Soyuz on the left

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Do you miss dry, warm rocks as much as we do? To remind you of that feeling of the blazing sun overhead, the hot stone in your hands, and the air under your feet, we publish the story of how three friends climbed the Second Stolb on the Soyuz on the Left route.

Text: Galina Terentyeva
Photo: Evgeniya Alekseeva

It was last summer.

But this route caught my attention back in 2019: the first attempt turned into a total failure and the understanding that you can’t push your way through it: you need a lot of tries and the right conditions. But the project is steep, challenging, and beautiful. The line is a four-pitch route on the southwest face of the Second Stolb (Krasnoyarskie Stolby) going straight to the top, 90m.

The first pitch is 7b+/c; the second is 7c (short and bouldering character); the last two pitches are 6c (there, the route meets with the Soyuz classic). The first section was cleaned and bolted about ten years ago by Alexander Terentyev; a couple of years ago, Oleg Khvostenko and Vasya Terekhin updated the bolting; many respects to them!

The route is called Soyuz because they used to conduct the USSR championship here, back in the 70s. It’s an iconic place. Climbing up, you see the rusty atmospheric ring – belay station – and extensive writing “ЧЕМПИОНАТ СССР 75” (which means “USSR CHAMPIONSHIP 75”), and you imagine how brave athletes in tights, Olympic jackets, and galoshes tried their fortunes on the same cracks and tiny edges 45 years ago. These visions are inspiring.

It was the “rich harvest” 2020. We were climbing a lot on our native rocks, recollecting the old routes and doing the new ones. Once, in the height of summer, Zhenya Alekseeva said: “When are we going to climb something interesting? I want to strain and suffer!”

Let’s go, I said, it won’t be boring, it’s 7c, high and scary. The sun on this wall all day long, so we went in the evening, but as it turned out, even after 6 p.m., everything was sweating and floating.

Thanks to Zhenya, she valiantly belayed and valued the beauty of the local multi-pitch; unable to hold back emotions, she has told me everything she wanted, but next time she prefers to go with the ascender! I made almost all the moves, and I firmly decided that I must try again in the morning when there would be some shade and the chance to climb would be higher.

 

A week or so later, Anya Tsyganova, who usually supports any fun, arrived to Krasnoyarsk! We decided to invite Anya to share our love for Soyuz and at the same time take some beautiful photos!

So we did, but this time we spent the night at the hut (изба – “izba” – in Russian), and in the morning we rushed to the Second Stolb with big backpacks: a bunch of equipment, a rope for Zhenya, and her heavy bag with photo equipment, which we carefully passed from a hug to hug. We climbed the ledge and finished the last preparations: hairstyles there, sweatshirts to match our eyes’ color! Abseiled to the start, and here we go.

The beginning of the first pitch – easy climbing, becomes very complicated by the middle, and towards the end, the heat (crux) begins; passive rib, no pronounced footholds – just a vertical wall and friction, evil friction (standard for Stolby), where you have to trust your feet. I trusted as much as I could. Loudly and with expression, once I even surprised Zhenya, who hovered a couple of meters away from me, armed with her ascender, watching me through the lens, encouraging and empathizing. Fortunately, the bolting here is compassionate, so we did not suffer a lot. I have passed the first pitch 7b+/c clearly, which is not too bad. Anya has the first acquaintance with the route; there was no sense to kill herself, so she just tried all the moves.

The sun was creeping up rapidly; we needed to save time and, of course, skin on our fingers – the main bouldering and the crux pitch – the second one, 7c. Here you squeeze the active edges as hard as you can – the most challenging move from the undercling hold, which is so small as if it exists and as if it is not the same time – it seems that even the nails are used, but the wall becomes a little bit lower angle, and you climb using the balance. From the “drawn” legs, you have to scramble and reach the next diagonal active hold.

Not entirely pitch yet, but I make all separate moves stable, excellent.

Meanwhile, the sun starts to burn; the wall is still in the shade. Then again, I had to squeeze and turn on the “telescopic arm”, the count on the millimeters; Zhenya managed to capture these moments on the pictures too. Barely managed to make all the moves, but the temperature continued to rise, so we took off our sweaters and wrapped them around our heads. It became clear that pure ascent would not happen again today, even getting up at 7 a.m. could not save it.

We tried the second pitch; Anya was happy about the feeling in her legs when she took off her climbing shoes after a warm slab. We were delighted for Anya – her search for the correct sequence was successful; “overpowering”, accompanied by hearty epithets, which perfectly complement the sporty atmosphere – it seems somebody could hear our shouts and laughs even from the pass.

The sun is burning us and the wall, but the worst thing is that a dark cloud appears from behind the corner. At that moment, we understand that the promised rain will not hold out – it’s going to hit us for sure.

We need to speed up; the third pitch (6c) leads to the shelf we had been abseiling from and where we had left our backpacks. The fourth pitch to the summit, of course, we did not climb that day. The weather changed abruptly, so we started abseiling to the “garden”. We walked through the rain back to the hut, feeling high from everything we had experienced and thinking of a subsequent visit plan.

Anya flew away in a few days to training camp but promised to return! And my pure climb of that beautiful multi-pitch took place a week later, again with Zhenya as a reliable belayer with the motto “belay for food”! It’s not an easy task to find a partner for climbing the multi-pitch. Zhenya, what would I do without you?!

It’s the most challenging multi-pitch I’ve climbed so far. Yes, the height is undoubtedly pushing me, it’s more difficult to climb when compared with what it feels like when climbing one rope from the ground. But there are more precious impressions too!

There are great routes at the Stolby which have been undeservedly forgotten and are waiting for new heroes!

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