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Russian Extreme Project on Cerro Torre
Time: February 2008 (summer in the Southern hemisphere)
Place: Argentina, mountain region Patagonia, summit Cerro Torre.
It is one of the most difficult and well-known mountains for every alpinist.
Cerro Torre is a calling card for the whole Patagonia. It is considered to be one of the most technically difficult mountains in the world. Passing the easiest route to the top of the summit is a serious mountaineering achievement.
Summit Cerro Torre is cloaked with many legends and myths, telling us about uneasy and sometimes even tragic history of conquering it. One famous rock-climber and alpinist, and lately, base-jumper from USA, Din Potter two years ago made an attempt to jump from this summit. He had reached the top, he had a parachute, but he didn`t make a jump. He passes over in silence the reasons of his giving up of the jump, probably, boost strip was not long enough, and he had not wig suit, may be, the weather didn`t allow him to jump, in any case this fantastic exit has not been jumped yet!
Beyond Cerro Torre Southern Patagonian ice cap is hidden, there are many deep-frozen valleys and plateaus, named "the cradle of storms in Pacific Ocean". Due to great quantity of precipitations, carried from the ocean, and specialties of the geographical position, the most furious cyclones are being born there. Because of severity and paralyzing inevitability of element, many alpinists compare ascent to Cerro Torre with fight against predator. It is the weather that produces the most serious problems in the region for alpinists, and especially for base-jumpers.
It is interesting to look through fence of two-storeyed beds how 5 adult men intently roam along the room and shove large piles of equipment, provisions, clothes into rucksacks, bags and cargos. Judging by the way the piles decrease, they work quickly and in an organized way. Probably, it is so because I don`t get underfoot. I have a top-class pretext I have switched the computer on, knit my brow, it means that I am busy and keep myself occupied. I am hurrying up to write this message today tomorrow I will have no possibility to send post. And, probably, for a long time there will be no possibility to send letters.
Tomorrow at 8 o`clock in the morning we are going to the mountains, they say that internet-cafe have not been built yet there. Next time I will be able to write some words will appear when I will run down to by necessary provision.
Horses don`t go upwards, to be more exact, they are not allowed there is national park. So, we and 5 local porters will work as horses. We hope it will take as two days to carry all the things to the camp in forest zone and everything we need up to Norwegian bivouacs. We are in a hurry, several days of good weather are promised in a period from the 18 th of February. But we know how exact weather forecasts in Patagonia could be. But anyway we will hope.
Over the window helicopter of armed forces of Argentina starts. It is like an insect for 2 persons. In my opinion, except people it can take on its board only bags with personal things and tooth-brushes. But the pilots go with an air of importance like they are piloting the heavies. They flew to the mountains. It seems to get some extra money. They brought people like tourist somewhere and turned back without load. But I`ll be careful, otherwise they can charge me with revelation of military secret.
That`s all at the moment. Don`t worry if you don`t get news about us for a long time. It means only that we are OK.
We are on the way to Argentina.
I am writing from one of planes, the last on the way to our aim. Soon we will reach La Calafate. This town is in the south of Argentina, not far from the Magellan Strait and Tierra del Fuego. Tomorrow we will go by but to a small village Chaltan and further will walk upwards by feet.
Calm home life has been left somewhere far away. Three sleepless nights and endless flights and passage clear brains perfectly.
From Buenos Aires I have remember only window-sills at the first floor in the airport they are wide and clean. It is a very comfortable place for waiting for the next plane. After plane armchairs they looked like 5-star hotel. That was the first time of the last three days when I had a nice sleep. Although we have slept only 4 hours.
I remember student years and Caucasus expeditions. To be more exact nights we have passed on the floor at the railway station in Sochi. Everything looked like it had been earlier. May be, there is a little bit cleaner. And our new sleeping bag are not hand-made of sintepon from the shop, but are produced by expensive and well-known producers. Shame on me, but I don`t remember the name of the firm. And feel shy of asking the guys about it. It is the same as asking steep jeeper, what his car`s name is Land Cruiser or Range Rover. As for me, it doesn't matter. We have seen nothing except the airport, I hope that on our way back we will be able to see the capital, we have a day dedicated to plunder the city in our expedition plan.
Citizens of Argentina have left only pleasant emotions. Almost al of them have European appearance, are calm and benevolent. They smile and joke a lot. But with tact and no pesky how it is in the south of Russia. Comparing Argentina and Venezuela, you can imagine something, like our Arkhangelsk and Abkhazia. Probably, primae impressionis is erroneous, time will show.
Generally speaking, we have no more news, and it can not appear everything is OK. All the news is forward. I will keep you informed as far as possible. They promise there is the Internet in Chaltan, I hope I will be able to send message from there.
