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Snowboard descent from Peak Lenin

North face
Descent line

Author: Valdek Udris, Tallinn

April 1999, Min-Vody - Saint Petersburg train compartment. Everybody is in elevated mood and not at all because of large amount of beer drunk. We are discussing our future plans with great excitement. The compartment is crammed with snowboards, mountain skies and their covers. Lads are coming back from the Caucasus and Elbrus mountain. They did something, the Estonians never managed to do: they made snowboard and skies descents from the highest mountain in Europe. Inspired by such a success we are developing an idea of where to go next. What shall we do next? Maybe, go higher… and suddenly someone said: "Peak Lenin!"…..

So be it! The next year was spent in preparations for the new expedition of Young Travellers Club. "Snowboard and skies descents from the mountains of the World" - such pompous name was given to this journey and all others, similar ones to come. The trip to Peak Lenin was reported to become the first Estonians descent from a seven thousand meters peak. As usually, tireless Valdo Kangur became the head of this expedition.

Peak Lenin (7314 m.) is situated near the highest peak of the former Soviet Union, Peak Communism (7495m.), at the border of Kyrgyzstan and Tadjikistan, in Zaalaiski mountain range, the Pamirs. German mountaineers were the first to ascend Peak Lenin in 1928.

(E. Alvein, E. Schnaider, K. Viin). Peak Lenin is quite popular among mountaineers. This mountain is considered to be a relatively easy one (if you ascend it by the classic route); there is a simple and convenient approach road, leading to it. But the climate here is very severe, the weather is rather uncertain and unpredictable - all this causes higher avalanche danger. The travellers will encounter here with eternal snow, very low temperatures, gale-strength winds and of course, lack of oxygen. This mountain became the final journey for more than 100 mountaineers. Everybody remembers the tragedy of year 1990: according to different sources from 43 to 60 people were killed then by one big avalanche. Nobody was found at that fatal night. Only five years later Leningrad mountaineers came across five corpses and buried them non-identified on the "cross" hill. Altitude difference from the top to the crest on the north face route is about three kilometers. The first skies descent on the north face route took place in 1968. The Russian Valery Gorlachev was the first to do the snowboard descent following the same route in 1999. I have the honour to become the second. Time will show: all this is still to come.

Alayskaya valley

We talked to experienced people, asked them about different things and spent hours in the Internet to find out useful information. We made fuss in the press so as to find sponsors. From time to time it drove us mad. In winter we exercised in different mountain regions. Though, I ended up with a torn meniscus, when I tried to break the fir-tree down with my knee… However, all these efforts were not in vain, we gained more experience.

Before going to the Pamirs Valdo and I went to the Caucasus once again. He took a group of 60 people to Ulu-Tau mountaineering camp and I went to Elbrus with a snowboard, tied to my rucksack. In spring 1999 we descended the Eastern peak and now I headed for the Western one. This time the ascent to the top was relatively easy, but I cannot say the same about my descent to the saddle. Then I thought with uneasiness: if there is such a firn snow and ice on five thousand altitude, than what will there be on seven thousand? By the way, it was my fourth trip to Elbrus and each time I promised myself it to be the last one. Who can understand man's soul after all this!….

We found lots of soul mates for this trip to Peak Lenin. The group turned out to be international: it consisted of Estonians, Russians and Finns. Our group included:
1. Valdo Kangur - the head of our group and our instructor.
2. Valdek Udris - our head's assistant, a cameraman, a person responsible for the press and a snowboarder.
3. Toomas Sumeri works in an Alcohol producing Company, for which he got his nickname "Vodka-Tom", an amateurish mountaineer.
4. Natalja Gerassimova - his second half went to the mountains for the first time.
5. Indrek Hein - "INGRID", snowboarder.
6. Toomas Holmberg - "Holms", backpacker.
7. Anti Hirvoja - experienced tourist.
8. Tatjana Hirvoja - "Tata", his wife and experienced traveller too.
9. Jyuri Vilismae - "Yurka", a backpacker. He is a very eccentric person, who cheered everybody up and took away stress during our journey.
10. Kristjan-Erik Suurvali works in a bank and is fond of snowboard.
11. Boris Slepikovski - "Borya", a doctor and the first member of the "Estonian Club of eight thousand peak ascenders".
12. Ilkka Koskinen - "Tall Ilkka", a snowboarder, the head of Finns.
13. Ilkka-Micael Uusitalo - a skier.
14. Aksana Koivunen - "Aksu", laugh lover: loves to laugh much, always and everywhere, a skier.
15. Antti-Juhani Kurola - "Soome Antti", a skier.
16. Riku-Mikael Lavia - a skier.

