilov, Denis mate from the Central Sport Club of Kazakhstan Army is perhaps the only mate Denis fully trusts with his life. "Since our climb of Khan Tengri north face in 2000, Serguey and I had climbed the same routes. To me, Serguey's power of mind and endurance are bordering to ridiculous. Always cheerful, he never doubts decisions which have already been made. Contrary to me, who does..."
Sreguey in turn has a lot more easy going outlook on life: "My kids are grown and I have a job," he told ExWeb. "But I have no savings and my everyday life is not so exciting. Its time to come up with something big and fun!"
Come hell or fire - nothing could stop the Russians. August 20 at 12:50 p.m., local time, cutting through an inferno of red clouds - Vadim Popovich and Everest North Wall summiteer Andrew Mariev delivered a much deserved victory to the K2 West Face team. A new route, for the first time in 10 years, was a fact on the Mountaineers' Mountain and only 2 faces (The East and the North) now remain unclimbed.
The West Face was finally completed - by the world's most accomplished high altitude mountaineering team - after months of relentless work through storms and whiteout, extended stays in the death zone without supplementary O2, and technical difficulties up to the very top. In the days that followed, one by one, the nine climbers who had held in C6 and C7 behind the two first summiteers, also reached the top. That included Shabaline - who lost toes and fingers to frostbite on Khan Tengri's north face two years back - and the three Jannu climbers who had a marathon stay high up in the deathzone on the first summit attempt just one week earlier. By Friday, all climbers were safe back in BC.
Their names have become familiar to the international climbing community: Maxut Zhumayev, Vassiliy Pivtsov, Damir Molgachev, Serguey Brodsky, Denis Urubko, Serguey Samoilov...and Anatoli Boukreev. They are the Kazakh climbers, at times coached by Ervand Iljinsky, and always looked after by father Alexander, a priest in Alma-Ata.
Kazakhstan is the place for the speed climbs and scary avalanches at Khan Tengri. Kazakh climbers have been carrying out the Anatoli Boukreev Memorial speed ascents on Amangeldy Peak (3,999m) since 1999.
Kazakh climbers are known to be tough: I've often seen the Kazakhs climbing in bad weather they do that a lot in Central Asian Mountains," Oscar of the Magic Line told ExWeb last year and other climbers chimed in.
The national team of Kazakhstan climbers was formed to summit all fourteen 8,000m peaks in celebration of its independence from the Soviet Union 16 years ago. Baglan Zhunussov and regular coach Ervand Iljinsky lead the current K2 NW ridge expedition.
Young star climbers Maxut (Zhuma) Zhumayev and Vassily (Vaso) Pivtsov have each summited eleven 8000ers. The two were the first non-sherpa climbers to reach the summit of Everest this season (no O2) and were awarded Best of ExWeb for a double header of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna last year, which they climbed in grand style. Barely 30 years old, the two Kazakhs walked to the peaks and climbed each in one single push.
With twelve 8000ers summited, Russian Serguey Bogomolov is joining this dream team following a tragedy on K2's Abruzzi Spur last year when an avalanche killed his team mates.
Denis and Serguey
Denis Urubko is considered one of the world's top climbers. He has summited ten 8000ers and many other major peaks in the Himalayas and Central Asia. He has also sacrificed summits to help fellow climbers in trouble, some of whom he had never met before.
Member of the Kazakh national team, Denis Urubko took a step up three years ago, in switching from large expeditions to 8000 climbs in alpine-style. He teamed up with Serguey Samoilov, by then new to Himalaya.
On May 8, 2006, Denis and Serguey completed a new, Alpine-style route on the northeast side of Manaslu (8163m). A few days earlier, theyd reached the top via the normal route, achieving the first summit on Manaslu in three years. In 2005, Denis and Serguey were also nominated for the international Piolet dOr after a new route they opened on sight, alpine-style and in very bad conditions on the previously unclimbed southwestern face of Broad Peak. They were the only climbers to reach the summit of BP that year.
A great technical climber, Serguey, 50, was new to 8000+ altitude when he joined Denis for the climb on Broad Peak. The expedition was a success, as apparently was their team, since the two of them teamed up again on Manaslu last year, and will attempt a new route on K2's north face together in 2007.
Visit our new website