American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Europe, Norway, Troll Wall, the Russian Route and Baltica

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1998

Troll Wall, the Russian Route and Baltica. During the last quarter century, the most difficult routes on the Troll Wall have been the 1965 Norwegian Route (VI 5.10 A3), the 1967 French Diretissima (VI 5.10 A4) and the 1972 Arch Wall (VI 5.11- A4+). Strikingly, no new route has been put up since then, even though there is quite enough space and relief on the wall. These and other considerations, such as easy access and financially affordable travel, convinced us to choose the Troll Wall as a climbing objective for the debut of a small Russian team and the beginning of a larger project: to establish a series of Russian routes on the world’s most famous big walls outside the Former Soviet Union.

The initiator and leader of the project (called the “Russian Way: World Big Walls”) was Alexander Odintsov from St. Petersburg. Team members included Igor Potanikin from St. Petersburg, Alexander Ruchkin from Omsk, Ivan Samoilenko from St. Petersburg, Ludmila Krestina of St. Petersburg, and Yurii Koshelenko from Rostov-on-Don. The team reconnoi- tered possible routes on the wall and, after several consultations with Norwegian mountaineers, decided on two first ascents. On July 14, two pairs, Odintsov and Potanikin and Koshelenko and Ruchkin, started on the wall. Odintsov and Potanikin envisioned a diagonal route from left to right, beginning with an obvious 600-meter buttress and continued on the main wall, crossing the Norwegian and Arch Wall routes. The second pair’s route stayed completely on the main wall between the French and Arch Wall routes, crossing them at some point, then going to the summit right of the French Route. After the first pitons were hammered, the two pairs worked absolutely autonomously.

Ruchkin and Koshelenko spent the first two days fixing several ropes and filming. Then, after two days of rest, they went up on July 17 and finished on July 25 at 8 p.m., getting ahead of the St. Petersburg pair. The route, called the Russian Route (VI 5.10 A4, 1100 m) took eight and a half days. At the same time, Potanikin and Odintsov worked on the quite difficult overhanging buttress before reaching the main wall. Loose rock caused several leader falls. In total, they took seven days to complete nine pitches on the buttress.

When the Russian Route was completed, Odintsov and Potanikin were about to start, but a rainy week stopped them. They finally started on August 1, getting through the nine fixed pitches and leading three more the same day. They completed the climb, Baltica (VI 5.11- A3+, 1300m), in seven and a half days, finishing on August 8, a day of glory for the common success of the Russian teams.

Both pairs used the same tactics: the leader went ahead on a double rope, the portaledge was transported in a backpack by the second climber, haulbags were pulled up by the leader and the two slept at the end of the last completed pitch. The leaders changed every day. Both groups took about 30-35 liters of water. The major technical difficulties were loose overhanging terrain and cracks that were overgrown with grass and moss. For instance, on the Russian Route, tens of kilograms of turf were removed from some cracks.

These two new routes are comparable and somewhat superior to the hardest existing ones on the wall. They are the first contribution of Russian mountaineers to big-wall ascents abroad, outside the boundaries of the Former Soviet Union. Both climbs were announced for participation in the Russian Mountaineering Championships.

Yurii Koshelenko, Russia

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