In August 2005 two of climbers Pavel Shabalin and Iljas Tuhvatullin have climbed a new route on Khan Tengri North Face. For the first time this Face was climbed by the duo, in the Alpine style. Here's the story by Iljas Tuhvatullin.


"Forget about fingers when look at the Moon ".


" The Life is possible only in unsafe conditions.
The cemetery is the most safe place.
But there is no life...".

Someone, even may be ourself

The necessary foreword

The World has gone crazy of different records. Therefore I have to tell, that we make our climbs not for them. Simply, when you are engaged in something for a long time, it would be desirable to do what nobody had done and to prove, that if you want something, it necessarily will turn out. And one more: we never climb to fight and die for an idea. We go to live one more page of our life.

This climb differed from others by its silence. We enjoyed the silence. We both were related so close that could speak without words and feel each other without sounds and gestures. Really our two souls joined the whole one. And the Face became the source feeding us with energy - we had never seen the mountain's face which's more capricious and more beautiful than that one. We did not climb the Face, no. And the summit wasn't our goal. We went on the road without the end, we were dissolved in the nature. Therefore we could climb much. Every day, presented to us by our destiny, we got as the gift and we were pleased even for an extremely strong wind - so strong that we couldn't believe how could it be.

We saw and felt something what only few of people can see and feel. And even when it seemed, that we reached the limit where's no the way back, we were sure, that its the continuation of Way, our Way home. And the more we dreamed about home, the greater was nature's pressure, which have forced us, like it wanted to ask: " Where do you go and why do you spend the rest of your energy? - here's your home, you haven't to go further, relax - you have already reached the place you wanted". It's like an idea, that the person should not have been attached to something, but only to live and make true decisions, free from the Past. There is only the Present.

We're reminded sometimes - clever man don't climb. But I'm sure, that human's development is provided only by his own experience and only not through the door of mind - but through any other door. Really, clever man won't climb, but he's not happy, but we are free at any moment, we can turn back from the mountains, nothing holds us.

In our climbs together with Pavel the time isn't important for us. It simply does not exist. We are happy, that climb together this beautiful Mountain, and our climb can last eternally, forever. It doesn't matter - where we climb, how many we climb, - it does not have the end, it does not have the beginning, it was and will be always: me, he and the Mountain. When the climb comes to the end, we feel like we come up from the sea on a land but only for again to appear in the sea of our salty feelings, such pleasant for the soul.

So happened this time again...

... We're slowly descending down to Camp 2 at 5600 m, we know, that nobody are there. All have already descended. Today's August, 30th, the beginning of Winter on Tien Shan. And suddenly - " Pasha! Look! - we saw the tent, or its only a dream ? " - I rattle to my partner. " Hey, is anybody here - water!, water! " - we did not drink during 3 days. Nobody responds to our shout. "May, there're nobody" - I thought, but suddenly the head is putting out the tent. I do not trust my eyes: " Really the Mountain has decided to release us? " The Facel looked at us silently. Thanks you for all: for a cold, for a wind, for difficulties. It was a serious lesson. A lesson by strict, but the fair parent to the self-confident children.

All has begun so.

We came to North Inylchek glacier as usually - in the beginning of August. Acclimatization has passed well, we were ready to start on 15-th. We decided to leave in 2 a.m., but as soon as we came out from a dining tent, we have plunged into a dense fog. The bad weather "has been drained in" from the valley below. We went to sleep in tents silently and in 4 a.m., on sunrise, Pavel has interested: " Well, shall we start? ". Having thought, I have told: " we shall not have time to slip bottom part, we can catch an avalanche. Give we shall wait ". We were right: the following some days were stormed with a bad weather, there was a snow, and we have again avoided a trap which the nature has prepared for us.

But there is nothing more burdensomely, than to wait. Days tried to keep step with days, and weather did not improve. The wall as a white shroud towered above us, and it seemed, that we shouldn't climb it this year. I accepted the nature's whims submissively. Let it be, that must be. If it is impossible to change a situation - we have to accept it. Nothing depends on us. If fair, I even was glad to a bad weather. It was a unique argument to turn back from the Wall, to refuse an climb. First time I did not want to climb. " Probably, I grow old " - I searched for an explanation to my feelings. We already were in 2003 on this North Face and know, how difficult it is. That days I have desided, that never come there again.

