Home > Expeditions & Adventures > Russia Special: brand new route on Pobeda, Elbrus race kick-off, Snow Leopards in numbers

Russia Special: brand new route on Pobeda, Elbrus race kick-off, Snow Leopards in numbers

September 16, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

While fall season kicks off in Nepal and Tibet, Russian climbers have lots of action close to home.

Sokolov and Gorelic have forged a new route on the highly demanding Pobeda peak; young guns and veterans prepare for the Elbrus race next week; and the Snow Leopard stats have been updated.

New route on Pobeda

Siberian climbers Gleb Sokolov and Vitaly Gorelic have opened a new route on Pobeda peak – a serious 7000er with a 4,5 mile (7,5 km) long summit ridge.

Barely able to speak out of exhaustion, Sokolov confirmed to RussianClimb Tuesday that they were safely down at the glacier.

Ready, steady…all set for the Elbrus Race

Meanwhile in the Caucasus, Eastern European racers are on their marks for the 5th international Elbrus Race, to be held on September 7-9th.

During the Soviet period, speed ascent competitions on Elbrus (5642 meters) were part of the training program for members of the first Soviet Himalaya expeditions (1982 -1989). The strongest USSR climbers made Elbrus races very prestigious events to attend. Bringing back the old glory, in 2005 the annual International Elbrus Race was set up.

Taking place each mid September, the race is now open to all climbers wishing to cut their teeth against world-class rock stars such as Nickolay Tomjanin (Everest and Jannu north wall), Denis Urubko, Andrey Puchinin, Sergey Surmonin, Svetlana Sharipova and others.

Organizers Top Sport Travel and RussianClimb.com have recovered the tradition currently offering speed climbers 3,200 vertical meters start to finish lines – more than any other similar race in Europe.

Record-holders and young guns rubbing shoulders

The competition follows Elbrus normal route – from Azau (2,400m) passing by Bochni hut, Pastukhov’s rocks and Sedlo to West Elbrus’ summit (5,642m).

Participants are a wild mix of hard-core eastern mountaineers and “like-minded people wanting to check their human limits,” RussianClimb reports.

This year will sport last year’s winner K2 summiteer Roman Gubanov, racing alongside 9-time Snow Leopard Boris Korshunov, 75, Czech speed climber Marhan Milan, and young rising star Ukrainian Maria Hitrikova, 19, with Lenin, Ama Dablam, Khan Tengri and Korzhenevskaya already on her resume.

14x8000er summiteer Denis Urubko holds the current record at 3h, 55min and recently announced that he’ll try to participate again this year and beat his own score.

The Snow Leopard brotherhood

Unable to travel abroad, Ex-Soviet climbers set up the famous Snow Leopard Program. To be honored with the title (Szezhny Bars), a climber must summit all 5 mountains above 7000 meters in former Soviet Union territory (today all these peaks are in countries other than Russia).

The isolated, very cold and demanding Pamir/Tien Shan mountains pose a major climbing challenge – as shown in *Vladimir Shataev’s stats (Ed note: more on him below), just updated by Lena Laletina and Rodrigo Granzotto Peron for RussianClimb and AdventureStats.

The list totals 537 Snow Leopards, starting with Moscow’s Evgeny Ivanov, the first to bag all the 5 summits in 1961. It took 24 years for the first western climbers join the Snow Leopard ranks: Americans Willi Garner and Randy Starret. As for lady climbers, only 25 have won the title.

Check out the RussianClimb’s tables.

Here goes some more Snow Leopard facts from Rodrigo Granzotto Peron:

I – MOUNTAINS IN THE PROGRAM:

Ismail Samani (Pik Kommunizma) 7495m (Pamir, Tajikistan)
Jengish Chokusu (Pik Pobeda/Pobedy) 7439m (Tien Shan, Kyrgyzstan)
Ibn Sina (Pik Lenin/Lenina) 7134m (Pamir, Kyrgyzstan/Tajikistan)
Pik Korzhenevskaya 7105m (Pamir, Tajikistan)
Khan Tengri 7010m (Tien Shan, Kazakhstan/Kyrgyzstan)

II – HISTORY:

The genesis of the program dates from 1956, when Ratzik suggested it. Khan Tengri was not part before 1984, then only considered 6995 meters high. From 1985 to 1989 Pik Pobeda was also out, due to border disputes with China. From 1990 the program stabilized with all 5x7000ers.

To date there are 552 snow leopards, 23 of them repeaters. Record-holder is Russian legend Boris Korshunov, with 9 titles in all.

Other great collectors are Nikolay Totmjanin (5x), Serguey Bogomolov (4x) and Valery Khrishchaty (4x).

The large majority of Snow Leopards are from Russia or countries part of the former Soviet Union (Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Estonia and so forth). Western countries with Snow Leopards are Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Iran, Japan, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and United States (there are no Snow Leopards yet from South America, Africa or Oceania).

III – VLADIMIR SHATAEV

*Vladimir Shataev (1937) – summits on Annapurna South, 1994; Everest, 1995; and Pharilapcha, 2003 – was former head of the Mountaineering Federation in USSR and secretary of the Mountaineering Federation of Russia.