Having spent the night in the plane, we landed in the airport of Bishkek city (the capital of Kirghizia, formerly called Frunze) before sunrise. We passed the passport checkup, received our luggage; the airport building is empty, the day is just breaking. We sit down "on our suitcases" in the middle of the waiting room: someone falls asleep as soon, as he puts his head on his rucksack. We have to wait: we are to fly to Osh city now and we are waiting for our tickets, which must be brought by a representative of "Asia Mountains" tourist company. We are not sure, whether he will come or not, it is Asia after all. But everything turns out well: in two hours we got tickets in our hands. Only we find out, that I haven't got a ticket and Valdo has two instead! We settled this too, so nothing serious. The registration starts, but soon it is stopped: our plane turns out to be out of order and it will be replaced for another one. How lucky we are! One or two hours of delay and the plane (as we hope in working order now) is brought up for boarding. Forty minutes of flying over desert and mountains and then we go down the plane's ramp and find ourselves in scorching heat - the sun in Central Asia is merciless.

We are in the south of Kirghizia. Osh is a regional center with the population of more than five hundred thousand people. It is an ancient city, having three-thousand-year history; once the legendary Silk route ran through it too. Central Osh streets preserved its Asian features, but with a modern touch. Prices are really funny. It is always like this: you think, you could leave here on your salary… Osh market represents abundance and "polychromy", but the main thing here is cheap fruits and vegetables, it is a very pleasant surprise. They often warn tourists to hide their purses as far as possible: there are more than enough thieves and cheaters here.

And one more piece of advice for newcomers to Central Asia: I advise you to revise your usual comprehension of time here. Forget about hurry, at least because of the heat. Asian unhurried rhythm of life was formed over centuries, if you manage to get used to it, you will even begin to enjoy it: it guarantees you peace of mind and absence of stresses. After waiting for somebody for two hours next time you will be wiser and come two hours later yourself, which as a result will turn out to be the right time to come.

We are going to the South, across Alaiskaya valley. 200 kilometers to the east of our route is a boarder with China. Now we can see the gorgeous Zaalaiski mountain range; Peak Lenin (its pride and our aim) is covered with clouds. July 26, before dark we came to our base camp in Achik-Tashskaya valley (3600 m.). It is my second time here. Then in 1991, I didn't reach Peak Lenin's summit, because of poor acclimatization. I remember the picture very well: Viki (from Tarturski mountaineering club) and I are lying with a terrible headache in 6.100 m. camp, from time to time we empty our stomachs, standing on our knees, though we have nothing in them already.

We are looking with regret at those, who are slowly, but surely heading for the summit along the ridge. But that season wasn't in vain at all. We visited the south face of Peak Lenin and made two pioneer ascents: to Peak Norma and Peak Pide. It's great to stand on the top of a five thousand peak, where no man has ever trod.
On our arrival to Achik-Tashe this time we found three base camps, set up by different tourist companies (kirgzskaya, kazakhskaya and uzbekskaya) and a stationary camp, built as far back as the Soviet times. Clients of all camps are mostly foreigners. The camp, we stayed in, was situated in a picturesque place: between hills on the shore of a small lake; there was also a rivulet with clear mountain water there. There was a sea of edelweisses here.

July, 27. It is morning. Valdo began it in sports style: he had a run. My exercises boiled down to crawling out of the tent only. Valdo returned: he made an acquaintance with a shepherd, whose yurt was not far from our place, behind the hill. He agreed to let us cook on his stove. The shepherd also agreed to transport our equipment higher on his horses.

Base camp

The weather is wonderful: it is sunny and quiet. The Majestic Mountain is free from clouds - it is the mountain, we are heading for. We don not conquer summits. The mountain simply doesn't put obstacles on our way to the top, if She sees that we are physically and morally ready to stand on Her top. On eating our porridge with jam, we take light equipment and make our first acclimatization ascent to the Travellers' pass (4.125 m.). In high altitude mountaineering you must approach the summit gradually, setting up intermediate camps each time higher. At least once you must come down to the base camp to take a rest. All this is necessary for your organism to get used to the lack of oxygen. If you do not take into account this very fact, the end may be very sad. Besides the base camp, there are usually three camps on Peak Lenin: C1 - 4.300 m., C2 - 5.300 m. and C3 - 6.100 m. Later on we set up one more, the fourth camp on 6.400 m.

