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Nuptse East, 7804
Photo: Gerard Vionnet

Valery Babanov & Yury Koshelenko
Third Attempt

News of the expedition

Follow along here for dispatches from Nuptse East Spring 2003 Attempt (V. Babanov - V.Suviga)


Nuptse East, 7804 - Valery Babanov ? Yury Koshelenko - Third Attempt


The material was prepared by Anna Piunova, Mountain.RU
Nuptse photos: Yuri Koshelenko


Interview for Mountain.RU

Nuptse East south Pillar , Nepal
Valeri Babanov, Yuri Koshelenko (RUS)

Route: Moonlight Sonata/south pillar Nuptse east
Length: 2400m
Grade: VI 5, A3/A4, WI 6, M5
Strategy: Fixed ropes up to 6700m, return to Lukla, then four-day ascent to reach summit.
Free climbing from 6900 to 7803m. Descent to base camp in two days with one bivouac.

President: Jean Troillet
Hubert Giot (GHM)
Leslie Fucsko (GHM)
Adriano Favre (ITA)
Guy Chaumereuil (creator of Award)
The editors of Montagnes Magazine
Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden (winners of the Piolet dOr 2002).

Ceremony of rewarding
Photo Olivier Moret, Montagnes Magazine, France

JURY, did you expect to become the winner of the thirteenth Piolet dor?

- Yes, I expected. I had an internal sensation not connected to my mind but more likely with feeling at a mental level, that we will be awarded. Thus I well understood, that there were a lot of reasons against that. Certainly they are basically the facts that it would be the second Piolet dor for Valery and as a whole the third for Russia. It is impossible. Though on total merits we had 9 nominations - five at Valery and four at me. It was a voice of heart.

Legend nominated
From left to right: Yuri Koshelenko, Valery Babanov, David Kaszlikowski, Marcin Tomaszewski, Ollie Sanders, Didier Jourdain, Stuart Mcaleese, Kenton Cool, Aymeric Clouet, Patrice Glairon-Rappaz, Stephane Benoist.
Olivier Moret, Montagnes Magazine, France

The basic competitors

- To tell the truth, Ian PARNELL, Kenton COOL (UK) and John VARCO (EUA) with their ascent on ANNAPURNA III, NEPAL. Jean Christophe Lafaille (FRA) on total merits could really aspire as he was repeatedly nominated, but he has never become the winner. I also liked a doublet of the young Frenchmen Aymeric Clouet and Didier Jourdain: CHACRARAJU and JIRISHANCA in Peru. JIRISHANCA is the top with a strong charisma.

Poles and Englishmen on CITADEL, ALASKA made classical ascents not added anything in mountaineering. The line of the Frenchmen Stephane Benoist and Patrice Glairon-Rappaz (FRA) climbed THALAY SAGAR, INDIA practically coincides with the line of Australians, once have already received for it Piolet dor.


We' won the thirteenth Piolet dor!!!
Olivier Moret, Montagnes Magazine, France

Piolet dor. A question about tendencies.

There are not any tendencies. I can not tell that there are the rules. In my opinion we should speak about a developed archetype of Piolet dor.

The choice of the winner very strongly depends on competence of a jury. Every year there are new persons in structure of the jury though there are also constant participants (edition of Montagnes Magazine and members of GHM group).

If to speak about novelty it is exactly expressed in technically complex ascents on the walls of high altitude with a difference of absolute height (above 7 thousand meters).

Climbers feel like freely enough up to 7 thousand meters, but beautiful ascents on the summits higher than 7 thousand are found seldom enough.


New in world mountaineering

Autoportrait. Jury Koshelenko

- Now it is difficult to make something new. Everything new includes the big element of uncertainty. People, who go in mountains, cannot be adapted to the difficult situation, which can occurs during an ascent. Sportsmen in other kinds where uncertainty is not so much are adapted. Everything in mountaineering is quite the contrary. Especially, when complex technical rocky sites and high altitude above the sea level are combined.

Now climbing on big walls at low altitudes has a smaller degree of uncertainty, than earlier. A lot of modern technical devices and the available technical decision allow you to come under a wall with a ready pattern of the actions, with a portaledge, equipment, etc. The main thing is to choose correctly a route and not to get under dangerous rockfall sites. Such very extended walls as Trango (6300 m, 2 km difference of the altitude), present a high degree of insistence. It is the wall, which it is difficult to return from. When we were there, all participants were ill by turns, one by one, and we had to somehow solve these problems. Then periods of bad weather began. All this undermines forces and conducts to accumulation of mistakes. After that expedition I needed very long restoration - the mountain drank all forces.


