| Author: Konstantin Beketov,
RedFox Expedition on Sablya (Sabre) Peak, Polar Ural
Konstantin Beketov, Valery Shamalo.
If you are not hungry, you are carrying too much
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.
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:
(Sabre) Peak, Polar Ural, 1497m, 4B category. The altitude difference:
900m. The length of the route: 1570m.
- 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?
- And what were you hammering?
- The bolt, but it shatters.
- Then what are you standing on?
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
Sablya (Sabre) Peak
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.
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
“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.
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.
Sablya (Sabre) Peak
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.
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
To companies “RedFox”, “Promalp”, “Freeway”, administration of Yugyd-Va
National Park and personal acknowledgements to Marina Mikhailova, Sergei
Dedov and Nikolai Alexandrov (Pechora city).