Within this year I mentally hoped, that Pavel won't be successful to find sponsors for this expedition. But in May he called me and cried: " All is OK - we shall go! " It was one of rare cases when I could not refuse. The mousetrap has slammed, and now - do you want or not - it is necessary to go. And here I wander under the Face, throwing on it slanting sights - will start up, will not start up?

August, 19th. The weather improved, and a frost has struck in evening - it was an attribute of good weather. " Well... ?? - Yes! " We speak and once again we reconsider the backpacks. It guards, that we take only four gas cylinders, but Pavel does an emphasis on fast climb, and I concede to his arguments.

August, 20th 3a.m. All sky's covered by the stars, but is not cold, we are dressed like in 2003 - the minimum. The underwear POWER STRETCH, suits POLARTEC WIND PRO, wind-stopper suits DERMIZAX. In our backpacks we have only extreme light down sweaters, perfectly proved on Everest North Face, spare gloves and mittens. With headlamps we pass a zone of cracks and when the dawn began at the left, we already cost under the route. All were precisely and efficiently: we have put on, have hanged out the equipment, and began to climb. Pavel went first, me - the second. This sequence has developed for us for a long time, and it does not upset me: I'm able to work first too. But I better carry more loads, and Pavel is the best who climb the mixt sites. This Face is not a toy and consequently everyone does that he's able to do better.

We easily pass through a berg and begin to climb. The mountain wakes up. It is cleared from the snow which have collected for a week, and showers us with dry avalanches from time to time, which, however, do not deliver some difficults for us. Ice tools AWAX and crampons VECTOR hold us well on the ice, therefore we quickly move via the planned way. Having reached the first rocky island, we climb to the right upwards in a direction of the cascade of the walls covered by an ice. Last year on this place, in bad weather, Polish climbers turned back, but now the weather is fine, so we slip this site in good mood. Working, we do not notice, that it starts to get dark. Usually we don't take watches with ourselves (and what for?) And consequently we are guided by the sun. It has now seemed to the right of the wall, reminding, that it's not more than an hour for the organization of bivyak. This evening we work to the very darkness, so not having found a suitable place for the tent. It is necessary to cut down a shelf where we can spend the night sitting. Finished, we take seat on a shelf, covered with tent and start to heat an ice to make a supper which this evening consists of red caviar (joking apart) with crackers and tea. It is class! Base camp is shone below like the little star. We are at the altitude of 4800 m. Today there was the longest working day, and we are completely satisfied by the result. Confused only by one thing - it is impossible to remove boots, they can fall downwards.

August, 21st. Early morning. Weather's good, rare clouds float on the sky. We have breakfast and then begin to work. Difficult rocky sites wait us ahead. And again our iceaxeses please us: they cling to the rocks which have been covered by a snow, finding an invisible relief there.The relief is not rich. Anchors gain us. They easily bite into a rock and superb hold. This's like a miracle. But only they are beaten out hardly. Well, it's not a problem. Grows dark. Pavel continues to climb, but we can't find the place for the tent. I start to become angry about him: " How many walls it is necessary to climb to understand, that it is necessary to begin to search for the place for spending the night two hours prior to a sunset? You see, that the Mountain is not predisposed to give us gifts. It is time to stop and cut down a shelf ". If late to stop for spending the night next day you will late come to work. The organism in any way demands the rest. At last, we find a suitable place, it is necessary only to trample a snow under a rocky tooth. In an hour the small platform is ready. We fill it for the "cementation" by the rests of water from a flask and own organisms, and set the tent.