We are in Madrid on our way to Argentina.
The first stage of expedition has happily been completed we have loaded our bodies and our luggage to the plane in Moscow and unloading the bodies from the plane in Madrid. The luggage goes on traveling by its own way. We hope to meet it in Buenos Aires. Everything is happening calmly and according our plan.
Only one thing can be mentioned. When we were passing special control in Madrid, attentive Spaniards found a bottle of Hennesi in the rucksack. And tried to throw it to garbage can. Our souls couldn`t bear it. So we had to drink it over under vigilant security glances.
Brandy without snack at ten o`clock in the morning. Brrr… But what we could do, we could not give it to Adversaries.
News of expedition 26.02.2008
Just after landing Valera called us up by satellite phone:
The point of jump was located a little bit lower the traverse on the route "Compressor". It seems to me that it is the only point possible to make the jump.
Flight lasted one minute 20 seconds. Elevation changes equaled about 1450 meters. I opened the cupola a little bit higher than I had planned to do it as I didn`t want to miss the place of landing we had chosen, where Sergey Krasko was waiting for me. As a result I fell into a gust and for 15 minutes couldn`t land from the altitude about 200 meters, I was flying up and down, up and down… But, God be praised, wind grew weaker and I safely returned back to the Earth :-) .
According the forecast from the afternoon of the 26 th of February and on the 27 th, 28 th and 29 th hurricane would take place. So, the decision to leave all the equipment upwards and descend down hoping to return back during the "window" of good weather (if we believe forecast, it will take place on the 3 rd, 4 th and 5 th of March) and got to the "head wall" if the ice condition would become better, and to look whether it would be possible to jump from the top, was reached.
Otherwise, the previous point will become the only possible to make a jump on this route.
Now we are waiting for the members of the team left on the route and tomorrow we are going to go to Chaltan.
Greetings to all.
24 th of February
Today the team went forward. The weather is excellent according Patagonia`s measures. If everything is OK, by the evening the guys will be under the top. We all are alive and healthy. There are some problems with telephone accumulator, so I will call you up if there will be necessity.
Greetings to all.
Now it is 7.00 o`clock in the evening here. I am at " Norwegian night stop" in the cave. Five guys went upwards along the glacier to the shoulder and will pass today night in the bergschrund under the wall. It is very windy now, but we hope it will become better. Mood is cheerful. Congratulations on the holiday coming!
Hear you later."
Valery by satellite telephone:
"Today all the day hurricane raged, it didn`t let us reach the storm camp. Flaws reached 115 km/h, knocking us down.
Greeting to all!"
Greetings to all!
Five days, full of events come up to the end.
The most important thing is that after endless flights and moves normal expedition work started. We safely and without losses have carried all our load and made the camp at the border of forest zone.
This is the last comparatively comfortable place on our way to the mountain. Further there is moraine and glacier.
Camp it sounds proudly, in fact it is two tents and bags and packets with provisions hung on the trees around them.
There are many of them and it seems that they have got large experience of living together with creatures like us. Just in the first night mousses fairly pulled up our food reserves.
To be more exact, they had eaten little, but sting all over a lot. Lastochkin was the first who suspected of something was wrong, when he saw a strangely hopping mouse, slowly moving away from our tent. At that, when it landed, it came tumbling down to the right side. The worst apprehension were corroborated, this bad animal bit through two liter plastic bottle of Coca-cola. There was strategical reserve of Rum in it.
That evening we passed discussing the question to pour out the remainders (in order not to become infected) or to use it in compliance with its destination.
We did as our conscience suggested us. And we were discussing for a long time, why the mouse was coming tumbling down to the right side. As a result, we decided that the direction of Earth rotation influenced.
In our Northern hemisphere it has to make come tumbling down to the left side. When we return home, we will perform qualifying experiment.
Or may be somebody will hold the experiment, then we will come and compare the results.
Generally speaking, we give up paying attention to mousses.
But in the previous night one of them crept into the tent. Provalov spent a half of the night trying to catch it, using his flashlight.
I calmed myself that it was not my packet. In the morning we appreciated losses. Everybody was punished.
On the 15 th of February we set off with some equipment and provisions for "Norwegian night stops". The weather was fine, almost without wind. We had new and functional clothes.
Cheerfully and with sure left behind the group of tourists. They respectfully pressed close to the border of the path, letting us go. On the way there was rope stream crossing.
We watched how two local instructors take the group of tracker, going to the glacier, across the river.
