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Author: Konstantin Beketov, St. Petersburg.

Mosquitoes Wall
RedFox Expedition on Sablya (Sabre) Peak, Polar Ural
Konstantin Beketov, Valery Shamalo.

Konstantin Beketov

Valery Shamalo
If you are not hungry, you are carrying too much food.
If you are warm, you have too many clothes.
If you are not frightened, you have too much gear.
If you get up your climb, it was too easy anyway.
"alpine climbing maniesto"

Inscrutable are the ways of God…For the sixth our I am standing on a very sharp flake, the rope is almost dead - just slightly jerking once in a while… The sun is behind the wall, it will appear by 1 a.m., but the clouds coming from the East in a frontal attack will hardly make it possible for us to see the sun. It’s not too hot for us, though actually the heat is unbearable.

Descriptive memorial

The map
Sablya (Sabre) Peak, Polar Ural, 1497m, 4B category. The altitude difference: 900m. The length of the route: 1570m.
The sharp edge is cutting like a knife through the thin rubber sole of my climbing shoes. I put my backpack between a monolith wall and that flake, which though seemingly impressive, is rather shaky. From beneath the wall doesn’t look very steep to me, but in fact it’s even a bit overhanging. Valery is panting 25 meters above me - yet no progress at all. Once in an hour we talk:
- How are you?
- There’s nothing at all here - no damned place to hammer something in…
- Hammer in a bolt!
- Ok, I’ll try here once again… Holding me?

In fact I know why Valery for the six hours is reluctant to hammer in a bolt. He took the drill of one diametre and the bolt of another one. Not from the base camp, no… - from Petersburg. Which means we don’t have bolts at all. So we are hanging here like two idiots. Lumps of moss and soil start falling on me - Shamal is searching for some crack . And than - oh, how on earth…?! - he bangs a drill, the rope moves ahead for a whole meter more and stops again.
- How are you?
- The corner is within my reach.
- Congratulations. What’s further?
- Sh…!
- And what were you hammering?
- The bolt, but it shatters.
- Then what are you standing on?

Sablya (Sabre) Peak

Sablya (Sabre) Peak
It turns out that he put a foot string on this quasi-bolt, but he has to hold it with his hand - otherwise it will come off from the hole. With his other hand he can reach the handhold, but in any case there’s no further way up, because there is no relief AT ALL. The only word for it is - Sh…! That’s where we are. We are climbing a certain Sablya, which almost no one knows. It’s the second day of our ascent, and the approach to this mountain took us another three days. If you, dear readers, think that “Sablya” is a free translation of some Tibet name, you are utterly wrong.
We are hanging on the North-East face of Sablya in the Polar Urals. As they say “it’s not Bolivia, it’s Angola…” - out of the frying-pan into the fire.

The route
Strictly speaking, it’s not a matter of question to climb this wall - if you can arrange a helicopter with all the necessary stuff right up to the beginning of the route - Gofman glacier cirque. Or at least several kilometers away - into Sedyu valley. But we are acting on our own - bringing everything on our backs. We have a “complex” expedition with Valery… On board the steamer down the Pechora river up to Aranets village, then 80 km on foot through the bogs and marshes, the ascent of the wall, some more walking on foot and, to crown it all, going in a boat down the Synya river up to the station with the same name. The only mercy was that the guys from the National Park promised to bring the canoe for us to the mount Sunduk with a helicopter on their way back. If we were to carry the canoe with us, there would have been a monument to the courageous mountaineers right now in Aranets marshes. And we ourselves would have been the building material for it.

And without the boat our backpacks weighed “only” 40 - 45 kg… Plastered all over with mosquitoes, through the mires and the green hell of Taiga in spring, we stumbled 3 days and nights towards Gofman glacier by the Sablya face. The small dot of our blue tent can be now seen on the far end of the glacier lake.

To avoid the boring details about several more hours of meditation over the immortal topic of “whether the mountain goes to Mohammed or the mountain goes away…” - I’d rather skip this tedious period of our life and come to the point: we started abseiling. The most exciting thing is that the first rope was fixed to that very quasi-bolt…well, of course, we adjusted something else to it, but all the same the experience was frightening. Because of the long smooth overhanging roofs we had to sway heavily kicking against the wall so that one won’t find himself hanging helplessly at the end of the next rope out of the reach of the wall.
Rain, fog, hell of the weather. Everything is damp. The last abseil early in the morning on the snow slope right in climbing shoes. We failed to reach the ledge by a few meters - so we had to go through melted firn with ace-axes face to the slope - right in climbing shoes. A short rest on the glacier, suddenly a single stone falls from the summit and imprints into the snow with a bang 20 meters away from us. Ok, Ok - we got the hint…
“Aren’t we stupid idiots?!” - was Valery’s first phrase after waking up. No use crying over a spilt milk… Outside the tent it’s raining cats and dogs. So how are we on bills?
Part of our gear is happily “buried’ on our way down. We have neither time no resources for the second attempt on this route. All day long, during the short intervals between sleep, I am persuading to climb the spur to the left from the center. In any case it will be the first ascent, though not so difficult as the center of the wall. It won’t be so cool and stylish. But it will be logical. I’ve won.

