Parbat (8126 m), Broad Peak (8046 m) and K2 (8611 m) Kazakhstan Expedition
Gleb Sokolov L
2003 the whole Mountaineering World celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first
Everest ascent - an event that will stay forever as the greatest confirmation
of the human spirit, and the drive to achieve and to conquer the unknown.
Even though most of members of that historical expedition aren't alive, their
accomplishment will live forever in history.
is a pity, however, that a mountain like Nanga Parbat lies in the shadow of Everest.
50 years ago Nanga Parbat too had its first summit, and the climb itself differed
much from the large attack on Everest undertaken in '53.
Nanga Parbat there was a single hero who was without much help. On Everest Hillary
and Tenzing summited, but they had a big team working with them until 8750m. Nobody
helped Hermann Buhl -at least above 6900m - to climb the amazing mountain face
with all its length and borderless snowfields.
climb is more interesting and dear to me as a sportsman than the conquest of Everest.
Ambition, thrill, and risk - these are magic above all else. Besides, careful
planning and the final summit push are both equally valuable on all mountains.
So, I repeat, I can't understand why the mountaineering community ignored the
Naked Mountain's jubilee? (Nanga Parbat)
were only a few teams in Base Camp, 8 Kazakhs climbers, 8 Italians, 2 Spaniards,
1 Russian, 1 American, and 1 Austrian. I've heard, that some more teams, like
the Japanese, will try and climb, but it's still insignificant in comparison with
the massive gathering under Everest this past spring - "C'est la vie"
- look at the History...
Nanga Parbat is a famous mountain where many
broken dreams and great achievements took place. How many people are buried here?
How many bitter experiences have there been here? But most of all, the passion
and zeal which climbers go for the summit with here is wonderful. I see that there's
really something magical on this mountain, maybe it lies in the sub-consciousness...
Nanga was without individuality for me. The "conveyer-belt" method,
in which our Kazakh national team climbs 8000ers, is without soul.
are the Messners and Kukuczka's, whose spirit and soul were evident from their
incredible climbs on the toughest routes? Like them, our team is working towards
the goal of climbing all the world's 8000ers. The individual mountains, however,
don't have the time to touch our souls. For me, that's really what it's about.
During the two weeks when I was on Nanga, my soul was only touched on a couple
The events leading up to the expedition are lengthy and
it's been written about a lot on the web, so I'm not afraid to be called boring
if I begin to describe it from day to day. I will say only that the trek in was
very short and we reached Base Camp at 4100m after four days.
the way, it was the following 'indirect' moment that touched me. I dropped the
video camera, entrusted to me by the team, in a gorge, 100m deep. So we continued
on the climb and I left my optimism behind for a long while.
felt when you see the mountain looming over you more than 4000m, is difficult
to express through words. Nanga Parbat is just so beautiful; I can't look at its
grandeur and beauty without deep admiration. It's up there in the heavens like
a goddess and it flies in the sky like an angel. I couldn't tell the difference
between reality and fairy tale when the setting sun lit its slopes a blood-red
base camp was set in a beautiful place - patches of fresh grass were streaked
across by traces of old snow. With the snow melting, a lot of flowers, all with
different colors, appeared around us under the shining sun. The palpitating tenderness
of it really contrasted with the bare and icy peaks. It made me think a lot about
my home and all my loved ones.
a fight is a fight. Our team visited this Eden not to hear the birds sing Pakistani
songs, but to climb. My old friend Simone Moro had already set Camp I, 4800m,
under a rock, shielding it from avalanches. And in the evening we were already
laughing with him in the dining tent, discussing our future plans.
first group (Zhumayev, Chumakov, Pivtsov, and myself) began to work on the route.
We thought about the strategy a little and took some advice from our coach, Ervand
Iljinsky, deciding not to go straight along the big couloir directly from the
start, where it sits under an icefall. Instead we fixed 250m of ropes under the
safety of the rock ridge and then started onto the snows of the couloir. That
day, June 3rd, our whole team carried loads to Camp I.
Five returned to
Base Camp that day, but four of us stayed at CI, sadly looking at the snowflakes,
which began falling after dinner. The weather did improve as the evening approached,
and we fixed rope. Maxut Zhumayev fixed 250m worth and then I switched places
with him, fixing 250m more.
