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Author: Koval Viktor, Sankt-Petersburg.

Winter 2008. Bezengi. Gestola. Northern Wall. The route of M. Hergiani

The northern wall of Gestola

Before making the bivouac (Sergey Kondrashkin)

The day was falling to a close. When gloaming came it became especially dolefully. Two-three ropes remained up to the rocks we had to reach today in any case, in order not to pass the night at 60-degrees steep snow-ice slope under the sight of giant ice cornices, hanging from the root and the shoulder of Gestola. At the moment Alik Izotov, going as a leader, stopped, sadly looked at me and said: “Vitia, you can call me as you like now…” I gave him glance full of inquiry. “As you like, you can use any words you want, I won’t feel hurt…”, continued Alik. “What happened?”, - I asked. “You will laugh, but I have lost supports of our tent!!!”.

At the station

I want to tell him nothing. It became noticeably cold and the pointer of thermometer inexorably approached to position “30 degrees below zero”. And that was only the first day of our ascent along the northern wall of Gestola along the route of M. Hergiani. We were the team from Sankt-Petersburg: Alexander Gukov, Albert Izotov, Sergey Kondrashkin and me, Viktor Koval.

“Nothing serious” – I appeased friends had come to us, - “we can do without supports, there were no tents of marmot before, too, after all…”. It became very dark. In spite of the fact we had set off for the route at 4 o’clock in the morning in pitch darkness (days in the Caucasus were breaking at 7 o’clock in the morning in January), we had not enough light time to the most evenly dangerous part of the route – ice falling and snow-ice faults under the wall. For two more hours we were making a ledge in the slope and at the end crept into formless bag of the tent. And we felt nothing was too bad!

Albert Izotov

Gukov Alexander

Koval Viktor

The next morning we appreciated extremely dangerous for avalanches snow-ice faults near the bottom of the wall and decided to make traverse to the bottom of our counterfort not along the slope, as pioneers had done, but along the rocks. It was noticeably harder, but safer: it was possible to organize belay there.

The beginning of the wall is
somewhere downwards
And we could do nothing under the rocks: it was impossible to dig down to ice and it was a puzzle for us how meter-deep snow could hold on sixty degrees steep slope. All the day long we were making that extemporaneous traverse. Rocks there were not a present for us: everything was covered with ice and filled with snow. We looked at rocky juts on which were going to organize stations and couldn’t understood whether it was reliable rock or a stone that had fallen from upwards and became frozen to the slope and covered with snow…

One of the bulwarks

As usual, darkness stole up insensibly. Even downwards, in the alpinistic center “Bezengi”, reading the deion of pioneers, I had paid attention to the fact there were almost no places to pass nights on the route (the report of Mikhail Hergiani had been lost, only probable line of his climb along the wall was known. In August 1969 the route was passed by the team of four alpinists leading by P. Egorov. And in August 1985 the team of instructors of alpinistic center Bezengi leading by A. Kolchin also managed to pass the route. There was one more attempt on the route in 1972, but it ended with the death of two-man team V. Koronniy – A. Sokolov). It took three hours to organize a ledge useful to pass the night. For this we turn into quarrier: we threateningly and energetically brandished with tools, getting into the rock of the wall and even broke two choppers Quark and one avalanche spade.

Control from the camp
But those sacrifices were not vain: shapeless bag Marmot every evening got filled with our tired bodies. All the night we passed on the route, we passed in semisitting position. The happiest and most dodge of us sometimes managed to make themselves comfortable lying on the bodies of the less impudent and not so dodge colleagues.

And we not vainly were afraid of the dangerous lowest part of our route: ice falling from the shoulder of Gestola broke most part of the line of our climb to the wall by powerful avalanche.

By the evening of the third day we climbed up to small snow edge, connecting counterfort and the main bulwark of the wall. There we made day-long stop, that we spent on processing the main bulwark of the wall. We managed to fix five ropes, three of which were very difficult. Rocks were covered with ice, average steepness – about 80-85 degrees. Sasha Gukov ad Sergey Kondrashkin, being hung round with ferrata turned back to our bivouac when it had got dark already…

The main bulwark of the wall

On processing (Gukov Alexander)

We are climbing

About the weather: all the days were clear and cloudless. And when tender January sun in the mornings lighted for about hour and a half our northern wall, it became warm up to -25 degree. At about 10 o’clock in the morning straight sunny rows left us and up to evening the pointer of thermometer became frozen somewhere between the points -30 and -35 degrees. There was almost no wind, and for that fact we said him great human thanks.

Bezengiysky canyon

One more day we climbed with the help of ascenders along the fixed ropes and then climbed several more ropes up to the coming out to the roof. The wall ended and in front of us there was steep, from 50 to 60 degrees ice slope, with rocky outcrops, of the sort of cow foreheads. Somewhere from that place in far away 1972 two-man team V. Koronniy – A. Sokolov was thrown down by falling ice cornice. Apropos, the bodies of those alpinists were found only in 2006…

Coming out to the roof

One more sitting night-pass and we came to the homestretch. That day I climbed as a leader. I tried to rise and went a little bit to the right from the top. It was impossible to come to the edge to the left from the top, and the coming was dangerous because of overhanging ice cornices. The same situation was if climbing straight forward. To the right from the top there was an unnoticeable break in the line of cornices, and I went in the direction of it.

On the roof. Turning to Dzhangi-Kosh,
peaks Varshava, Selli are seen downwards
Moving became more difficult, altitude got closer to the point 4800. There was ice, sometimes pure, sometimes covered with snow, sometimes changed with rocks. Ice was very solid and if it was not covered with snow it was a real problem to twist even good Grivell ice screw. Crampons and choppers got into the ice with difficulties. But at the end we reached the last ice wall, the last snow edge and that was all, I came to the apical edge. After short rest I received my colleagues. We hammered in the slope snow anchor, left our rucksacks on it and, following the steps of three-day preion of our friends from Samara and Sankt-Petersburg, having ascended to Gestola along the edge via the summit 4310, climbed to the top.

There we completed traditional photosession, then took the note of our friend from Samara and Sankt-Petersburg. Careful gays, they left a chocolate for us and wrote the note at the retro post card of nu-style… Oh, how we wanted to descend to the Earth!

We passed the night on the shoulder and in the morning quickly run down, along the edge, via the summit 4310. On the turning of the main branch of Bezengiysky glacier, Kirill Ivanov and Peter Kuzenkov met us, they gave us tea from thermos. By darkness we came to the camp…

On the top


On the top

Gestola is a very beautiful mountain. Its slender pyramid attracts and summons everyone, who has been to the Bezengiysky canyon. And the route of Hergiani to Gestola is also very beautiful and attractive, and even a little bit defiant. And we couldn’t stand up against their beauty…

On the top

The information that in the last classifier the grade of difficulty of the route was lowered from 6a to 5b surprised us a lot. It is more than strange, taking into account that there were only 3 passing the route, and the last one took place 23 years ago. Comments here are needless. Although the route is not for those who need a check. It is simply a very beautiful mountain and a very beautiful route…

Pyramid of Gestola from the camp

Koval Viktor,

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