Ushba (4,710m), South Pillar, Harakternik

Asia, Georgia, Caucasus
Author: Lindsay Griffin. Climb Year: 2011. Publication Year: 2012.

Ukrainians Igor Chaplinsky, Michel Formin, and Vitali Todorenko climbed directly up the famous south pillar of Ushba, adding 130m of possibly new ground on the steep central section. The center of the pillar was climbed to two-thirds height in 1960 by Monogarov and his team, who then slanted up left, leaving the final prow unclimbed. In 1962 the left flank of the pillar was climbed by Myshliaev (who joined the upper section of the Monogarov route) and the right side by the celebrated Kustovskiy route. In 2010 a Ukrainian team led by Mishel Voloshanovskiy climbed a little left of the Monogarov, joining it as it slants left, and claimed a new line. However, it appears they were close to or on a little-known route climbed in 1981 by Golubev and partners, who also slanted left at Monogarov's bolts. The climbing history of one of the most famous mountains in the Caucasus is thus complex and not well documented. In 2011 a team from Krasnoyarsk claimed a new line on Ushba, only to find it had been done before. Chaplinksky, Formin, and Todorenko followed the (possibly new) line climbed by Voloshanovskiy but, instead of slanting left, continued up the prow directly to the top of the south pillar.

The south face is ca 1,500m high. In early July the three Ukrainians first climbed 900m up easy rock (2-3) and glacial terrain, followed by 300m on the crest of the ridge to where things became difficult. About nine pitches (max 5b) led to the base of the pillar. The next three pitches gave largely free climbing, up to 6c, with short sections of A2 and A3 (skyhooks and Iron Hawks/birdbeaks). About four more pitches, up to 6c and A3, took them to an overhanging section. To this point they had followed the line climbed in 2010. The next 130m provided the crux, beginning with a 25m overhanging wall (A3). More 6b and aid took them to the top of the pillar.

On the upper section most ascents follow the right side of the final buttress, the Red Corner. These Ukrainians climbed the center in four fine pitches of 6a. They bivouacked on the final ridge and reached the summit at 8 a.m. on July 7. Starting down by the classic 1903 Heibling-Schulz Route (5A) on the southeast and east flanks, they found the snow too dangerous and bivouacked again, continuing their descent early next morning. Total time spent on the mountain was five days, and the route was named Harakternik (6A, 6c and A3). They had been lucky with the weather, which was still a bit wintry, being hampered only by a strong wind.

Lindsay Griffin, Mountain INFO, from information supplied by Anna Piunova,

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