American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Russia, Caucasus, Kiukiurtliu, West Face, New Route

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001

Kiukiurtliu, West Face, New Route. On the right side of Kiukiurtliu's west face, a Saint Petersburg team led by Andrey Andreev and comprising Igor Potankin, Kirsanov Dmitry, and Krivitskiy Alexey established a new route (Russian grade 6B, approximately 5.11-5.12 A3- A4, 600m) from June 26-July 6. Kiukiurtliu (4639m) is the only mountain left in the Caucasus where there is a route of the highest difficulty in the Russian grading system: a 1981 route climbed by a team led by Tariel Lukashvilly*. The 1981 route comes in on the left side of a very steep headwall. This headwall presents an opportunity for the modern climber to establish new routes of high difficulty—a rather difficult thing to do today in the Caucasus, where all of the most prestigious routes were established 10 to 20 years before. This potential new route was “re-opened” in 1999, when climbers making a repeat ascent of the 1981 Lukashvilly route (see AAJ 2000, p. 305) were able to study the right side of the vertical headwall. Since 1999, many attempts were made (mostly in winter) to climb this headwall. All these attempts were denied by the mountain: bad weather, cold, very steep terrain.

From February 10-22, the team that was eventually to climb the route five months later, along with Yuri Koshelenko, attempted the route. They endured terribly bad weather before finally reaching an altitude of ca. 4285 meters. They retreated via the route of ascent, leaving fixed ropes on the face so they could return. In the summer, the majority of the team returned and used the fixed ropes from the winter attempt to reach the winter high point. During the climb, three intermediate camps were established. The most difficult part of the route is between Camp I (4160m) and Camp II (4325m); it overhangs. The route took second place in the Russian High-Technical Class.

Vladimir Shataev and Vladimir Kopylov, Russian Mountaineering Federation

*The grades of the Russian grading system are more or less stable from 1A through 6A. The 6B grade—that is, the upper limit of a closed system—is posted in a special list for each year. In the Caucusus, the grade had been applied to climbs on Kiukiurtliu, Ushba (Kustovskiy Route), Chatyn (Grakovich Route), Chegem and Dombay. In 1998, the grade was revised by the Russian Mountaineering Federation), and only Kiukiurtliu retained the grade, a move that was made specifically to develop the Kiukiurtliu region more, as it is climbed in very rarely.

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