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Latok III, route

In spite of failure in 2000, the team decided to try the West Face of Latok III (Karakoram) again (2001). None has succeeded to climb that wall before.

In the year of 2000, a team of A. Odintsov, A. Ruchkin, Yu. Koshelenko and S. Efimov attempted to make its way up the unclimbed West Face of Latok III. That time an avalanche spoiled the game. Instead of the summit the expedition gained two broken legs, two broken arms and several broken ribs.

Concerning this attempt see a diary (in Russian) of Michael Bakin, a surgeon of the expedition.


Russian version

(15.07 - 16.07.2001)
On July 15 we are covered by bad weather, Strong wind, but it is still possible to work on the route. The leading duo (Klenov-Devi) made 4 pitches more and is now only 20 vertical meters left to the point where the wall is not so steep. This is around the point [4] on the photo, i.e. the Head of Tomahawk. It looks like they are a little bit to the left from [4], but the exact location is unclear because of the clouds. The team has raised portaledges to this point. On July 15 a dramatic accident has happened – Odintsov and Khadzhinov were very tired and fall asleep in their portaledge while making a tea with gas. The flame went down, and they have breath too much gas while sleeping. But due to good health and doctor’s instructions they are recovering.
By July 15 night the weather became worse and today, on July 16 we have “the real Latok weather”. It is raining with snow in Base Camp without a break. There is a heavy snow on the wall. The team are in portaledges waiting for a better weather. Our PC is down, so we cannot receive emails anymore…
(On the authority of BASK company)

(13.07 - 14.07.2001)
July 13 is known to most of climbers in Russia. This day 11 years ago over 40 climbers were killed by an avalanche on Lenin Peak (7134m) in Pamir-Alai, the then USSR. Most of them was from St.Petersburg (Russia). We have organized a phone call with climbers of St.Petersburg (Russia), who meet on this day on a cemetery in St.Petersburg. Alexander Odintsov, expedition leader and several other team members
are also from that city.

July 14 – the weather is good. Now two portaledges are 2 pitches above the Three Tents, and the portaledge of the leading duo (Klenov-Devi) is 3 pitches above. They have made over 2/3 of the wall. Everybody feel good…
(On the authority of BASK company)

