Through thorns to Zvezdny Peak


No virus could stop the members of our community from going to the mountains. And we are glad to receive messages this summer, one after the other, about interesting routes climbed and even about first ascents. We will tell you about them in a series of publications. And we will start with a story written by Maria Dupina, Nadezhda Olenyova, and Polina Oshmarina.


From Nadya Olenyova’s post in social networks: 

“I look up; I can see 15 meters, it’s raining in my face, water is pouring down my sleeves. I think, here we go again, damn it. My thoughts are interrupted by a voice from somewhere below from the void: “The gear is ready, pull it up.”
I’m pulling. – The rope fixed. – The belay is ready…”


Text: Maria Dupina
Photos: team collection

The girl crew went to Zvezdny Peak in the Sayan Mountains to climb the Oleg Khvostenko’s route, 6A. The length of this route is 660 meters. The line is stunning, logical, and runs along the center of the Zvezdny peak NE wall. According to the RMF website description, the route “is equipped with 141 skyhook holes”. After such a statement, there is no doubt: this is what we need. There are skyhook fans among us. However, we did not take the hand drill with us. One hundred forty-one holes are definitely “too much” for one wall.

After getting to the wall in the evening, we visually examined it, figuring out how long it would take us to get through the sections. We planned to climb the route in two days, spending the night on a large grassy shelf in the middle of the wall, for which we took a small tent, sleeping bags, gas, and other things that create a homely atmosphere. Polina was appointed responsible for the property, who, through simple manipulations, turned one of the backpacks into a haul bag and then pulled it over the entire wall on Micro Traxion.

It’s better to note that this was the first time we worked together; it was an element of risk – it was not clear whether we would work with each other in a personal way. Nadia and Polina have known each other for a long time and have climbed together in the mountains. I was a new person in their team, although we knew each other by correspondence and knew who was capable of what.

At the foot of the wall

We started at 6 a.m. from an ABC under the wall, and at 2.50 p.m., we were on a large shelf. Polina organized a bivouac, and we worked another 50m, and at around 6 p.m., we were already resting in a tent. The weather was great.

On the first day, I lead. The work was gratifying: the terrain was super, monolithic, and there were no questions like “what to do at the station” or “what the hell we were doing here”. Not even once did we get off the route line.

Here we go! The first pitch keeps you busy

But let’s get back to the skyhook holes. There were really many holes. And they were capital – even if you were dancing. The only negative thing was that after that, “dancing” skyhooks could only be knocked out by using a hammer, which was a little tense. There were plenty of bolts too, old and rusty. Honestly – I did not want to stand on them. But we had to make protection on skyhook lines. Everything was better than nothing.

A small cornice below skyhook line

In general, on the first day, I probably free climbed one-fifth of the way. The rest was on aids. The terrain is monolithic—one time, I had to put in a 5mm removable anchor.

We woke up on the second day at 5 a.m. and saw that a cloud surrounded us. No visibility, it was raining.

First bivy

The weather in Yergaki is volatile, and rain is expected. In case of horrible weather, we had a plan B: from the large shelf on which we spent the night, you can go out onto the ridge and descend to the south side of Zvezdny Peak. We had to decide whether to climb further or to step back. After thinking about it, we decided to get some more sleep, in case of rain stopped, and going down at five o’clock in the morning was senseless and harsh for young and not very young human beings.

Tent view on the second day morning

By half-past eight, the rain had stopped, but we were still in a thick cloud. At 8 a.m., we got in touch with base camp. Sveta Smaykina told us that the forecast promises to get better even by mid-day; the sun is supposed to appear in some places. Just in case I called my husband, he said, “We climbed even in the worst conditions”. A little more thought, and at 10 a.m., we went up the fixed ropes to an invisible infinity, comforting ourselves with hope.

Nadya moving up the fixed lines

The rest of the day, the clouds settled on the mountain did not want to leave us, periodically pouring drizzle and rain on us. On the second day, Nadya was leading. She was very committed. At one moment, there was a small hailstorm. But the abseil bolts were already behind us, and the route was going only upwards. I remembered the section of the smooth wall well. There were only three old bolts at 30 meters pitch, and between them, there were only holes for skyhooks. Nadya passed this section quite quickly and then said that she did not want to stay on it at all.

Pitch R9–R10, Nadya is climbing

We felt the weather begin to improve somewhere in the morning; we saw the valley below and even the sun on the Taigishon wall. But it was the only ray of light in a day, and soon the cloud thickened again, and the rain began to fall. When we reached the water-filled chimney, which was meant to ‘free climbing’, at around 6 p.m., we did not doubt that today was not the best day to climb it. Pauline, who was pulling our belongings along the fixed lines somewhere below, tacitly agreed with our decision to throw our tent where we were on a small rocky shelf 60 meters below the top. There was no hurry anymore. The place for the tent was, to put it mildly, a pretty bad place.

Polina is pulling the haul bag, R8–R9

We spent an hour trying to dry all stuff on the stove, hoping to finally see the stars at night, and in the morning, a dry chimney above our heads. But when we woke up, we saw the same fog, and the rain got worse.

R10–R11, travers, Nadya is leading

This fact caused very little joy. Instead, we were driven by a strong desire to “get out of here faster”. And therefore, there appeared a hole in the wet chimney for the skyhook, which I drilled on Nadia’s advice: it was unrealistic to free climb the chimney in such dampness.

At 11 a.m., three of us were standing on the summit, and just for a minute, the sunlit us up through the cloud.

On the summit in weak ray of light

We worked for about 22 hours on the route, not counting the approach and stay in the bivouac tent.

Abseiling on the other side of the wall, on Lebedev route, 5A, also added some ‘Raisin’ in the form of waterfalls running into our pants.

Despite the challenging weather conditions since the second day of the ascent, we had no life-threatening situations, no personal conflicts or misunderstandings.

The scariest place of the route, pitch R11–R12

Oleg Khvostenko’s route to Zvezdny turned out to be difficult for us, not so much technically but morally, because the continuous work for two days, the second overnight stay in wet clothes and constant rain forced us to gather all the will in a fist and bank on “for all money”. Otherwise, nothing would have worked out. Under these conditions, there is no other choice. You have to do what you have to do.

When we came down, we saw the sun above the valley. We reached the base camp and took a good plate of Sveta’s Borsch! And then, an hour later, three more different dishes rolled into us like into an abyss.

The next day smile did not come off our faces, just as a cloud did not leave our mountain for another day. We did not see Zvezdny Peak in the blue sky until two days later.

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