Russians climbers have pioneered new routes before, on the South west face of Everest in 1982, Kanchenjunga in 1989, the South face of Lhotse in 1990, and on the North face of Everest in 2004. These ascents were however done using oxygen as well as high altitude porters.
When the team lead by Viktor Kozlov decided to climb what they believe is the most difficult route of the most difficult mountain in the world, they also wanted to do it in best style, explains Pavel Shabalin, member of the UIAA Commission for Ice Climbing Competitions. They made the ascent using no oxygen, no high altitude porters above 5600m and prioritised safety. The main part of the route is formed by a huge mixed rock buttress, which rises from 6600m to 8050m. “Almost for every alpinist that was rock climbing on the edge of their possibilities, on the limit of physical storages,” says Nikolai Totmyanin.
Viktor Kozlov, Vassily Yelagin, Piotr Kuznetsov and Pavel Shabalin had already spent a few weeks in 2005 for reconnaissance of the wall. Arriving at their 5000 m base camp on June 6 2007, the team of 16 members began fixing ropes and establishing camps along the route. Alexey Bolotov, Gennady Kirievsky and Nokolay Totmyani spent four days at Camp 5 (7650m) waiting for a weather window. Then on August 10 they started from Camp 6 (8150m) for the summit attempt. Deep snow up to their chests slowed them down considerably, and then at 8500m they hit an unexpected, vertical rock step. Exhausted, and unable to find a way through, they had to turn back.
For the next ten days the weather was so bad that the team could not make another attempt. Then finally on August 21 at 12.50 local time, Andrey Mariev and Vadim Popovich climbed the final ridge to the summit. The next day Alexey Bolotov with Nikolay Totmyanin, followed by Gleb Sokolov, Eugeny Vinogradsky, Victor Volodin, Gennadiy Kirievsky and Vitaly Gorelik, and finally Pavel Shabalin with Ilyas Tukhvatullin also reached the top. “It was really bad weather. It was a really difficult route. It was definitely strong efforts of all team members. That is absolute alpinism,” says Shabalin.
On their return the team was greeted by the Prime Minister of Pakistan and awarded summit certificates by Mr Saad Tariq Siddiqi, Secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan.
The expedition members are the best high altitude climbers in Russia and on the national Russian team. Among them were the well known alpinists Alexey Bolotov (twice awarded the “Piolet d’or” for the ascents of the West Face of Makalu and the North Face of Jannu, Everest without oxygen), Gleb Sokolov (solo ascent of Pobeda peak, the North Face of Everest, Lhotse Middle), Eugeny Vinogradskiy (five successful ascents of Everest, including ascent of the North Face), Nikolay Totmyanin (Jannu the North Face route, Everest without oxygen (twice), Pavel Shabalin (the North Face of Everest, the North Face of Changabang, the North Face of Khan-Tengri, new routes on the North Face of Aksu). The leader of the project, Viktor Kozlov, also organised the well known expedition in 2004 of the Everest North Face and the first ascent of the unclimbed 8000 summit – Lhotse Middle in 2001.