Alexander Odintsov, expedition leader has been injured by a stone falled on his back. Fortunately the injure is not a break, but for some time he will not be leading the climb. The accident happened on July 10 evening. The weather is bad, the upper part of the wall is in clouds and the team cannot be seen from the Base Camp. At the moment the team is on the top of the Three Tents (big shelf covered with snow, shaped as three triangles, between points [2] and [4]). The leading duo has climbed 3 pitches more towards point [4], the Head of Tomahawk. There are approx. 8 pitches between th4e Three Tents and the Head of Tomahawk.
The speed of the climb would have been much higher if we started few days earlier, as had been planned. Unfortunately we could not keep within the schedule because British Airways lost our luggage with gas. I suppose that an airway company that looses luggage and documents should carry nothing more valuable than a shit. Problems with porters, which claim more money than agreed. Fortunately they are not organized and have no strong leader, so we can manage these guys…
(On the authority of BASK company)
10 July 2001
Michael Bakin, expedition's doctor, reports:
Today (Jul 10) is the 3-rd day of the climb. The speed of the climb is faster than expected.
When looking at the photo of Latok-III face, one can see rock bastion just above the lower snow-ice face. On the photo this bastion is between points [2] and [4]. On the left side of the bastion there is a big shelf covered with snow, shaped as three triangles, or Three Tents. It is between points [3] and [4], left from the route line. This bastion is crossed in the middle by horizontal stripe of dark rock (the Black Stripe). After the second night spent on the route, the team has reached the middle of the left side of the bastion, so that the upper portaledge is hooked at the level of the Black Stripe. Other two portaledges are about 2 pitches below. As far as I know, nobody has reached so high on the wall of Latok-III. All this information is based only on visual contact with the team, because there were problems with radio session today and we don't know any details of the climb, like the number of pitches done etc. At the moment, the team has climbed about half of the wall (if one counts from the bergshrund at 5000m). The weather threatens for the second day in a row: morning starts with a little rain, but then comes the sun and the sky becomes clear closer to lunchtime. It is night right now with absolute clear sky with stars. But it doesn't mean that tomorrow we will not wake up covered with deep snow. One can hear rockfalls all the time…
(On the authority of BASK company)
On-wall report
8 July 2001. Michael Bakin, a physician, reports:
`It was a second day of an ascent today. On 7th of July, at 3am, the team started at the mountain foot at 5000m and to 2pm they had passed the most dangerous couloir, which turned to be fateful the last year. Ice face, which is the longest and the most exhausting segment of the route, was passed for fourteen hours (since 4.30am till 6.30pm) today. Portaledge was hanged to the right and lower the inner corner, which was used during the previous attempt. It seems, that the route itself will go to the left too, following a rock bastion. In this inner corner Yuri Koshelenko got his hand broken the last year. Thorough examination shows that this place remains just the same dangerous. That was the reason to move a thread of the route to the left. Tomorrow, on 9th of July, it is planned to fix first ropes on rocks. On a route everything is going as we planned it. Here liaison officer broke a toe and cookee suffers with his stomach, so I'm not idle too. Greeting to all!'
(On the authority of BASK company)
Tommorrow they will "take-off"
July 06, 2001. Michael Bakin, expedition's physician, reports:
Today I have visited our team camping just under the route. Everything's all right there. Tomorrow on Jul 07 they will start at 3 am. This time we are ahead of our last year actual schedule. We can receive emails in base camp, so team members asked their wives to write emails, and we will read them to the team on the wall during radio sessions. The weather forecast is unclear.
(On the authority of BASK company)
Approaching Latok
4 July 2001. Alexander Odintsov reports from the base camp:
`Porters with gas and our medicine kit have arrived at last. Everything is going well with us, no problems with health. Tomorrow (5 July) we are approaching the mountain. On the 6th we shall pitch top camp and drag haul bags. Hope very much to start on the 7th. From now we'll communicate via our doctor. Weather is variable; each day it starts snowing about five times, snow is below the mountain.' (On the authority of BASK company)
Gas epic - to be continued?
3 July 2001. Ivan Samoilenko reports (basing on phone conversations with Latok-III expedition):
`Absurd story with gas tanks is not over yet. Leaving Islamabad, we borrowed several gas tanks from the travel agency that served our expedition. It was done with the view of getting our gas from British Airways on June 18 and in hope to have it been delivered to the base camp by our travel agency. We planned to get gas on June 23 or, at the very outside, on June 25. All our illusions based on fine weather vanished together with our benevolence: there was no gas in the base camp. Nervous conversations via satellite with Saint Petersburg, futile attempts to push the travel agency - all was in vain. We hardly realised that the cargo was really delivered to Pakistan but only on June 25 (at least we were told so). They promise us to get it on July 2. "Storm-party" was sent to a base camp beneath Ogre to fetch several more tanks. Tedious waiting - ' (On the authority of BASK company)
Latok-6 is climbed
29 June 2001. Our current situation is the following: today we returned from our four-day acclimatisation ascent. All our team (with the dear doctor) has climbed Latok-6 and spent a night on the summit. Everything is going well with us with one exception - gas has not arrived yet. We called Islamabad; they assured us that gas arrived only on the 24th. The weather is crazy here - it's hot here and not a single cloud in sky. We've never met such weather here. Waiting for gas now. As soon as we get it, we'll blast. Alexander Odintsov. (On the authority of BASK company)
King's weather
25 June 2001. We are planning acclimatisation outgo for tomorrow. We have about four days for training ascent. It will be an adjacent small mount - probably, Latok-6. We'll be out of touch in this period. Don't worry - it's Ok with us! The weather fined and it's getting better and better. I even don't like the looks of it now; it's too fine. Alexander Odintsov. (On the authority of BASK company).

Riot of porters
23 June 2001. We had a hard day on the 22nd of June. We pitched a camp only in the late evening though all members of the expedition reached the place at 11am. Porters, left without sahibs' control, stopped in 1.5 hours distance from the place and run riot. In the interim we were waiting for them upwards and after some time decided to go down to meet the caravan. `National liberation' uprising was crushed in the bud. It cost us six hours and a great nervous strain. It went harder with porters - they forfeited their `bakshish' (gratuity). I deprived instigators of the ID cards so they wouldn't be able to rebel in other expeditions. The weather is perfectly brutal. It is snowing without ho. Snow smothered the base camp. Strange information of charming weather at K2 seems next to impossible for us. Alexander Odintsov. (On the authority of BASK company)

