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Dzhantugan, Caucasia.
Photo by Ruslan Kochetkov

Snowboard Descent of Dzhantugan North Face.

Author: Max Pankov, Moscow; Ruslan Kochetkov, Murmansk

Ruslan Kochetkov: I have already twice descended from Dzhantugan. First time skiing, second time snowboarding, but each time it was down grade 2 route. It was at that time that this idea appeared: to make a snowboard descent of the north face. I was eager to shoot this madness, for it was highly improbable that I would like to repeat such a thing in the nearest future. But I lacked a mate, who would not only be able to climb the mountain, but also to go down simultaneously shooting the descent on video. I got to know Max in the Caucasus when he was working on a glacier. It was at that time that we accomplished our first mutual ski descents of the mountains and shot our first video clip. Then there followed trips to Khibiny, Altai, ascents, descents, flights. Max got a crush on snowboard, he bought one and started training in Moscow. The next trip to Khibiny made it clear that the cherished dream of descending Dzhantugan is not far away.

Max Pankov.
Photo by Ruslan Kochetkov

Max Pankov: What the hell I am doing here…
I am just a beginner in snowboards…
…such a fool… -
cursing everything around in my mind as soon as my foot went down into melting spring snow deeper than up to my knee. And yet step by step we came closer to our cherished dream which had been torturing us for over a year… I became keen on the idea of descending the North Face of Dzhantugan on snowboards because of my friend Ruslan, when I couldn’t even ride a snowboard. There were different rumors about the descent of this face: that at some time somebody went down on something, but no one could tell for sure…

Descent of Trapetziya (2A)

Descent of Dzhantugan

Descent of Dzhantugan

And finally, the end of May, Adyl-Su valley. During several days we were training. We went down “Hobot” on Trapetziya and descended from Viatau, grade 1, marking that some parts on the ridge turned out to be much more difficult that those on Dzhantugan. We had to make haste while the ice was still covered with snow. As soon as the first sun beams touched the summits, we were standing by the face looking through the route of the future descent. It was good that some snow still stayed, it brought more confidence. The average steepness of the slope is 45 - 50 degrees. We decided to ascent there. We were not in a great hurry for the whole face was in the shade and the snow was hard enough for the snowboard.

After 3 hours of monotonous work we turned on the ridge leading to the beginning of the summit gully. It was one of the cruxes for descending: in its lower part the gully was almost vertical - 60-70 degrees with the width of about 2,5-3 meters. Usually climbers absail here.

Soon the bright sun turned snow to damp porridge. The last meters were especially hard - we were very tired. We sat for about 40 minutes on the summit, drank some tea, checked the radio and the video camera. The impatience was growing, there was nothing else to wait for. From the first meters small avalanches started coming down from under the edge of the board. We moved in turns: Ruslan went ahead up to the safe place and waved me a signal. The lower part of the gully seemed problematic: it was next to impossible to take a turn there.

We had to compose ourselves and pass this part directly. The next piece - the traverse of the face, which wasn’t very hard when ascending - now turned out to be the most difficult.
There was only one thing to be done: minimum number of turnings with maximum speed.

At last we came on to the face. The snow was still a bit hard. Having taken ice-tools (the only chance to self-arrest), we started further. One more difficult piece awaited us at the end of the slope, where the sun hadn’t warmed the thick snow layer. The speed of the descent abruptly dropped down. We drove very carefully. There came the last turn and the glacier. Because of the excitement the world seemed to have lost its reality. We congratulated each other, hugged and then sat for a long time on the snow looking intensely into the slope, zigzagged with our trails, not yet fully realizing that our dream existed no more.

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