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Pik Slesov (Russian Tower, 4,240m), Northwest Face, Odessa Route

I’m not sure why I first visited the Karavshin, but since my first visit in 1998 I have returned four times. The place stays the same, yet with every visit I find something new. This year we went early and summited on June 30. I saw nothing familiar. There was so much snow, even on steep faces, and it was so cold. But there were also positive aspects—long hours of daylight and snow on ledges for water. Our plan was simple: a new route on the northwest face of Pik Slesov (Russian Tower) between the Moroz Route and the Spanish Dihedral, and a repeat of Kritsuk’s route on Pik 4,810. Long ago I visualized the line on Slesov while at home in Odessa. The final piece of the puzzle was to climb it.

The weather was bad from the beginning. Alexander Homenko, Taras Tsushko, and I approached the face in rain, which toward evening turned to snow. We spent the next day examining the wall. This proved a godsend, as we could see what falls from where, and then modify our original line. There was much ice in the upper section, and from noon onwards it began to fly, as on Cerro Torre. The saving grace was the steepness; the ice would pass well out from the face.

The next two days were sunny but cold. Our route led to the base of a chimney, which shocked us by its size and structure. It was formed by a giant detached flake leaning precariously against the wall. After two pitches it widened to 6-7m, so we had to traverse out right and climb 70m alongside.

Higher, the situation changed; there was a series of roofs with no cracks. Fortunately, 20m to the right we spotted flakes. Reaching them required a 30m pendulum across a water runnel. The runnel is often bombarded by falling ice, but we were lucky as at that time there was no sun. In fact every day was poor, with rain and snow. Above the flakes, the route became fun. It was technically difficult, but the cracks were good and the rock solid. At the top of the 17th pitch we joined the Moroz Route and followed it to the summit. We named our new line Odessa Route and graded it Russian 6B.

After five days’ rest we started up the Kritsuk on Pik 4,810. The most unpleasant part of this route is at the bottom, an overhanging broken corner. Above, it is better, and because there was snow everywhere we didn’t have to haul water. We had three different route descriptions and, picking a line that averaged the three, never got seriously lost. However, one thing I couldn’t understand: everyone talks about free-climbing, yet where did all the drilled holes for bathooks come from?

We reached the summit and descended in bad weather. We felt this route was easier but longer than our line on Slesov. With these two routes we won the 2009 Ukranian Championships. Incidentally, it was a great season on 4,810: two teams did Kritsuk, two did Sakharov, one climbed Voronov, and two completed the 5B Nazarov.

Alexander Lavrinenko, Ukraine (translated by Marina Modlin)