During the first and some other days in the base camp we were occupied with equipment selection and integration and got ready to climb higher. Unfortunately many of us made frequent visits to the toilet: a natural reaction of our organism to the climate change and a new menu. It's good that we providently bought enough of toilet paper in Osh.

Ascent route

July, 31. Our team leaves for Camp I to stay there for a longer time. Camp I is situated on the central moraine of the glacier. Under our feet is the ice, it is covered with the scree over one meter thick. People and tents are in abundance here: people are walking up and down the glacier. From the three sides the camp is surrounded by large crevasses. Ahead of us is a grand three kilometers high North wall of the Lenin peak. During the day we examine the peak through the binoculars in order to find the most convenient and safe way to the wall. Two days pass in this manner and on the third day we leave for Camp II (5,300m). From now on we'll have to carry our belongings ourselves - horses won't go further.

August, 2. We start our way to Camp II in the morning with all equipment. The weather isn't very good. All the day yesterday it was snow-storming, and during the night there came a thunderstorm. We are trying to find the safe path in the maze of the crevasses, the land marks are all covered with snow. Besides, it started snowing again. The glacier has a very nice, expressive relief here. Hills, grooves and vertical shores gradually slide into the precipice, turning into small lakes.

We are walking carefully one by one. Every one has a heavy rucksack, and besides this Kristjan and me have snowboards tied to our rucksacks. The thunderstorm breaks out again. And suddenly it happened - the thing about which we all have heard, but have never experienced…

I was walking ahead of the others searching the way. All of a sudden I heard the peep of a mosquito. On 4,400m and when the temperature is below zero?! Still it peeps and won't go away. And then it became clear to me - the air is electrified. We are under the thunder cloud. I lifted my ski pole - the "mosquito" peep becomes louder, I raised my hand - even more loud… The empty glacier and we are here with our snowboards, ski poles and ice-axes - are a wonderful target for the lightning! There was no time left for thinking: we took off our rucksacks, ice-axes and ski-poles and hid ourselves in a small gully. The snow storm broke out, the lightnings cannot be seen, everything is in the mist, but it thunders as if there ran a train nearby. And the mountains echo. There was no fear - only curiosity. You raise a hand - and it tickles your fingers, interesting… But soon we got bored and decided to return to Camp I. We gathered the things - snowboards hissed like sausages on the frying pan… We started and suddenly I heard a shout behind me. I turn back and see that Indrek threw away his rucksack and ski pole and is lying on the ground. The first thought was: did the lightning hit him? Thanks God, he is alive, no burns. I don't know why he got a heavy static blow as soon as he touched the ground with his pole. We help Indrek to stand up and this time seriously hurried up, holding all the metal objects as low as possible and trying to hide behind the hills. We relieved of the emotions only in the camp - everybody was talking to every one at one and the same time.

Peak Lenin from

August, 3. The bad weather ended. The first rays of the rising sun colored Lenin peak orange and then golden. We make up or minds to do a second attempt to reach Camp II. With 15 - 20kg rucksacks the rest of us pass the gently sloping part of the glacier and we find ourselves in front of the icy slope - about forty meters with the angle of 50 degrees. We were grateful to the German who took the same path a bit earlier - we were using the footsteps they made in the ice. The path leads us along the central line of the glacier, we pass narrow and wide crevasses. If you look inside a crevasse you can see many meters deep. Sometimes the thickness of the ice here can reach hundreds meters. If a person falls into such crevasse he doesn't break himself - after falling all this terrible distance he feels that the crevasse gets narrower compressing his chest and the whole body. The poor victim won't here the sound of his head and ribs breaking - the heart will stop of fear before this.

