From August 4-12, 1996, Alexander Ruchkin and Alexander Odintsov established The Direct North Face (Russian Grade 6B, 5.11 A3+) on the north face of Ak-Su North (5217m). Practically nobody believed an ascent up the center of the wall was possible. That’s why our win was so pleasant. It seemed that the wall was absolutely smooth, without any relief. Micro-relief was observed only after multiple and detailed examinations. The idea was born a long time ago and we thought it over many times. After we had climbed five different routes on the wall, we collected real experience and a kind of data base.
Big wall strategy was used during the ascent. Eight nights were spent on the wall and one on the top. There were no ledges on the route. The climbing was very precise, almost jewellering, because there were many “live” stones on the route, and at any moment we needed to think about our friend below. We climbed what cracks we could find, which were hardly any. We ascended the center of wall by sky hooks, sometimes drilling holes for them. If we were lucky and found a crack, it was flaring and shallow. Bolts could hold only body weight but not a fall. All protection points were made with Petzl 12-mm screws. We wanted to live badly. Thank you, Petzl. The route is logical and beautiful.
Alexander Ruchkin, Russia