These days, he is head of the Euro-Asian Mountaineering Association.

A Snow Leopard himself, Shataev collected data over the years, compiled the table with all climbers who completed the program and is still in charge of the certificate granting.

A first version of the table was translated to English by Elena Laletina, and published on RussianClimb in 2004. A more complete Shataev´s table, updated to 2009, with additions and corrections by Rodrigo Granzotto Peron and Elena Laletina, is now available on RussianClimb and later on AdventureStats.

IV – SOME CURIOSITIES (chronological order of occurrence):

1961 – First snow leopard – Evgeny Ivanov
1966 – First climbers to summit all 5x7000ers – Kirill Kuzmin and Valentin Bozhukov
1970 – First woman – Ludmila Agranovskaya
1972 – First married couple together – Valery Bezzubkin and Rozalia Bezzubkina
1978 – First to end the program twice – Boris Studenin
1985 – First westerners – William Garner and Randall Starrett II (USA)
1985 – First brothers together – Serguey Bogomolov and Gennady Bogomolov
1986 – Youngest snow leopard (22 years old) – Andrey Tselishev
1988 – First woman to end the program twice – Elvira Nasonova
1991 – First snow leopards in one season – Malik Ismetov, Serguey Gritsuk, Valery Khrishchaty and Vladimir Suviga
1991 – Woman with most snow leopard titles (3!) – Elvira Nasonova
1997 – First western woman – Brigitte Meloni (FRA)
1997 – Oldest snow leopard (58 years) – Lev Sarkisov
1999 – Speed record (42 days) – Denis Urubko and Serguey Molotov
2004 – Man with most snow leopard titles (9!) – Boris Korshunov

Mount Elbrus (5642 m), located in northern Caucasus (Russia) is the highest peak in the European continent. These days, Elbrus biggest fame comes from being one of the ‘Seven Summits’.

The peak made headlines on May 11, 2006 when seven climbers were reported dead and 4 others missing. The dead climbers were part of a group of eight Russians and four Ukrainian mountaineers attempting to reach the summit to celebrate the 61st anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany. The group lost contact with expedition organizers at the base of the mountain.

One survivor managed to reach help despite being seriously injured and hypothermic. Rescuers found the frozen bodies of 7 climbers buried in the snow, where they were apparently attempting to dig a snow cave. Temperatures in the area had reportedly reached -50°C. According to an Italian news agency, the expedition was caught in adverse weather conditions when they were about 300 meters from the summit.

September 2008, Elbrus Race results:

“Extreme Class” (Azau 2400 m – West Top 5642 m)

Roman Gubanov (K2 Abruzzi ridge climb in 2007) was first up in a fast 4 hours and 53 minutes.
Andrew Mariev arrived second in 5 hrs 47 min.
Vladimir Kouznetsov came in third with 6 hrs 08 min.
Victor Kamenskih was close behind at 6 hrs 20 min.

“Classic Class” (Garabashi 3708 m – West Top 5642 m)

22 athletes started in the Classic Class but many didn’t make the Col for the control time of 12 pm and only 13 finally made it to the West Top.

Serguey Fursov (Nevinnomyssk) won the Classic race at 2 hrs 46 min and 40 sec – only seconds after Andrew Puchinin’s 2006 record of 2 hrs 46 min 09 sec! Yet while Puchinin was an experienced racer that year, Serguey was new to the game this year. It will be interesting to see if anyone can beat his result in 2009.
Yuri Klim (Ukraine) came in second at 3 hrs 15 minutes. Serguey Kolyshev (Moscow) arrived third at 3 hrs 36 min and 23 sec.

Anna Petrova (Prohladny) became the only woman to reach the summit, at 4 hrs 38 min. This was a big come back for Anna who was disqualified in 2006 after reaching the Col at 12.05 pm – a mere 5 minutes after cut-off time.

September 2007, Elbrus Race results:

“Extreme” class Azau (2400) – West Top (5642).
4 climbers started, 2 reached the top:

Semjon Dvornichenko (Kyrgyzstan) – 4 hours 18 minutes.
Serguey Surmonin (Russia) 6 hours 14 minutes (he run 6 hours 22 minutes last year)

“Classics” class Bochki (3700) – West Top (5642):
12 climbers started, winners were:

Roman Gubanov (Russia) 2 hours 51 min (1),
Seliverstov Serguey (Kyrguzstan) 2 hours 53 min (2),
Fursov Serguey 3 hours 14 min (3)

Other Elbrus facts

Elbrus belongs to the Caucasus (or “Kavkaz” meaning ‘more than mountains’), mountain range. This mighty range links the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea, and creates the natural boundary between the mountains of Russia and the southern states of Azerbaydzhani, Georgia and Armenia. Mt. Elbrus, the pinnacle of this 700-mile stretch, has long been a distinguished climbing center for the European and Russian climbing communities. Elbrus can easily be seen from most of the high passes in the area and is a traditional climb for those looking to ascend above 18,500ft.

Ancient people of the region called the mountain Strobilus and believed it to be the location where Prometheus was chained. Also called Elborus, the origin of the name is unknown.

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