It was a dangerous piece, so we roped together. We had to move with special care in the afternoon, when the snow bridges, which were hiding the traps, became soft. One crevasse was so wide that the local guides put a ladder there. There was no lack of adrenaline. Besides our heads were aching because of the high altitude. On the level of 5,000m the path turns right and we walk in the direction of peak Razdelnaya (Dividing). 200 meters more and we can see Camp II. It is situated on the "frying-pan" - surrounded from the three sides by the rocks covered with hanging glaciers. From the fourth side - there is a huge, long and wide ice-fall. Somewhere in the heart of this ice chaos not far from Camp II there are the remnants of dozens climbers. On July,13, 1990 a terrible avalanche caused by an earthquake swept away the entire camp. After this tragedy the camp was moved to a more safe place - a bit further and higher. The majority of us is not ready for the height of 5,000m, we are not feeling very good, the rucksacks seem to be too heavy. We have been walking for 8 hours already and there is still one more hour ahead. Later when we got acclimatized we passed this piece in four hours. But this time me and Toomas had to take some equipment from the others, and in this manner we reached Camp II. There we put up the tents, stuffed them with our things, prepared tea with cookies and sweets and returned back. All the next day we were having rest.


August, 5 our whole group left for Camp II. Valdo and Toomas were there already, they left a day earlier and they managed to reached 5,900m. On the first night in Camp II I still had a headache. This is why the next morning wasn't too happy for me, but all our group was leaving for 6,000m - so I decided to join them. It was clear that my organism was adapting slower. It was very hard, but I stumbled up to the ridge (5,700) leading to the summit of Razdelnaya. There I felt that I was completely worn out. I put on the snowboard and rushed down. The others reached the level of 5,800 to 6,000 (depending on individual strength). Having reached Camp II we put the sleeping bags into rucksack and left for Camp I. Indrek and me stayed there and the rest went to the Base Camp.

Agust, 8. The Finns came down after us. They managed to organize Camp II on Lipkin rib (5,100) and carried part of their equipment on Lipkin rock at 5,700m and after that they went down on skies and snowboards. During one of the evenings at the Base Camp suddenly it started snowing heavily. In a quarter of an hour everything became white and the snow was still falling. I was asleep when our the roof of our tent fell down under the weight of the wet snow. I was under the snow and couldn't stir a finger. People heard my shouts and came to my rescue.

Camp I

August, 11. Early in the morning we sent the guide up with five horses carrying our food and equipment. A bit later we also left the camp. This time it took us about three to five hours instead of five - seven to reach Camp I. At the camp we were met by our doctor Boris who left a couple of days earlier and managed to run to Camp II and back.

August, 12. The sun hasn't appeared over horizon yet and we are already preparing to start for Camp II. The rucksacks are heavy again - about 20kg each. This time there are not only men in our team - Tanya is going with us. Clear nice weather, the sun appears when we are at 4,500, it rises from behind a mountain and colors the entire North Face with the golden light. There is no wind at all, and it grows very hot at once. The sweat runs down our backs and even legs, but we can't undress because you will be burnt immediately. There was a good example a few days ago with Vodka-Tom: he didn't apply the sun-cream on his face only once and got burned and blistered all over. Tanya says that she is not feeling very well - so she returns back, but we still go on. This time the way up seems easier, the first ones got there in four hours. Our Boris has already reached 6,100, he has a very good acclimatization, may be, because he was on Everest in 1998.

August, 13. We are hanging around Camp II, restoring our strength. But some of us decided to walk up to the ridge (5,700).

August, 14. Our whole company with all our loads goes to Camp III. Guys stay there to spend a night and to climb to the top if the weather permits. I decided not to stay there for it is only the first time I am on 6,100, and if the acclimatization isn't good enough I will lose my strength and won't be able to reach the top. That's why Indrek and me go down to Camp II.

August, 15. The first day of climbing the summit. Boris, Vodka-Tom and Yurka, who have already spent a night in Camp III, started about half past six. It's about 1 vertical km and 6 km long to go to the summit from Camp III. At about 6,500 Yurka turns back feeling that he doesn't have enough strength. In high-altitude mountaineering it's obligatory to have a certain sixth sense, the ability to catch that very limit after which all your power will abandon you and you'll be risking your life if you proceed to go on. This limit is individual and besides much depends on exterior factors - the weather, the level of acclimatization, the difficulty of the route and what not. And it's quite certain that not a single mountain deserves to give your life for it…

