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Expedition sponsors: Moscow federation of Mountaineering and Rock climbing, Red Fox company - manufacturer of outdoor equipment.
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Getting ready for the Wall in winter

Kukurtlu North-West wall
Red line - "Lukashvili" route, scaled by the team
headed by Alexander Abramov in autumn 1999.
White line - A new proposed route for climb
in December 1999.

Brief information about the Wall.
(4,639 m / 15,220 ft) is a name of the west shoulder of Elbrus massif (5,642 m / 18,510 ft), Europe's highest mountain. Kukurtlu is hided behind this big mountain and therefore even those people who have been in Kavkaz (Caucasus) and seen Elbrus, have hardly seen Kukurtlu.
Its North-West face is considered to be the most difficult wall in Kavkaz, and probably in Europe. Although it is not a big wall (approx. 15-20 pitches) it has the most overhanging pitches among other routes in Kavkaz: first 3 pitches are 70 degrees ice, next 3 pitches are 90 degrees rock and the remaining (10 pitches or more) are all 100-100 degrees at average. There are several routes on Kukurtlu, but there is one route on its NW face (left part of the wall), while the most overhanging center of NW face remains untouched. The "left" route is called "Lukashvili route", named after member of Georgian team that first succeeded to climb the wall in 1981. Since that time there were 6 successful attempts to climb Lukashvili route, the last one of those was in September 1999 performed by a team of 4 climbers from Moscow headed by Alexander Abramov. That climb was a part of preparation to a new challenge - climbing the Wall in winter via a new route in the center of NW face (to the right from Lukashvili route). This climb is the second climb in the project "Great walls in winter" started in 1998 by the first climb of Ak-Su North face (5,217 m / 17,116 ft, Pamir-Alaj, Kyrgyzstan) in winter conditions, "big wall" class of climb.

In the list of the most difficult routes of the former Soviet union Kavkaz is represented by the only route of the highest "6B" grade - Kukurtlu NW wall, Lukashvili route (1981).

Note: 6B is the highest possible difficulty, according to Russian system. Many "top" routes are graded "only" 6A. Only a few routes of exceptional difficulty are assigned 6B.

In early autumn 1999 a team of climbers from Moscow, Russia, leaded by Alexander Abramov, settled a base camp near the basement of Kukurtlu NW wall, Kavkaz.

Members of autumn 1999 Moscow team, Lukashvili route, 6B difficulty:
Alexander Abramov
Oleg Milenin
Nikolaj Vlasov
Lev Dorfman
Igor Turchaninov

It took 6 difficult days for the above team to climb 20 pitches to the summit of Kukurtlu (4,639 m / 15,220 ft). All these days they spent on a portaledge (platform). One pair of climbers was moving up, others were lifting the portaledge and haul-bags. The weather was not stable - snowing, raining.

It may seem that the climb in autumn was the most difficult enterprise possible, but it is not. That climb of the most difficult route in Kavkaz was only the beginning - getting ready for a new, more difficult route. Kukurtlu is planned to become the second wall in the project "Great walls in winter" (the first was Ak-Su N face in winter 1998/99, the most difficult wall of Pamir-Alaj). Alexander Abramov and his team members are going to scale Kukurtlu NW wall in winter (December 1999). But it will not be the same route as in autumn 1999. The December climb will be a new route, to the right from the existing one, across the center of the wall, through cornieces and overhangs, which are difficult in summer, to say nothing about winter conditions.

Members of December 1999 Moscow team, new route, 6B difficulty:
Alexander Abramov
Nikolaj Vlasov
Iljas Tuhvatullin
Sergej Schepachkov

Mountain.RU is informational sponsor of December expedition. With a help of Iridium sattelite phone, provided by operator Iridium-Eurasia, up-to date information about team's progress on the wall will be received and published daily on www.Mountain.RU. Our visitors will be the first to know news about the expedition. The information will be published both as text, and audio (RealAudio).

Below is a foto gallery of the previous (autumn 1999) expeditions on the NW wall of Kukurtlu.
Photos: Igor Turchaninov

Kukurtlu NW face. Existing (red) and proposed (white) routes

Kukurtlu in september

Base camp. Oleg Milenin (left) and Alexander Abramov (right)

The team

On the wall

Yellow portaledge in a cloud

A. Abramov belaying


Nik Vlasov

Icy ropes

In the pportaledge: Oleg Milenin and Igor Turchaninov

Cold night

Oleg Milenin leading

The wall

This is how to carry the portaledge


Bad weather

On icy rock

The wall at sunset

In Ice coloir


View of Elbrus (Kukurtlu - the west shoulder of Elbrus)

Alexander Abramov: planning for the future

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