Some words about the tent. It is model SOLO (manufactured by Red Fox), made specially for such kind of climbs. It is spacious enough. Even if it's not place enough for the tent, and edges of tent are groundless, it is possible to live in it. Here and now, having come into two different doors, we tighten tubes and remove our boots with pleasure - it is necessary for our legs to have a rest completely, or frostbites are inevitable. We make a supper and, having eaten, fall into a dream. And suddenly, in full darkness, the avalanche falls on us. I get something firm on my head. Thank God, the tent has resisted, and there are no visible damages on it. We drink 50 gramm of alcoghol to relax, and again we sit down to sleep. Just in case the rest of night we spend in helmets.

August, 22nd. Have found out in the morning, that an avalanche has taken down a shovel which we have left outside. It is a pity, we planned to use it as a snow anchor when climbing the top snow fields. Weather's good and, not delaying, we start to work. Pavel, as always climb accurately, in a direction of a rocky triangle. It seems, that the rock's close, but it's deceptive impression - it's too far ... Having rounded the next rocky wall, we decide to climb it on the right edge. Having come for a corner, we find out a scrap of an old cord into an ice. " Yes!", we are on a way where people have already been in the past. Such finds always warm the soul and install confidence, that you are on the right way. " Probably, it is cords of Myslovsky team" - we think. Pavel climbs a vertical site using iceaxes, and I catch myself on an idea: " and if he is worse than well-known Mauro Bole - the famous Italian, whose nickname is " Bubu " - he's famous for the whole World for his technics? "Fixed ropes are ready " - unexpectedly quickly cried Pavel, and I, having charged a back by hated backpack, climb upwards. Having consulted, we decide to stop for the night earlier - it is necessary to rest. Despite of the wind, we set the tent quickly and fixed it by AWAXes. Having filled a bag of a snow for preparation of water, we come into the tent. The wind amplifies, but in our house are warmly and cosy, the stove's working, makes a supper. At last - we can extend our legs. You won't feel such pleasure laying on the sofa! Happy, we fall into a dream.

August, 23rd. In the morning, having looked out of tent, I notice narrow feathers of clouds in the sky. Generally it's the sign of the change of weather. " Well, time will tell " - we decide and start to cook the breakfast. And here one more surprise - a stove refuses to work! We start to count variants, and find not a lot of them. If we shall not repair the stove- it'll be necessary to go down. Being facilitated, we have not took flat-nose pliers to the climb. And it difficult to diassemble the stove without it. But, as people say: " If you have been eaten, you have two exits at least". We have found a way this time too. We grind an atomizer of the stove for the latch of a carabine. We found the dust inside. How has it got there - we can't undrstand, but the fact remains the fact. Mystics.

Having lost the midday on repair of the stove, we start to the route. We are awaited by a rocky triangle - a key site of the bottom part of a wall. Pavel works first, me - second. For many years I have already got used to a feeling of " expectation of fall". It is considered to be, that to work first is more difficult, probably, it's really so. But I would not hasten to divide the work we do together to difficult and easy one. Try to stay on a wind and a cold of motionlessly some hours, modelling the actions on a case of fall in your mind. May, it is easier to climb by myself, than constantly to be in a nervous pressure. To honour of my partner I wish to note, that there were very few such cases during the long time of our joint climbs. In my consciousness Pavel felt much more times, and each time I was possible to keep him. Here and now he climb on the whole rope. The bottom station is fixed on one "stopper" only. " It is not enough to keep him in the falling" - I think - " it'll be necessary to pickle more rope meters in case of it". But Pavel confidently climbs the rope without an intermediate points. The relief's covered by the snow and also is poor on cracks. It is feature of Khan Tengri North Face. It is necessary to be able to climb reliably with iceaxes. And my partner shows he can. We pass rocks, and the route deduces us on the snow fields.

This most difficult for Pavel - the monotonous work in a friable snow. On the last climb (Everest North Face - ed. note) he even get a nervous failure and I had there to work first. It is interesting, how will he this time? I am ready to replace him, but, in my opinion, it'll be better, if he will overcome himself, and will work first. Step by step, overcoming a loose snow, we slowly move ahead to a following rocky ridge. The snow though also deep, but there're not an avalanche danger, therefore we monotonously hour after an hour, meter behind meter we win the space from a snow. We pass the traverse on rocks simultaneously and through an internal corner get out on a ridge. There are " the foreheads " ahead, covered by the snow. As usual, the wind amplifies to the evening, covering by itself a huge red topmost tower. We are lucky - we find a ready place for the tent, where we can lay.