Vodka-Tom reached the summit after 1p.m. and three hours later he was in Camp III receiving congratulations and answering our numerous questions. We ask him about Boris, but the only thing Toomas knows is that Boris was going up when Tom had already covered half of his way down. We are worried - such pace is too slow to return before dark. Our only hope is that Boris is the most experienced among us. It's getting dark and he hasn't returned yet. We are searching the summit ridge through binoculars - no one in sight. We are getting seriously worried. The sun has disappeared behind the mountain, it's twilight in the camp, but the ridge is still seen. I'm examining it through binoculars and - hurray! - I notice Boris at 6,600, he is moving though very slowly. Boris reaches the camp after darkness, he is dead tired but happy. It took him 11 hours to go up and 6 to come down. Now there is only one summit left for him to become "a snow leopard". Korzhenevskaya peak (7,105) and Izmail Samani (the former Communism peak, 7,495) have already been climbed by him and now - Lenin peak from the third attempt. He reached this summit in fantastically short period of time - on the eighth day of his arrival at the Base Camp.
That evening we fell asleep to Boris's heavy cough and snoring. That evening we fell asleep to Boris's heavy cough and snoring.

August, 16. The second day of our climbing the summit. Holmes, Antti and Yurka leave the camp at dawn. The weather is not bad, but it is windy. Yurka is at-a-boy - he managed to find strength for the second attempt. I've known him for a long time - from early 80-s. He is a strong and passionate climber, an excellent rock-climber. Now that he is 50, he is still in wonderful shape. In 1991 we tried to climb Lenin peak together. I managed to reach 6,100 and Yuri didn't reach the summit by a hundred meters. It left him uneasy - so he returned with a firm decision to win this time.

Antti turned back at 6,800 (in his 59!) - his fingers and toes got frozen and he couldn't warm them. We are looking at the feet and hands of the poor thing - the frost-bitten parts have already become blue. To save them Antti returns to Camp II under the care of Boris. Holmes and Yurka reached the summit about 1p.m.

Me, Valdo, Indrek and Cristian were the last to leave the camp. We are planning to reach 6,400 and organize Camp IV there. Indrek goes without his snowboard - he made up his mind that the North wall is not for him - too little experience. The ascent is very difficult and I can't help worrying. I am worrying that the acclimatization is not enough. Besides I left my crampons at Camp II hoping that I will do without them. But the path glitters with ice, we have to go very carefully- one wide step, one short step on the rocks - it takes hell of the time and strength. To crown it all after we left Camp II the wind turns into a storm and there appears serious danger of being swept down the slope. I fastened my hood and try to turn the face away from the wind, and still it feels that the lungs will explode. .. And this damned snowboard tied to the rucksack! Indrek seems to have some difficulties too, reaching the plateau on 6,400 he scarcely drag his legs and stops to rest every ten steps. Valdo looks more cheerful. We are searching for the place to put up our tent - it's really a problem for the plateau is bare. Finally we decide to stop behind a big boulder, but to have enough place for all four we have to break the frozen snow and throw it away. At last we try to put up the tent, but the wind tries to tear it away from us, we are completely exhausted. Yurka and Holmes have returned from the summit. From the look of them one can tell that they are working on the limit of their power. We congratulate them, Yurka mutters through his teeth: "Masochism…". We eat, drink and then go to sleep. But it is not easy to do. In the first place there is not enough space - the square we cleared for the tent is too small. In the second place, it's really a hard ordeal to undress and get into a sleeping bag. In the third place, the wind is too strong and the tent is flapping all the time.

In the middle of the night I awake because of my "hydro-alarm-clock". I recall that I forgot to take a plastic bottle with me (a necessary thing here). So I have to leave the tent and go out into the storm. The wind is blowing from all directions, so to stay dry I have to sit down…

August, 17. In the morning the snow storm became even stronger. The threatening dark clouds are coming from the South and West. The further ascent is out of the question. There is only one variant - to go down to Camp II and wait for the good weather there. It's senseless to sit here, besides we don't have enough food. Me and Cristian leave our snowboards near a boulder and start going down through deep snow and struggling with the strong wind.

Our company has gathered together again. We couldn't come to the agreement - whether to stay at 5,300 or to go down to Camp I till the weather clears up. Finally we stayed at Camp II.

August, 18. Those who have climbed the summit go to Camp I. We give them all the things we won't need. Indrek makes a difficult decision to refuse from the ascent and goes down with the others. It's obvious that he is tired psychologically. The guys lift their enormous rucksacks, we part and they start slowly stumbling through the "frying-pan" towards Camp I.

