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First ascent on Lhotse Middle Spring 2001

Looking at Everest region map published by National Geographic, such a magic projection of highest polar zone of Earth, I have a pretty feeling of aesthetic meditation. My look glides slowly along mountain ridges, valleys, and rivers. Without any special goal my attention concentrates on center of the map. Everest, South fore-summit, South col, Main Lhotse, Lhotse Shar. I feel myself like an explorer. There are not so many points with altitudes higher than 8000 meters. A point between Lhotse Main and Lhotse Shar has altitude 8414 meters. What is it? Just a mark in the ridge? This point is visible from Everest summit as a summit with steer northwest wall. It amazes by its pointed form like one of French Alps spires, shining by sharp edges of its roofs. Until the last time this summit - Lhotse Middle - appeared in the Guinness book as the highest point of Earth where man has never trod.

History of developing Himalayas and Karakorum says that there are only 14 summits with altitude higher than 8000 meters. Annapurna allowed climbers to reach his summit first of them, but at the high price. But mountain massifs are not Egyptian pyramids. A mountain crows often by a several summits. Most of all - 5 summits - has Kanchenjunga. Each of its summits was climbed separately. 25th in this list was K2 West that were climbed by Japanese climbers in 1982. According to Reinhold Messner list, Lhotse massif has three obvious summits: Main (8501 meters), East (8414 meters) and Lhotse Shar (8386 meters). Lhotse East has also other name: Lhotse Middle, 26th summit in the Messner's list.

There is only one classical, relatively easy route along the northwest wall to the Main summit. Others, south routes are very difficult. The more impressive of them is Russian 1990 route along the South wall to the Main Lhotse.

My concepts of Lhotse were shaped mainly by reminiscences of my friend and coach Alexander Pogorelov. He took part in a first South wall direttissima on Lhotse, 1990. Alexander didn't reach summit like Karataev and Bershov, but his group was very close to the success. Pogorelov, Turkevich, Kopeyko and Hitrikov first reaches at that time 8350 meters point. They fixed ropes on the most difficult part of the route from 7600 to 8100 meters during 4 days and moved then in alpine style, practically without food and bivouac gear, having only two ropes and a short ice-axe. Pogorelov and his friends spent three nights at the altitude higher than 8000 meters. Second bivouac at the 8200 meters was arranged just in a snow pit. Carving their way in a "empty" snow of the tracery snow ridge they rushed to the summit by all their essence.

I remembered after this story that Lhotse ridges higher 8000 meters are the exhausting work in a trench in a "empty" snow and an endless space around that consists from the risk to fall together with the snow roof of the knife-sharp ridge. They performed huge volume of a difficult technical  job and then descended by a miracle, after 10 days on the wall. I remember also such feelings when we together with Pogorelov saw similar relief on the southwest wall of Khan-Tengri (6995 meters). Leader had at that time two dangerous falls and was stopped by belay rope. Something about that I expected from Lhotse middle.

As I know, 7 expeditions tried to climb Lhotse Middle during last 5 years: 5 Russian expeditions (including ours expedition), Spain and Korean (2001).

Nobody before tried to climb Kanchung wall of Lhotse Middle, though this line was known. Vladimir Bashkirov suggested it in 1997. Vladimir was the main ideologist of this ascent. He died then during descent from the Main summit, after unsuccessful attempt to traverse the entire Lhotse massif from west to east.

Our success was caused by a correct route, good team of climbers from many Russian cities. First time we would have planned and tried to reach the wall from the South col, but the danger of snow avalanche stopped us. Timofeev group had replaced us on the South col and made decision to ascent first along the north ridge that lead to the Main summit. Then, using a gear that was carried by Timofeev group on 8100, Gleb Sokolov and me had found the way through roofs and seracks of the north ridge of Lhotse main to the Kanchung face. It broke the situation and gave hopes to all the members of our expedition. Loking at the wall we got the assurance that the ascent may be real.

We couldn't move farther because to the bad snow condition. It literally "flowed away" from under foots. Avalanche danger, bad weather and bad state of health of Yuri Ermachek forced us to descent.

May, 16th, two weeks before the end of the expedition, Tourism Ministry of Nepal gave us at last the official permit to ascent Lhotse Middle. Vice-secretary of Ministry visited the base camp personally.

My forecast about possibilities of reaching the summit in a 2-3 days of a good weather was confirmed. May 23rd Timofeev, Vinogradsky, Bolotov and Kuznetsov had continued our route (21st -22nd they ended the traverse of slopes of northeast wall), crossed about 1000 meters with a number of technical difficult sections and reached summit area to 3 p.m.

May 24th at 12:00 Gilin, Sokolov and me ascent nevertheless the last dizzy 80 meters (10-12 meters elevation gain) of the summit ridge and reached the highest point - summit roof of Lhotse Middle.

Later, May 27th, using fixed ropes ascended Yanochkin and Volodin. The weather to that time became unstable and in a many places he did the way anew.

9 climbers from 12 have reached the summit: Alexey Bolotov, Petr Kuznetsov, Evgeny Vinogradsky, Sergei Timofeev, Yuri Koshelenko, Nikolay Gilin, Gleb Sokolov, Vladimir Yanochkin, Victor Volodin. We all used extra oxygen from 8000 meters. The 5-years length history of attempts to ascent the Lhotse Middle first time was ended.

Leaders of ascent: Nikolay Cherny, Sergey Timofeev.

Climbers: Evgeny Vinogradski, Nikolay Gilin, Yuri Ermachek, Alexey Bolotov, Petr Kuznetsov, , Gleb Sokolov, Yuri Koshelenko, Vasily Elagin, Vladimir Yanochkin, Victor Volodin;

Film group: S.Shakuro, I.Borisenko;

Expedition organizer: Victor Kozlov.

Source Yury Koshelenko Pictures

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