8 pm we radioed to BC and reported our work to Iljinsky.
to Base Camp: "So, Ervand Tikhonovich, we've had supper already and all's
OK. We plan tomorrow that one pair of climbers will go down to BC, and a second
pair will fix the next 200m of ropes."
response from Base Camp, "And what about the ropes? I've heard there's 600m
in the Italian tent."
I replied, "Not 600, but only 400,"
laughing in my mind, because I had figured to look into the Italians' tent before
sunset. I pretended to play dumb, "And have we to fix these ropes too?"
"Certainly," grumbled the Chief, "I plan that our second group
will set Camp II after your work."
"Poor fellows," said
my friend Pivtsov, who was up in Camp I with me, "And what about our foreign
"We should not strain ourselves too much," I
say to Iljinsky, "I think there's no need to rush."
to my plan-" says the chief with a steely voice. He continued with a long
speech, after which I sighed and said, "I've understood. We'll go up tomorrow."
Somebody said with perplexity that Iljinsky just yesterday said that we have
a lot of time, and we needn't be that fast ...
"He says for us "slowly, slowly", - quoted he after the Chief ,
and cried suddenly as strong as he can : - I say "Slowly!!!!!" Run!
Pivtsov worked first next morning, fixing 550m of ropes up until a rock outcropping
in the center of couloir. After that our group went down to Base Camp for some
rest and recuperation. The second group - Lavrov, Litvinov, Molgachev, Raspopov,
and Bogomolov then made their way to Camp I. They fixed about 500m of rope and
reached the top of the coulior.
At this point, Simone, who is very hard-working,
and not the type to ride the coattails of others turned up with his friends for
the attack. They reached an altitude of 6000m.
route lay through the heart of the famous Kinshofer Wall. I had read earlier an
old Russian diary about the climbing of this wall with old fixed ropes and heavy
packs - instinctively I shrunk back after completing the read. The description
sounded pretty ugly. Simone climbed very quickly, setup tents with his friends,
and was back down in Base Camp, breaking the silence down there with his creaky
voice in the evening.
for us, we started up with very heavy packs containing not only our personal equipment,
but 400m of ropes, two tents, and a lot of food, gas, etc. - it was very hard.
Heavy loads can make you pretty miserable, the snow falling on your head, and
your crampons scraping against the rock looking for purchase, it's not pleasant.
Carpe Diem! I suddenly understood what the guys had talked about in the Russian
In that push our group of four people worked until 6500m, using
all the ropes we could. I fixed line 500m above the spot where Simone had reached
on the ice/snow slope. We set our tent on the wide snow ridge between the rock
teeth and the huge cornice. There was the plain of the snow face above us , which
extended to the infinity, it was terrible. Snowfall began in the evening. I kept
waking up all night long, worrying. I turned my head, trying to hear something
in the silence around the tent. Snowflakes would land on the tent fly, and then
fall down off it in miniature avalanches. And from time to time the real avalanches
fell down near us with the calm sigh.
the morning we looked at each other for a moment and decided to descend. Only
Pivtsov turned his nose up and said that "we could ..." Still, we decided
have to say that at the side of the couloir, which is between Camp I and Camp
II, a huge icefall hangs threateningly from above. It's blue fangs hang there
ready to crush you. This mass showed its force just a day before our descent.
We went near the icefall around dinnertime, having already eaten our meat
in Base Camp. Our cook, Farman, began to master the Russian-Kazakh cuisine. At
the very beginning of the expedition Lavrov spent all morning in the kitchen teaching
him to cook borsht. So, our collective demand of meat, onions, and green tea sure
helped our cook to realize fast that we have healthy appetites. As Iljinsky joked,
"Why are wolves just second place carnivores? Because WE are the first..."
second group fixed the next 250m of ropes. They saw old ropes under the white
cover, and understood where the right way was. So, they worked further.
may note that from the very beginning, foreigners began to leave - some became
ill, some were tired. It was clear that not all of them would make it. When the
Italian-Austrian team arrived in Base Camp, their members had fallen ill already.
Our hopes for them to help prepare the route diminished quickly. Only Simone Moro,
who isn't one to ride other's hard work, added something to our team, fixing ropes.
Others did help ferry some loads.
were, however, pleasantly surprised by the energy of the Austrian froehlin, Gerlinde
Kaltenbrunner. She easily endured all difficulties of the high-altitude climb.