August, 24th. The day is similar on previous like as two peas . The destroyed rocks again are mixed with the deep friable snow. Floundering in this "cream of wheat", completely exhausted, we creep out on huge (2x2 m) place, laid out by slate tiles, which has been laid out by Krasnoyarsk team in 1988.

August, 25th. The sky is tightened by clouds, the weather finally worthened. The weariness saved up for last days is felt. I'm worring about Pavel's boots. In spite of they are " the advanced model ", but half-a-size less for him. And it is very essential at high altitude: fingers of legs are squeezed all the time. We climb via the snow tie which is on the level of "wine-glass" and... " YES! " At last we reach the belt of red rocks. We are near the treasured goal. The vertical chimney has imperceptibly involved us into the belly, and we accurately move on it. Abruptly, very abruptly. Shabalin long potters above. The snow and great pieces of ice fall on me. I turn aside from them as I can. When it's already absolutely darkened, I hear: "Fixed ropes are ready ". I went upward and see: under the dome-shaped rocky carnise half-a-meter high Pavel sits and stupidly cuts down a snowdrift. At night, with our headlamps, we hardly fix a rope and set the tent. Today we again spend the night sitting, but thanks for it too! Further - all as is usual: we melt snow, cook supper, sit down to sleep in a pose of meditating monks. All the night the storm wind. What will it bring for us?

August, 26th. Altitude is 6350m. The wind does not decrease. Very cold. Our condition after such spending the night is disgusting. Pavel starts to work, I safe him and mentally going to remove our camp. Today it is a hard problem: many horizontal sites, we'll not climb without "pendula". " What shall we do and who is easy now? " - banality occurs in my mind. Having climb two pitches, we turn to the right. It seems to me, that Pavel climbs somewhere wrong way - it's too difficult site ahead. But when he find an empty shugar box, casually got stuck in a crack, I calm down.

Next rope has the category "super": the chimney which then passes to the vertical destroyed wall. Pavel's OK again. Usually in places where the probability of fall is very high, it orders: "closely". And here it passes this site without visible difficulties. I have only not to lag behind it and not to detain our climb. Pavel try to warm his frozen fingers from time to time. Noticeably becomes cold - the wind becomes much stronger above the col, as we expected. It can blow us off. But it's the only way home for us - through the top. We are too high to turn off.

On a tiny snow ledge we cut down a platform (its size is in half of bottom of tent) and we set there our small house. Having come inside, I suddenly notice, that I'm shakes - I have too cold today. With melancholy we look at last gas cylinder, it's enough only per day and a half. We hope only on the deposit, that we have left at the top in 2003. Pavel suffers from a cold too, his fingers are white. Got frostbites? It would be desirable to think about something good. In fact we swallowed "trental" before the climb and our organism should consult. I'm saffering the stomachaich - it's stronger from day to day, not passing pain. I can't adapt in any way. There's nothing to be done - I have to suffer. The wind grows in strength "behind a window" . Usually it decreases a little by the evening, but today blows as if having forgotten about it.