News from Ascola
19 June 2001. We've reached Ascola today and have even moved a little further. We'll spend this night in two hours distance towards the base camp. We'll go further tomorrow, accompanied with porters. Ok with us. It seems as if the weather is getting better, though, as the phrase goes, `not a word about'. Our doctor has performed the first operation and now he is giving a free play to his knife operating legs, hands, and other parts of porters. Liaison officer seems to be a good guy. We are bullish about our prospects. Many kisses and hugs to you. Hope it's Ok with you as well. If you find some information from other expeditions in Karakoram, mail it to us - do such a favour. Make it known to all our relatives and friends that everything is going fine with us. Explain Lena, Ruchkin's wife, that he has no opportunity to reply. Let her write the letters and not to be upset with no feedback active yet. (On the authority of BASK company)

Deskbound troubles
18 June 2001. An attempt to start today failed because of local functionaries. Each of us needs to write a special application and to pay some fee for prolonging visas. Initial price of 120$ for the operation was successfully reduced to 35$. While we were haggling and filling forms, time was lost. There is no sense to start today already. Nevertheless we moved two kilometres nearer the base camp - from hotel Karakoram to hotel Concordia. This hotel is better and it's situated on Indus' riverside. Landscape is nice here. Indus has flooded wide and slowly rolls its water to the Arabian Sea. Those who wished, performed their ablutions. Everything is going right in our team. Lads are actively preparing for an ascent by playing backgammons and cards. Weather is uncertain. All visible summits are snow-clad. I think, there is snow in the base camp. Hope us to start at 5am tomorrow and to be in Ascola on `inshaal' evening. Alexander Odintsov. (On the authority of Risk Online)

News from Scardu
17 June 2001, 23.00. Greetings to all! Our team has at last got together in Scardu; three people arrived today, four had been already waiting for them there. Everything is all right with us. Meanwhile the weather in Scardu is bad; it's raining and it is cold here. We look wet in our fleece on streets of this hot town. We've made our shopping and we'll try to start upwards by jeeps tomorrow. It depends on our visas - if we are able to prolong them early in the morning. At the very outside we'll start the day after tomorrow. Everybody is in good health. Many hugs and kisses to all our friends. Alexander Odintsov. (On the authority of BASK company)

Problems in Islamabad
16 June 2001. During an expedition urban life is usually left `offscreen'. Way to mountains is considered as plaguesome, time-wasting necessity. Nevertheless, you live and work in this period nothing less active as you do at high altitude. You smile and you quarrel, you meet new people and you miss old friends. In a strange land with strange customs each slight misunderstanding may grow in an intricate problem. Gas tanks have not arrived yet. In a hanging portaledge, stoves are hanged as well. Without gas no food may be cooked at us. 400 gr. tanks were specially packed and delivered to British Airlines office in Saint Petersburg for transporting. We didn't receive them on 11 June. British Airlines apologized for the incident - no space for it was found in plane. "We are sure to deliver it on the 15th." They succeeded to lose documents for the cargo before 15th of June. "We are very sorry - the next flight is on June 18." Fine goings-on; we should be in the base camp on the 18th! What a mess - they don't sell gas in Pakistan!' writes Alexander Odintsov. (On the authority of Risk Online)

News from Islamabad
15 June 2001. Alexander Odintsov reports from Islamabad,
`Tried to fly to Scarda. Four of us have succeeded and three are still here as the flight was called off. It seems that gas tanks have been delivered. We'll try to fetch them and to send upwards. We ourselves shall fly to Scarda tomorrow.'
13 June 2001. `Pakistanis eased visas' formalities this year. One gets a visa directly in an airport on arrival. The most interesting part begins afterwards. Pakistan customs are very similar to Soviet. Each has to register in police and to get a permit for a given route. Passing it without a permit, when roads are overflowed with various `check points', means to finish it in `zindan' (Pakistan prison). Five of the seven members of our expeditions have been here before but the other two are thoroughly investigated - if they are spies. As a result our briefing was balked for a day. Though we were not upset too much - our gas, sent as `dangerous cargo', has not arrived yet. Odintsov, Bakin and Khadzhinov stay in hotel.' (On the authority of Risk Online)

Thread of the route
Here are some photos (granted by company BASK) with a thread of the suggested route. Four old fixed ropes are there (above point 2 at the photo) since 2000.

Latok-III today. What's going next?
The project includes ten ascents upwards big walls. Before the departure, Alexander Odintsov replied to Mountain.Ru that the next event would be climbing of a wall in Baffin Island. Probably, our readers remember a famous film with Alex Lowe shown on the Third Moscow Festival of Mountaineering Films. An ascent in the film took place exactly in this region. There is some uncertainty, what will be the eighth route. Someone suggests Raraima wall; someone thinks about Anhel icefall wall, famous with base-jumpers. Alexander Odintsov added, 'I'm not sure El Capitan should be the next wall. I don't find it interesting: trodden routes, too refined region in general. Really, I don't consider El Cap to be a big wall at all. Shabalin invites to the North Face of Jannu, but it's quite another story. It requires another approach, especially in financial questions. Ascent in Patagonia should be the tenth. Probably, it will be Sierra-Torro.'