We could see the fire in her eyes, and in a unanimous agreement, she became one
We rested in Base Camp, but some insects managed to find their
way into our sleeping bags (we thought that they came from the Pakistan porters'
bags). They were especially angry in Iljinsky's tent, and he couldn't understand
who bit him at night. In the morning the Chief angrily showed us his bitten legs,
and explained how he fought against them. Then Pivtsov said to him that there's
an excellent way to fight the bugs, "it's called Camp III!" (it's so
cold up there the bugs die)
replied, "But I'll die if I go up there."
I guess it's either the bugs or you!"
re-reading, "The Guy from Hell," a story by Strugatskies, I felt that
all our difficulties on the mountain are only child's play compared to problems
that other folks may encounter in their lives.
the morning of June 13th, Inaki, the Spaniard, and I went up from Base Camp. The
trio of Pivtsov, Chumakov, Zhumayev had climbed to Camp I the evening before,
but I had decided to stay back and spend one more calm evening on the green grass.
Taking turns leading, Inaki and I now trampled through the fresh snow of the couloir
and reached Camp II where I began to boil water for the approaching guys. Snowfall
began. Chumakov, who had just come up, said that Gerlinde need some help. She
was climbing with Kurt (from the Italian team) from Camp I and probably wouldn't
be able to make the Kinshofer Wall with her pack.
returned to the bottom of the Wall and saw Gerlinde and Kurt trying to figure
out which pack was lighter. I put on froehlin Gerlinder's pack and immediately
understood why she wouldn't make it. I wouldn't even climb the wall with such
a load! How did this pretty Austrian girl make it here? At the top of the wall
I looked up at Chumakov, who just smiled and prepared the rope.
we'll do a little fishing for Kurt's pack," he explained to me, "Need
to help him or the Olympic Champ may die..." (Kurt was an Olympic League
Camp at 6500m, we got payback from our foreign partners. Inaki and Gerlinde, who
went without packs that day, worked ahead about 200m, fixing ropes. Afterwards
they went down - their acclimatization push was over, but we went further.
The day before, Zhumayev, working at first without a load, fixed about 200m
on the ridge and we spent one more night at 6500m. After Inaki and Gerlinde descended,
we understood that there weren't enough ropes. We also understood that we could
find old ropes buried in the snow. Not until late evening our four climbers, after
traversing the couloir, reached the top of the buttress by the rocks. This was
the beginning of the summit plateau. We had set our Camp at 7050 m.
I have to note that this climb was planned only as our acclimatization trip.
I was sure that after one more night here we'd go down to Base Camp, and would
then go for the summit bid. Really, we needed to save our energy, not run like
horses. Ahead of us still lay Broad Peak and K2. And there was one climber in
our group who was climbing an 8000er for the first time. We had time and didn't
need to be fast.
So the decision by my partners to go for the summit bid
right there was a surprise for me. However, I had been in worse situations before.
I said that I thought it wasn't right, but I was ready to go if they wanted
to. The decision was no surprise to the five guys from the second group, who were
spending the night in a Camp below us. Iljinsky just said over the radio that
he understood our feelings.
was going to be a brave attack. Our Nanga Parbat summit bid was an assault not
bred from our previous Hyperbaric chamber training but rather a result of our
hard work and experience.
We had climbed with ease and grace on this expedition,
working just as quickly as we had on Kangchenjunga and on Shisha Pangma. We fell
that we had energy left. Just about all of the route preparation and trail breaking
had been done to schedule. Our experience was very important - most of our members
had summits of 4-5, 8000-ers.
warmth of the tent, which we had crammed under a little rock at 7050m, raised
our spirits for the final push. I was the only one who was not well equipped,
however. Since I had planned on descending to Base Camp before going for the summit,
I only had a polar-fleece and Gore-Tex jacket.
We climbed through the
snowfields of the plateau. Once we reached the base of the summit tower we began
to drink water mixed with some powdered calories. This raised both our mental
and physical mood. We were at 7400m.
We took turns leading. After two
hours I started to lose feeling in my toes. The sky was littered with stars and
it really frosted my soul. The others were climbing in down jackets, but me, who
couldn't imagine that the third push would be the summit bid, was not as well
off. I felt like I was walking naked through a graveyard lit up by moonlight.
I returned to the tent and spent about an hour trying to warm my frozen feet.