Nuptse route

The Route on Nuptse

- There was a little bit different picture on Nuptse. The bottom part reminds most of all the route of Moshnikov on k-Su, 6B graded. Besides it represents a danger of avalanches and rockfalls. The first part is not technically complex, but even a small avalanche gets exactly the place wherever you are. Practically all ropes were beaten. We had to turn aside from stones. During the final push a big stone flew missed Valery's face, passed along all his body in 5 sm, literally, it could become the last for him.

And before that we found the rope beaten already having loaded it, it hung on two strings only. We had to free climb that site with a backpack on shoulders just moving jumar upwards.

First tower 5650

The next rope was thrown by improbable image because of a strong wind, and I had to climb the cornice with talus site instead of a convenient slope to remove it. It was necessary to approach to the bridge and to exempt it. And then I thought if such thing the assault began with what would be farther?

Though I also have resulted here above the comparison our route with the route of Moshnikov, but there is no the same relief on Nuptse, and there is moat snow. The snow without a basis has property to form forms such as mushrooms, a belt from icicles on edges, same fragile, as the usual icicles usually hanging down from city roofs. Frequently we had to use snowbars - snow stakes, not maintaining a jerk.

Babanov on the 6200

Vertical rocky sites 2-4 added difficulties. There is a site on Diamond Tower in height of 25 meters, going to an small icefalls, which Jeff Law graded as 4 - offwidth.

On Diamond Tower, since the altitude of 6300 m, there are some serious rocky and mixed sites demanding competent thinking, tactical actions, but not climbing in stupid

The route very strongly depends on a seasonal condition of the mountain - in the spring Valery climbed via one places, and in the autumn - via another ones. Frequently the ropes were just frozen into ice, i.e. they were practically unsuitable for use. A maximum, I managed to dig out a small piece and to make a belay. We climbed, basically, by free climbing.

The autumn route - is a lot of water ice, 5/5 +. In the bottom part there were rocky sites of VI category, complex, with "mushrooms"; technically there was very heavy snow of the sixth category. A summit tower 4, with sites of 5. The condition of the route strongly varies seasonally, therefore some sites can be classified differently.



We fixed the ropes up to 6400 m, then rocky and mixed relief ended, there was ice and snow "mushrooms". Further we climbed in the Alpine style. We had to descend more and more and passed difficult sites in the Alpine style. We meaningly made acclimatization up to 6900 m, spent the night there and then descended. After that we began to prepare to the final summit. It is typical in general that there is no simple way for acclimatization in the area.


6500 first time

Route on Nuptse

The average part seemed a classical snow route on one of the Russian Mountains of 7000m, 5-category graded. Though it is impossible to compare on all parameters, but the common characteristics are: the bergschrunds broken off, sites where it is impossible to pass on foot, abrupt ice and mixed sites.

The entire route is difficult enough, everywhere we had to belay, upper about 6500 m - the movement with the alternating belay. On 6500 m there is small flattening of a ridge, then a circuit of sharp crests, passing in traverse of the wall of the ridge. We traversed on the wall, and complex climbed (4-5 categories) up to 6900 m.

We installed a camp on 6900 m, and further there is one more flattering on the ridge, which spreads and passes in Southern face of Nuptse.


C1 - 6200m
C2 - 6900m
C3 - 7250m
C4 - 7450m


Route on Nuptse

After the camp we could climbed a simple site simultaneously. Then the wall rose, and breaks began: hanging icefalls, a lot of cracks, bergschrunds. It was enough complex climbing with sites of strong abrupt 60º-65º ice.


Summit tower



7750 . Final photo.

Summit Tower.

It begins with two heavy pitches, (first- IV +, the second V (VI)). Then some abrupt snow sites - a strip snow. The crests go strips, i.e. all time you get in a hollow,and climb it up on a crest (2 pitches). Then there are complex mixed site, rocks, ice, snow, four - five pitches of 4/5.



A turn against a line of movement is characteristic. It is the very much important point as we had to orient, whether correctly we were climbing and to change a direction of movement. During the moment when we made a decision, we could not answer on this question unequivocally - the sun had already gone. Thus, we had no confidence of correctness of the decision, though we saw the ridge, and the tops were close.

We went out on the ridge in full darkness, the night came, we did not give a damn about the belay and free climbed.

After Summit 6.11.2003

The crest seemed very close, but it and appeared far, more than 100 meters in extent. Up to the final out we climbed belaying (IV category).


Route on Nuptse

The line of a route on Nuptse with its smooth bends is evident at once Perhaps, there is not present a charm of the top as the mountain is topped with a series of peaks. There is no precise recognition of the address, in difference, for example, from Matterhorn or Ama Dablam. But the line is very beautiful, natural, not without reason so many commands tried to complete it up.

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