August, 27th. The storm wind. In such conditions we gather for an work longer asusual, deliberating, to go or to wait. Until the internal voice will not prompt what to do. Already nearby midday (how much we can defined it on our sensations because the sun was off this day), we unwillingly creep out outside - hurricane's around. It is good, that yesterday we have processed twenty meters rocks above the place where spending the night. Pavel starts to climb slowly on the fixed rope, I packed the tent. The wind blows like in a wind tunnel, awful howl costs around. Through a wind thewords reache me: " a fixed ropes are rea..." I understand, what does it mean. Now my turn is. But it was necessary to me to be put out only for an excess as my glasses for a second closes up with a snow. I'm blind. It's not any reason to clean them, and an opportunity too. And so I go blindly - the rope will finish. Having passed ten meters, I begin to choke. There's no the air: it is carried away by the wind, I feel full vacuum. The heart works as a machine gun - just about overheat and jam. Bad ideas appeare in my head: " ... probably, Salavat died in such situation on Makalu top - heart has overheat..".(Makalu West Face , 1997 - ed. note) Having rejected away evil thoughts, I force itself to crawl up to Pavel. He has frozen hard by this moment it. Through howl a wind I hear: " Let's to set tent, it is necessary to wait ". We're still hope, that this hurricane is not for ever. We are sittimg like little birds on the narrow ledge, having enclosed under our backpacks, and covered by tent. How long we have stayed there - I do not know. It seemed to us, that very long, we already for a long time do not feel our legs, they became as wooden, and the wind does not weaken for a second. I do not remember, who of us first found a sensible idea to come downwards to a platform. With improbable difficulties we set the tent and, coming into it, we pray for one only: " If only it has not been broken off! ". Have somehow melted ice and have satisfied hungry and thirst, nearly having burnt our tent. So, we have a small hole, in size of a fist, but not through. We're lucky! We spent the night, not having closed eyes.

August, 28th. We listen attentively to wind's howl in hope to catch the slightest changes to the best. Sometimes it seems, that it calms down and then we look to each other: " Well, shall we work today? " It's not possible for us to lie very long time - our gas has almost ended. It is necessary to go! The most of a chimney is climbed, the short part remains. The blizzard storms around, but from time to time in break of clouds we see the dark blue sky. Slowly, step by step, Pavel accelerates and here we, at last, pass this infinite chimney. The abrupt rocky crest grows to the sky, and it seems, that it's very far up to the top. Sometimes we move simultaneously, sometimes alternately. The climb seems infinite, but the white top cap with huge snow flags is already visible ahead. At last we pass through the ridge and find the thin lilac rope. " Yes! We - on the top part of a Kouzmin route! The North Face is climbed! ".

On the candle end we try to burn out the rests of gas from last cylinder, but all is vain. Have chewed a few snows. Though we're tired, we can't asleep. We lay - and talk. Today, under our plan - is the day of evacuation our base camp. If the last helicopter in that season will depart, it is very bad for us. Imperceptibly our conversation passes to a theme of future K2 West Face expedition. I fairly admit, that have not decided yet, whether I shall take part in this project. Pavel, like not hearing me, continues to tell with enthusiasm about the beauty of the West Face, its features, about the principle of selection of equipment and clothes. Really, Khan Tengri North FAce is a poligon where the equipments for K2 is testing. Imperceptibly we plunge into the dream, not guessing, what else difficulties wait for us tomorrow. The bad weather storms still. We understand, that it won't end soon. But all's the same for us - eally we have already climbed the North Face.

August, 29th. We gnaw dry bread for a breakfast - the heartburn begins from them. But it's nesessary to eat something. Today we must summit and go down to the col. And there we shall necessarily find our depo with gas, and all will be OK. There's hurricane outdoor, though the sun shines. Having packed the tent, we begin to climb, slowly, very slowly - our forces are nearly off. In an hour we creep out of a zone of a deep snow on a strong ice crust. Near to a chain of traces we see the lemon. Pleasure without the limit - we split this frozen tropical fruit and divide it fraternally. All changes in our souls.

Finally, we see the long-awaited and familia-to-the-pain tripod. Summit! Here our deposit should be. We go and looked under each stone. But...- we find nothing. Eh, who's this economic climber? We connect to the classic fixed ropes and began to descent. At 6400 m we find the rests of products: sugar, crackers, the nuts, two frozen apples and two cucumbers. We start to gnaw cucumbers, and then an apples. Fine. Have satisfied a little thirst. But to our great regret, there're no gas too. We go further downwards. Few and few forces... We pass 100 m and we fall into the snow, then the next 100 m... " if only somebody have waited us" - turns in the mind- " one day more - and we shall come ".