Valdo, Cristian and me are going to try again to get on short terms with the mountain. We are planning to get to Camp III tomorrow, spend a night there and if the weather permits to climb the summit. Me and Cristian are planning to go on snowboards down the North wall to Camp I, Valdo will go down the ascent path and take all the things we left in the camps. If the weather is bad we are ready to wait in Camp I even if it takes several days.

Camp III,

August, 20. Yesterday we climbed to Camp III again. The weather is wonderful. We ask the Germans who were going down to tell our guys in Camp I to keep an eye on the North Face and try to film our descent. But our guys decided to relax in the Base Camp where they were met by the cooks and spirits. Our Finnish friends stayed but they had no desire to stare all the time at the slopes expecting to see us - that's how it happened that we were left without the video. By the way - about the Finns. They organized their Camp III at 6,000 on Lipkin rocks, climbed up to 6,650 but then they had to return to Camp I because of the bad weather and abandon the idea to reach the summit. They have chosen a more difficult route than ours - it is not often visited by the climbers, so they had to make their way through the deep snow. That's why their speed was slow and they lost much strength. Besides they ran out of food and gas. They must be too tired for the second attempt. But they had a wonderful descent.

At night the wind rose again - I had no desire to leave the tent (again I regretted my not having a plastic bottle) to say nothing about the ascent. All the following day we spent in the tent, eating proteins, kissel and carbohydrates.

The only good thing about this is that we are feeling Ok, the organism got accustomed to the altitude. But it's too cold. It's difficult to measure the temperature of the air, the strong wind seems to double the cold, but Valdo managed to measure the temperature inside the tent -14C. If you approach the edge of the ridge and stand over a big snow cornice you will see a tiny spot of the Base Camp (it's 2,5km below). We are thinking with a touch of sadness of how warm it is there.

August, 21. The third the of the summit ascent. About 4a.m. the alarm-clock wakes us up. But it's again a snow storm outside, no one is foolish enough to leave the warm sleeping back in such a weather. We stay in beds but suddenly we hear a noise. The Germans are discussing something. Are they going to climb? Yes, the noise subsides, I look out of the tent and see the lights moving away. They are gone! "Ok, they will return soon" - think I and make myself cozy in the sleeping bag.

I wake up in the broad daylight. Strange silence. The wind has subsided! The right weather for the ascent and we are sleeping! Very quickly we put on everything - we do it in turns for the lack of the space. Feet and hands got very cold during the night and it is very difficult to warm them up. Kristjan says that he is not feeling very well. We prepare some hot meal in a hurry, pour piping-hot cocoa into the hot-water bottle, put the warm clothes into the rucksacks and about 8 a.m. we start. This time it is much easier to go, no signs of altitude sickness up to 6,800.

Kristjan's feet get frozen. Warm-producing "magic packets" put into the boots are absolutely useless. We take a halt to eat and drink. The major part of the Pamir is already below us. We see the main Pamir summit - Izmail Samani - and Korzhenevskaya peak 50 km away from us.

The total weight grew by 5kg because of the snowboards. At 6,500 Kristjan says that he is not going to lose his toes and fingers - so he turns back. He adjust his snowboard and slides down. The same evening Kristjan was in the Base Camp.

The ascent of Lenin peak along the Western ridge is not technically difficult. There are only a few places where you can have some problems if you lack enough experience. The most serious thing - is ascent before the summit plateau up to 6,900, it's a narrow and steep ridge called "the Nose", where it is easy to fall down. If you fall to the South, it will cost a fortune to search for your remnants - The South Face of Lenin peak can only be reached by a helicopter - and it's not cheap. So it is "cheaper" to fall north, especially if you want your relatives to remember you with kind words. Dark humor… The strong South wind is very cold, and if the path turns to the North you immediately find yourself in the hot sun.

Having passed "the Nose" we find ourselves on the edge of the summit plateau (6,900). At this point I was sure that we would "make" the summit, though the altitude reminded of itself and there was not much strength left. The plateau is a large field with shallow gullies and hills smoothly going up for several hundreds meters. We remember that we have to move along the left edge, the summit must be somewhere to the left.

We meet the Germans whom I skeptically saw off this morning. They are already on their way back. We ask them if it is still a long way to the summit? It turns out it is another two hours! It is difficult to believe, for it seems that the end of the plateau is quite near! That's bad news. The whole day you stumble with a heavy rucksack and a snowboard fixed to it, it's really hard, cold, you think that your goal is quite near and then… it turns out to be an illusion…

We go further without thinking about the time. At last we see a red-white flag on the hill. Is it it? The last meters are the hardest. Ten steps, then rest, ten more steps… Five steps, rest, then again… Here it is!

