Asia, Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S.), Kazakhstan, Tien-Shan, Development of the Anatoli Boukreev Memorial Fund, and Khan Tengri, Attempt

Publication Year: 1999.

Development of the Anatoli Boukreev Memorial Fund, and Khan Tengri, Attempt. Anatoli Boukreev was one of the great high-altitude climbers of modem times. His prolific career bridged the apex of Soviet mountaineering, its disintegration with the USSR’s collapse, and the beginnings of its re-emergence in the latter part of this decade. It is fitting, then, that his passing has given the team that brought him to his potential, the Kazak Army Sports Club, some of the same opportunities that he experienced in its folds. After he died on Christmas Day, 1997, his American friend, Linda Wylie, began a plan to further his dreams of helping young Kazak mountaineers with their mountain apprenticeship. In August, some of Anatoli’s closest friends created a non-profit organization to assist the Kazak Army Sports Club and create an exchange between that Club and climbers in the West.

In August, I joined Linda, Kevin Cooney and Alex Friedman (a representative of the National Outdoor Leadership School) in Almaty at the home of the Kazak Army Sports Club’s coach, Rinat Khaibullin. Rinat had been part of the USSR national climbing team with Anatoli. In Almaty, we met with the heads of the National Sports Program, Messrs. Novicov and Illinski, to establish ties for the future exchange program that is now being conducted. Together with the young climbers of the Sports Club, and joined by Carlos Buhler, we traveled to Byancol and from there to the North Inylchek Glacier. Linda, Kevin, Alex and Carlos left after a brief stay, while Rinat, his team and I, joined by German climbing journalist Rollo Steffens and Alexander Ganovski and Susanne Kayatz, university students in Germany, attempted Khan Tengri (6995 or 7010m; estimates vary). It was a tremendous opportunity to experience a style of mountaineering quite different from the Western approach, and a lot of fun as well. Andrei Molotov and I reached a group high point of ca. 6550 meters on the normal route from the north side before turning around in tempestuous weather.

The board of the Boukreev Memorial Fund has now paid to fly two young men from the Sports Club to the U.S. this summer. They will take part in a NOLS mountaineering course in Wyoming, on scholarship provided by NOLS (one impetus for this is cultural exchange, and to allow Kazak climbers to learn about environmental ethics in the wilderness). The Memorial Fund is also paying all expenses for one scholarship recipient, Stephan Graepel of Minnesota, to travel to Kazakhstan this summer and join Rinat and the Sports Club in climbing Khan Tengri and Pobeda. Jack Robbins, one of the board members, has been doing a series of fundraising slide shows in the Bay area, and other activities are planned.

It was an honor to climb in the memory of Anatoli Boukreev. The team is in the best of hands with Rinat, a kind and generous individual who has single-handedly insured the continuation of the Kazak Army Sports Club, and Anatoli’s character is attested to by the commitment he continues to inspire in his many friends. Long may the Kazak Army Sports Club climb!

Christian Beckwith, The Wayward Mountaineers