We reach the col at 3 p.m. The Sun shines and the wind blows awfully. Having left our backpacks, we start to rummage in the garbage bags left by someone on the col. Yes, we have found 4 cylinders! " They seem empty, but may we manage to squeeze something out of them ". We start to put tent and here happened someting that could change all further course of events - what we always were afraid of, but now is has struck us as a lightning. An impulse of a wind has pulled the tent out from our hands and has incurred aside Northern Inylchek. I stay, as if paralysed, thinking as we shall spend night somewhere in the dug out snow hole. However Pavel with improbable for his conditions speed, runs behind tent on the deep snow, and catches it for edge during that moment when it appears above carnices, and he falls in the snow. " Carnices! " - I have time only to shout. Pavel lays long, resting. But the tent is reliably clamped in his hand. We shall live!

The found cylinders appear burnt to the bottom. It's very bad. Are you sometime ate a fluffy snow? No effect from such meal. Half an hour we shake a bowl with a snow mixed with some powder found there. And, oh, miracle! The snow after jolting becomes damp - we received quite good ice-cream. Only having eaten three bowls of this delicacy, we have slightly satisfied thirst. Pavel's hand's fingers are absolutely bad, black. I do him an prednizolon injection. We don't feel our legs. We don't know how they are, because we do not remove boots - we sit ready to come out at any moment. Even at night if only the wind has calmed. My stomach does not give me rest too, the ulcer, probably, has opened. I use ketorol, it will remove a pain in legs and in a stomach.

August, 30th. Morning does not bring the weather improvement. A strong wind, visibility 50 meters. Again I do an prednizolon injection to Pavel. The weather became better about the midday, we began to descend. Traces has swept up. Slowly we went upwards, it seems, there is no end. The mountain as if does not wish us to release, creating barrier there where they should not be any more. Visibility again became such, that it is impossible to make out even tags on a track. We go on a rope to not to fail in the numerous hidden cracks. Sometimes we sit down, waiting, that the weather improve slightly. In a snow till the belt, overcoming impulses of a gale-force wind, we creep out on 6150 m- a shoulder of Chapaeva peak. That's all, now - only downwards! We throw our torned rope and begin to descent. I go first, pulling out fixed rope from a deep snow. Not clearly, as Pavel works by his freezed hands. In the second camp on 5600m we meet the Kazakh climbers - they wait for us...

Only to 1 a.m. August, 31st we fall in embraces of our friends and relatives. Natasha and Sanych with headlamps meet us on a glacier. In the early morning heli - familiar 103-rd board- takes all of us away to "continent". In Karkara we said goodbye to friends who became us more, than friends - to Lena Kalashnikova, Kazbek Valiev, Jury Moiseyev, Sanja Skornjakov, with the commander of helicopter Shaimbet and the second pilot Ilhom. Friends, who never wil take off. It was more difficult for them, than to us, because they waited and trusted in us, not having the information during the whole four days.

There was the last day of August, the end of summer, and the hospital awaited for me and Pavel, and doctor's verdicts, all our future destiny depends on. But I firmly know - all will be good for us.

The Epilogue.

Everything, that happens with us, already occured with many teams. There is such phrase: " If the dog has bitten you - it is not news. And here if you have bitten a dog - it is news, noteworthy ". And so, from this point of view our climb has been filled " not by news ". Though journalists can to apply enthusiastic epithets: "superextreme", " for the first time ", "high-speed", etc., but I is assured, their diligence are vain - we there climbed not for that. Even because no achievements can justify frostbite fingers and the undermined health. All this is nonsense. And if someone speaks you another, do not trust him, it is simple not sincere with you, and with himself too.

I'm often asked: " How many do you get for your climbs? "People have forgotten, that there are things which cannot be bought, even by big money. How many there is a kindness? How many there is a friendship? How many there is a love? Answer me, people! We find new friends in our travel, we meet responsiveness and understanding of absolutely extraneous people. How many there is a sensation of happiness when you stay at the summit? The Happiness cannot be bought, you come to it through losses and experiences which a life and mountains give us. People, be happy!

Sincerely yours, Iljas Tuhvatullin

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