And we did climb that Eastern spur almost without problems - at-a-boys! Once in a while we tried to complicate our own lives but thought better of it. And the weather was wonderful - lucky dogs we are! (An episode: we are at Pechora railway station with Valery, 3 a.m., waiting for a bus. The previous one left 30 seconds before we arrived and it looks like the next one will never come at all. Because I have nothing else to do I am trying to throw some piece of iron on a tree. No luck. Valery takes the thing from me and throws it away. And it hangs on a branch of the tree. Our dialogue:
- It’s luck…
- We’d better have this luck in something else…)
What was I speaking about? Oh, yes! - to cut the long story short, when we came down, gained enough sleep, gathered everything, didn’t get lost, quickly reached our destination - we found neither boat nor a helicopter in the agreed place. All what we found on the bank of the lake Basovoe were the signs of our staying there in the beginning of April. That wasn’t much. It’s over 100 km to the nearest civilization, and neither food nor path to this civilization.

The helicopter didn’t come… I am thinking how to bring this home to a city-dweller? Something like “tram didn’t come, but AT ALL”. No, bad example. Can’t find the right comparison. Deep in our thoughts we are rambling through the base camp “Ozyornaya” : me - in search of food, Valery - in search of the helicopter. And both of us don’t cope with the tasks.
When we were on the wall I was often mocking at Valery: “you are a mountaineer, so you are to think of the way out”; but now the tables were turned - “you are a tourist, you are to invent something!”. And what can I invent under such circumstances?
There are several boats “Pella”, which were brought once on a helicopter in order to organize here an international tourism center. These boats have at least two drawbacks: they are broken and they are not fit to be used on the rivers. The first drawback is more important.

Sablya (Sabre) Peak
There is a map of the region. And it reads that we are in the middle of nowhere. Strictly speaking, the nearest civilization is geologic base “Nerojka” on the East slope of the Urals. It can be reached in three days (running all the way). And then there is another week to go via Salekhard with passing helicopters. No way.

In four days we can reach the base “Zhelannaya”. There is another 136 km from there to Inta. If the road gets dry we can go there by cross-country vehicle.
There is the river Synya, in which source we are sitting and thinking. Shall we repair “Pella”? Shall we build a raft?
Is destiny laughing at us? Never give up! At 10 a.m. there comes the noise of the helicopter, which stops our inspection of the broken boat, embraces, some vodka, 128 thousand fairy-tails about falling helicopters and our canoe. Part of its frame has disappeared in the best traditions of mysterious Russian soul - Ok, the old folding beds will do instead. Soon the canoe is overloaded with strange climbing gear (the topic of the day: is water harmful for the stoppers and runners?).

And now exercise in optimism: what do you think followed? Right! They forgot to pour the water into the river! We only asked ourselves: wouldn’t it be better to carry only our backpack (without the boat) through the falling trees along the river banks? The hot beginning of the summer played a nasty trick with us: instead of the expected flood we found a stream ankle-deep. Our canoe sticks to the river bottom like a submarine and refuses to move further. Our attempts to move it only make the things worse. Valery is joking gloomily at the lifebelts we’ve taken with us. In Taiga the temperature is +38C, the deer come to the shallowed river in search of coolness and look in surprise at barge haulers. Valery’s method “eat everything and travel light” turns for us into the days of starvation.

Sina river
For the fourth day we are stumbling through the water. In fact, we are even using the canoe from time to time. But because we have to leave the canoe very often, we resort to scooter technique: one foot is inside the boat, with the other one you are pushing the bottom. It’s more effective than rowing. So in this manner by Valery’s birthday we got to the railway station. The sketch of Synya village: large deserted zone for prisoners. Motor-transport depot (Why the hell is it here? There are no roads leading here!). Delicate, even aesthetic, smell of alcohol.
- Guys, please, there is our canoe by the river… We can’t drag it on our own… Give us a lift on your car!
- Start the tractor, Adryukha!!!
- Why the tractor? It’s 6 km by at earth road! (no reaction).
- Break the lock from the garage! Go back first! Oh, shit! - (caterpillar track gets off)
- May be a car?
- Start another one!
(Two hours later we went to the canoe in a motor-cycle. People are very kind and responsive in the North. Seriously. It’s hard to understand, but people here are used to doing things in a very big way).

The result of our expedition is not as mournful as our attempt to tell the story about it. The first ascent of Sablya peak from the East is accomplished. We estimate our route over the spur as 4B category. Unclimbed center of the wall - as 6A without exaggeration. We hope there will be volunteers…
There are great opportunities in Sablya range, and its a near-by yet unexplored place. If you take a helicopter from Pechora - it takes only 1 hour. And for real adventure-lovers - follow our traces. Can you bear the thought of the existence of an unclimbed route just 2000 km away from our capital?
Our acknowledgements to everybody who helped us with the organization of the expedition:
To companies “RedFox”, “Promalp”, “Freeway”, administration of Yugyd-Va National Park and personal acknowledgements to Marina Mikhailova, Sergei Dedov and Nikolai Alexandrov (Pechora city).

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