I was certain the guys had already reached the summit.
Darkness gave way
to an extremely clear and cold day. The mountain, however, stood between the warmth
of the sun and me. Only the Maceno ridge, which lay below, was glowing under the
sun's rays. And it was a miracle that it reflected at least some warmth from the
sun. Extremely weak, but just enough to warm my heart, which was like a piece
of frozen beef by this point. I tried to be as fast as I could, because my chances
to summit were melting away fast.
started off again and eventually spotted something in the distance. Imagine my
joy when I saw three very little figures up ahead. Glowing like lighthouses in
their bright down jackets, they were going up.
Our group reached the top
at 0835 AM, June 17, 2003. Some said a few words and others took some pictures.
As for me, frozen to the core, I wanted only one thing - to go down, down, down...into
the warmth. The sun, covered by mist off towards the East, wasn't doing it for
me up there. We began to descend.
That day we descended to 6500m, and
the second group of Kazakhs ascended to our last Camp at 7400m. I kept going down,
aiming for Base Camp.
A strange thing happened as I descended the fixed
ropes. Above Camp II, at the place where the snow ridge is broken up by some rocks,
I found that somebody had been there. It was the place where I earlier had fixed
Lafaille's rope. Now I noticed that the rope wasn't there anymore, but somebody
instead had fixed short pieces of old ropes that were used 5-10 years ago.
And then I fell; only my quick reflexes saved me. I had time to push away
from the slope with my legs so I didn't go head over heels. It happened like in
slow motion, - I went flying for several meters, my arms and legs flailing until
I caught hold of a rock at the edge of a precipice.
As I had not been
seen below Camp II , all my teammates thought they had lost me. Only in the morning,
when I climbed up again to change the ropes, Iljinsky was surprised to spot me
in his binoculars from BC. The trio from my group, who had spent the night at
6500m then came descending, and we rappelled together down to Base Camp. I felt
joy, a joy to be alive.
one more drama was being prepared on the mountain. The beauty and illogic of our
ascent inspired the second group. They started from Camp IV at 2.20 am, and went
up fast. Damir Molgachev, was starting to get frostbite on his fingers and returned
to the tent. At 11.30 am Lavrov, Raspopov, and Litvinov stood among clouds, and
took their summit pictures. Bogomolov reached the summit some hours later. Only
Molgachev, after turning back from 7850m, hadn't reached the top.
day the second group spent the night back at 7400m Inaki and Gerlinde were going
up and Damir was going to join them for a second summit push. Unfortunately he
didn't make it on his second attempt either - he spent too much time at high altitude.
Inaki and Gerlinde's descent from the summit, the trio spent one more night in
the tent at 7400m. We tried to find out how Damir was doing, and listened to him
talk over the radio. We learned how he aborted and could understand it. In the
morning he began his descent after Inaki and Gerlinde, but it was very difficult
for him and he had only descended to 6500m by the evening. Simone, Viesturs, and
Lafaille gave him two liters of water and some food when he passed near their
tent. Gerlinde and Inaki were waiting for him below.
The next morning
Zhumayev and I started up to help Damir. We met him at 5800m, under the Kinshofer
Wall. Inaki went ahead, Damir followed, and Gerlinde was the last. She said again
and again "You OK, Damir? You OK Damir?" Like his shadow, she followed
have to note that Simone and Jean-Christophe climbed a very beautiful alternative
route on the Diamir Face, to the left of our route. This idea came up after they
spoke with Iljinsky, who had noticed the logic of this route. Already from the
first day in BC the Chief had checked it out in his binoculars and talked about
it with great interest. It's a pity that Simone turned around at 7150m, after
climbing the new route. Lafaille and Viesturs went on to summit on June 23rd.
resting after our Nanga Parbat climb, no wonder the entire team is pretty tired.
We went back down the valley very quickly - only one day out versus the four we
spent coming in. We are resting in one of the best Pakistani health-resort complexes.
There is a big lake, cottages scattered around it, apple trees, and a lot of cherry
trees too. So we feel like we are in Eden. All's OK and we play tennis, boat,
I hope that Broad Peak and K2 will give us the chance to try
our abilities one more time in a fair fight.
Urubko, June 27 2003
sponsors: Manaraga, Salice, CSKA Kazakhstan
Elena Laletina (Russianclimb.com) and ExplorersWeb