The Summit! There is nothing higher to go! But why don't I feel any gladness? I am standing where I have been dreaming to get during a whole year! But now I am simply looking around with an empty gaze and thinking about the only thing - to get safely down as soon as possible.

We shake hands with Valdo. Then we fix our sponsors' flags, take pictures and video. It's cold and damned windy. Our faces are covered with ice. And here come the next summit conquerors - the two Germans who left the camp after us. There is an endless sea of most beautiful white mountains on the horizon.

On the ridge

Our rest at the summit has come to an end. Valdo takes the same route down and I go in search of a road to the Eastern ridge. Earlier I studied the photos and examined these places through binoculars, so now I have some idea about the most logical and safe way. The easiest way to get to the Northern wall is from the upper couloirs of the Eastern ridge. But the descent along the Eastern ridge or next to it and then diagonally cross the slope - creates a serious danger to provoke an avalanche. The more directly you go down from the summit the less is the danger of avalanches. The wall in this place is relatively even, technically easy, and does not require professional freeride skills. Only the upper third of it is rather steep - about 45 degrees, the area of crevasses starts somewhere from 5,200m.

Now that I am alone I have no desire to take risks, so first I went on foot along the firn slope which turns in 40 meters into gently sloping Eastern ridge surrounded by the rocks. Having reached the Eastern ridge I stand up on my snowboard and slide down along rather a wide ridge till the first couloir from where I have to turn left to the North wall. Here I am met by a hurricane, through the ventilation holes the wind blocks the goggles in a second. I went a bit further till the next couloir - the same thing. Nothing can be done about it - I have no choice but go down. It's quite possible to pass this couloir, it's about 50 meters long and 40 degrees steep. Here I am on the North wall, its dimensions are rather impressive.

I slide at a high speed till the rock triangle "The broom" (metla), and stop there to rest. The sun hides behind Razdelnaya mountain, Camps I and II are already in the shade. The North wall lies before my feet in all its grandeur. I find out that if you look at it from above it seems even more steep and big. I've never in my life took a free-ride from such altitude, it's 2,800 vertical meters. Have they noticed me already from beneath?


I am alone, if anything happens nobody knows where to search for me. And if I turn back it would be a cold night somewhere on the Western slope, frostbitten hands and feet or I can freeze to death myself. The snow is good here, "powder" - the dream of a free-rider, and luckily it's not too deep. Last days there wasn't much snow - which means that the danger of avalanches is not very high. There is no wind at all on the wall, but somewhere above one can here a powerful hum. The first several hundreds meters I slide as if over the rocks.

It's already half a year since the last winter when I was training hard, I can't recall some maneuvers immediately, besides I am too tired. Several times I fell, but gradually I gained more control over my body and I passed the rest two-thirds of the way easily and even with pleasure. Soon I can discern the path meandering among the crevasses, and suddenly like a nightmare - where the hell it came from?! - just in front of me I see a crevasse, rather a wide one, where my descend can be finished! I stop abruptly and look with horror in to the glacier depth. If the snow layer on ice had been a bit thinner, I wouldn't be able to stop so quickly…

I am sitting… The pleasure from the ride evaporates at once, the only desire - is to get home alive. I can't tell for sure but this descent took not more than two hours. After a wide zone of crevasses (between 5,200m and 4,400m), just before the glacier becomes gentle there was one more small wall about 40 degrees steep. I rode down it with maximum speed and pleasure, flew over the last crevasses not even noticing them. The descent is over. My clothes are absolutely wet with sweat.

I am standing in the twilight in the middle of a deserted glacier, and only now I start realizing what I have done. I turn around to look at the enormous North wall of Lenin peak, illuminated by the last sun rays, and all emotions come to the surface. It's a total chaos in my head - I've done it, I managed to go up and down this frightening slope with crevasses. The mountain was condescending to me! The last meters to the tent I was walking in the darkness, stumbling over the stones, I felt like a sucked lemon.

I was met by Tanya, Antti and the Finns, they shook my hand and fed me. It seemed as if I hadn't the strength to hold a spoon. But the glue-like noodles seemed a feast to me. After supper there was only one desire - to reach my tent, get into a sleeping-bag and - what a bliss - fall fast asleep.

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