Project "Big Walls - Russian Way":

Bhagirathi III (6454m), West Face,
New Route 1998.

Ivan Samoilenko

1 - "Une etoile impossible", Spanish route 1984,
2 - Slovenian route 1990,
3 - South-West rib, British route 1982,
R - our "Russian route" 1998,
arrow points originally planned way straight up.

This summer was unusually rainy in the Asia. The weather was not favorable to our climbing. We, Alexander Odintsov, Igor Potankin, Yuri Koshelenko, Vladimir Kachkov, Andrey Lukin, Ivan Samoilenko, Lioudmila Krestina (doctor), arrived to the Base Camp in Nandanban on August 25. After one week of beautiful mountain summer, which we used for acclimatization, rains started. They made our ropes wet and made us to feel sadness. They continued for the next three weeks till September 26. Then crisp cold and snowing locally on the wall lasted until the summit day, October 14.

It was "Funnel", 230 meters of free climbing up on snowy and icy rocks, that became our first problem. Small avalanches and rockfalls congregated from over the wall to its throat. Approach to this pitch from the advanced camp took about two hours but the rockfalls and avalanches began at 1 p.m. So we were fixing the ropes during 5 days on this place. Three portaleges for the first wall bivouac had been suspended on September 29 in the first safe place below "Trunk", 300 meter overhanging rock. It was the "Trunk", bulged in the center of the wall amphitheater approximately at one third of its height, that protected the bivi and next 300 meters of the route. Aid climbing across four big and several small roofs met us here, in cold shadowy dihedral on the left from the "Trunk".

It was here where team leader and head of "Big Walls" project, Alexander Odintsov, fell ill. Anon he could not stand more keen pain in his stomach. He believed it to be appendicitis but later, in Russia, doctors diagnosed stomach ulcer. He and I rappelled down and I helped to evacuate him to the Russia. After this I was only watching the team climbing from opposite side of the valley, Bhagirathi II range, with binoculars.

Above the "Trunk", the rest of the team, Potankin, Koshelenko, Kachkov and Lukin, climbed up these 300 meters, the vertical dihedrals and huge roof which we called "White Poker". Then there was "Black Tower" composed of very loose rocks. It was a part of shale band on the top of the wall amphitheater. They told me via radio that they met great difficulties in belay organizing and we decided to give up the originally planned way straight up on the left side of the top triangle and to look for an easier way to the summit crest.

After 120 meters of vertical aid climbing and 180m traversing to the right on 55 degree slabs they reached it. On the next day at 1p.m. they were standing on the summit and then began rapelling along the ascent route.

It was only beginning of the most dramatic part of the journey. While they went down, heavy blizzard kept "dancing" the whole three days. They had no food and were exhausted. Having knotted five ropes together (the length was enough to cross the "Funnel" providing a faster but more dangerous chance for the descent) they had rappelled down through the avalanches.

This storm killed three Indian rangers in neighboring valley and destroyed 25 kilometers of the road which we later passed by feet. But we were lucky this time. Nobody was injured.

The difficulty of the route is grade 6, A3. The climbing has been done in "capsule style". Six climbers started and four of them summited. We stayed 6 days on the Bivouac 1, 3 days on each of B2, B3 and B4, and one day on B5. Totally the ascent has taken 16 days and 2 days more for rapelling down. The expedition lasted 12 weeks, one month more than we planned.

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