First problems…
Today, on 13 June, BASK-Latok-III expedition is leaving Islamabad. Everything is going according to plan with exception of the notebook PC. Because of troubles with it, there are intermissions in our communications. (On the authority of Risk Online)

Photo-report from an airport
8 June, photos granted by company BASK

Latok-III press conference was held in Moscow
On 7 June there was held a press conference devoted to BASK-Latok-III expedition. Plans of the expedition, team personnel, required equipment and other topics were discussed there...

Latok-III, 2000. Coup d'essai
Photos by Alexander Odintsov.

News release of BASK-Latok-III expedition
Press conference devoted to Latok-III (Karakoram) expedition will be held at 14.00 on 7 June in Moscow Business Center at pr. Mira, 72. The expedition is planned within `Big Walls: Russian routes' project. Project manager is Alexander Odintsov; general sponsor - outdoor equipment company BASK

News release of "BASK - Latok III" expedition:
Press conference of Latok-3 expedition planned within the `Big Walls: Russian routes' project.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are glad to invite you to a press conference devoted to the next stage of our project. `Big walls: Russian routes' program includes climbing new routes on the ten most famous walls of the world. `Big wall' is an extraordinary phenomenon of nature; it's a face of more than 1 km height with vertical part not less than 700 meters (2,300 ft). There are only about 20 such walls in the world. We've chosen 10 the most prestigious of them and set ourselves a task to climb a new exclusive route on each of them. In all catalogues these routes will be called `Russian'. Pushing up any of these routes is a significant event in the climbing world. Aim chosen by Russian team looked as ultima Thule. None had ever succeeded to realize a similar program. And now the project is six years old already and the results tell their own tale.
First expedition was held in 1995 at Peak 4810 in Karavshin region, Kyrgyzstan. A duo of Alexander Odintsov and Igor Barikhin (both from St.Peterburg) has climbed the East Face of this peak (4,810 m / 15,781 ft).
Second expedition was executed in 1996 by Alexander Odintsov (St.Peterburg) and Alexander Ruchkin (Omsk). They've made their way up the West Face of Ak-Su peak (5,355 m / 17,570 ft) located in the same region, in Pamir-Alai.
After it, the team decided to go abroad. In 1997 four Russian climbers: A. Odintsov, I. Potankin, A. Ruchkin and Yu. Koshelenko with a professional high-altitude cameraman Ivan Samoilenko went to Romsdal, Norway. There we succeeded in climbing the famous Troll Wall (1,740 m / 5,710 ft). Moreover, even two new routes appeared on the face (Odintsov-Potankin and Koshelenko-Ruchkin duos). Both were called Russian.
The fourth wall met us the next year in Garhwal Himalayas. It was the North Face of Bhagarathi-III, still unclimbed to the moment. It was conquered by four our climbers: I. Potankin, Yu. Koshelenko, V. Kachkov and A. Lukin. A. Odintsov and I. Samoilenko had to return from half the route as Alexander fell ill.
Fifth, crucial, point was climbing of Great Trango Northwest Wall (6,286 m / 20,623 ft) in Pakistan. It was a back-breaking ascension but we did it. `American Alpine Journal' has included climbing of Trango and Bhagarathi in a list of 100 best ascension of the 20th century.
In 2000 the team of A. Odintsov, A. Ruchkin, Yu. Koshelenko and S. Efimov attempted to make its way up the West Face of Latok-III in Karakoram. None had succeeded to climb this wall before and neither had we. The team was avalanched. Two broken legs, two broken arms and several broken ribs - that was the result of the expedition.
In spite of this miss we decided to repeat the attempt in 2001.

Our team:
1. A. Odintsov, project manager, St.Peterburg
2. A. Klenov, Ekaterinburg
3. M. Devi, Ekaterinburg
4. A. Ruchkin, Omsk
5. I. Barikhin, St.Peterburg
6. S. Khadzhinov, St.Peterburg

A route is the same. Hope us to be successful this time. We invite you to participate in a press conference. We'll show video and slide-films from our previous expeditions.

In Moscow the conference will be held at 14:00 on June 7 2001 in Business Center at prospect Mira, 72.

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