When one well-nourished boy was crossing the river, I got a thought to stand lower along the stream. The matter was that he had put on rucksack and in outside pockets he had jacket, thermos and other things. Wholesome subjects, they could be very useful. The reality appeared more serious. In the middle of the cross rucksack began to touch water, get wet and pull the guy down. May be, he didn`t have enough mind, or because of his greediness, but he didn`t unfasten the rucksack. As a result the guy was turned head first and this head went under the water. And this happened visible to two instructors and 20 more men. Luckily, we suspected to lift the rope and allow the guy to breath. Everything ended happily, instructor jumped into ice-cold water and pulled out the poor devil.
And what he could do else, it is impossible to find work like his here… And in general, everything was very serious, the guy could drown.
Only Valery Rozov kept cool, he shot everything from the very beginning and up to the end, periodically finding the most effective foreshortenings.
Way to "Norwegian night stops" appeared more difficult than we expected. 10 kilometers long and elevation changes of about 1000 meters.
Most of the way lied along the glacier, part of it we passed using crampons. As I am speleologist, I was impressed by entrances to ice caves.
Judging by the sizes of entrances rather large ice cave system is hiding in the body of the glacier. It is interesting to creep into it.
May be, I will do it the next time. And in front of "Norwegian night stops" there is 400 meters long steep climb along the screes.
Somebody`s phrase made us laugh: "How quickly everything changes in our life. We went over being clean, beautiful and purposefully looked forward, and only 12 hours later we are trudging like milksops, trouser-leg is torn, foot, that have got a corn, is dragging…"
During the hike we didn`t see the mountain all the apical part was covered with solid cloudiness. Lastochkin said that the mountain is very beautiful and we took his words on trust.
We saw for the first time the whole mountain on the 18 th of February in the morning. What can I say it impresses!
Stone needle, piercing the sky through for two kilometers. And clouds around it, flowing top-down and down-top!!!
In the evening we got acquainted with Spaniard-climber. He told us very important and interesting things.
The forecast for the nearest several days in not comforting strong wind and precipitations. The window of good weather is expected on the 24 th-25 th of February.
We decided following: on the 18 th of February three men carried the remains of load to "Norwegian night stops" (they safely went and returned back).
And we all descended to Chaltan to have rest and to get dry. Thus, we are sitting in a hostel, listening to Lastochkin`s singing and read books.
I poke into the keys, typing this message.
It seems that Internet-style operates. The reality corresponds to the forecast outdoors it is blowing strongly and raining cats and dogs.
I have a special device for measuring the speed of wind. At the first day in the camp I measured the speed of wind, during blasts up to 100 km/h. I hide it to bottom of the rucksack in order not to feel upset. According to feeling, today the blasts are stronger (according to the forecast up to 114 km/h).
The guys convey greetings to relatives and friends I send, accept! :-)
"Yesterday we carried a part of equipment and provisions to the bottom of the wall, to "Norwegian night stops". It is so-called storm camp, from which, the ascent starts, in fact. All the work took us 12 hours in the conditions of continuous snowstorm. The weather is terrible, it has become cold, much precipitation fell. In "Bridwell camp" snow lies.
Now we are sitting in the base camp, are about to start the ascent. We have only to catch the "window" of good weather and some luck. :-)
P.S: One of events: "While we were moving up to the bottom of the wall, a part of provision was eaten by mousses".
Patagonia news. We are planning to start carrying cargos to "Norwegian night stops" tomorrow.
Valery called us up by satellite telephone:
"We have arrived to the base camp "Bridwell camp". We have carried all the equipment and provisions here. We had to go but-and-ben several times. Put up our tents.
Today the weather has changed just vice a versa. Patagonia got traits characteristic for it it has sharply got cold, strong wind have begun to blow.
We had to squat from time to time when we were going in order not to get blown off, and at that more than a half of the way goes along the forest between trees… But by the evening wind grew weaker, it started raining.
We are planning to start carrying cargos to "Norwegian night stops" tomorrow.
Everything is OK. Greetings to all!"
Valery called us up by satellite telephone:
"Having bought everything we need in Calaphat, this night the team arrived to Chaltan. The town met us with cloudburst and dank coldness L With difficulties we found in the darkness the place where we could pass the night. On the other hand in the morning we were waited by sunny cloudless sky and light breeze J
Fitzroy and Cerro Torre covered with snow after several days of bad weather look fantastically!!! they are majestic giants with ice tops covered with snow that are shining in the sun!!!
We are staying at the altitude 400 meters above sea level the tops of these mountains raise for 3000 meters above us!!! It is an unreal beauty!!!
Sierro Torre. Guys Climb Down
Valery Rozov, Denis Provalov, Alexander Ruchkin, Oleg Khvostenko and Alexander Lastochkin summited Sierro Torre at about 1pm (local time).
They lost a lot of time in exit search around summit but found nothing, a thick mist was rising. Due to bad weather they decided to climbed down
As we reported, due to bad weather guys decided to climbed down, but suddenly short window appeared and Valery Rozov jump down from the previous point.
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