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The upper 4,500 feet of the 9,000-foot north face of Mt. Everest, showing (1) North Ridge/Northeast Ridge (Wang-Gonbu-Chu, 1960). (2) Messner Variant (Messner, 1980). (3) North Face Direct (Shabalin-Tukhvatullin-Mariev, 2004). (4) Japanese Coulior (Shigehiro-Ozaki, 1980). (5) West Ridge (Unsoeld-Hornbein, 1963). (6) West Ridge Direct (Belak-Stremfelj-Zaplotnik, 1979). The 2004 Russian team faced more than the usual objective hazards; climbers on the regular North Ridge route jettisoned oxygen bottles down the north face until informed, narrowly missing the Russians. [Photo] 2004 Russian Everest Expedition

Climbing in a style formulated during the Soviet era, a Russian expedition, strong in number and talent, completed a direct route on the north face of Mt. Everest (8850m) in late May. The expedition was led by Victor Kozlov.

After acclimatizing on Ama Dablam, the expedition established itself at the base of the north face, installing an advanced base camp at 6200 meters on March 15. The expedition climbed in four teams, each taking turns pushing the route higher, fixing ropes and establishing camps.

By May 6 ropes had been fixed to 7550 meters, and a Camp I was established. Above Camp I a “rocky bastion” at 7900 meters would provide the technical crux as well as the last major obstacle to reaching easier terrain that would lead to the summit. On May 16 while working on the final crux section, the team led by Pavel Shabalin was nearly hit by oxygen cylinders jettisoned down the north face by climbers making their summit bid on the classic North Ridge route. This event would repeat itself several times before the word made its way around the various camps on the flanks of Everest not to discard empty oxygen cylinders. This provides a sad commentary on expeditions being carried out on the world’s largest peaks.

A high camp was established at 8300 meters with the fixed ropes reaching 100 meters higher. On May 28 Pavel Shabalin, Iliyas Tukhvatullin and Andrey Mariev set out from this camp to make a push to the summit. At 8600 meters they encountered another rock crux. Slowed by the technical climbing, they were forced to establish a tent at 8600 meters and bivy. The next day they made but one pitch and with minimal food and oxygen, and no sleeping bags, spent another night at 8600 meters.

May 30 would see Pavel Shabalin’s group overcome the difficulties and reach the summit of Mt. Everest via the North Face Direct. The following day, Petr Kuznetsov, Gleb Sokolov and Evgueny Vinogradsky summited, followed by Viktor Volodin and Viktor Bobok the following day. All teams descended the normal North Ridge route.

– Compiled from reports on