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Russian/Ukrainian Women Climb New Route on Great Trango

The routeline of Parallelniy Mir (VI+ 6b A3) on Great Trango Tower (6238m). Parallelniy Mir was climbed over thirty eight days by Marina Kopteva, Galina Chibitok and Anna Yasinskaya, the trio was recently awarded the Russian Piolet d’Or for the climb. [Photo] Marina Kopteva Collection

Between July 22, 2011, and August 28, 2011, Russian/Ukrainian climbers Marina Kopteva, Galina Chibitok and Anna Yasinskaya spent thirty-eight days establishing a new route, Parallelniy Mir (VI+ 6b A3), on the northwest face of Great Trango Tower (6238m). The team was recently voted the recipients the Russian Piolet d’Or, the first all-women’s team to receive the award.

Great Trango Tower, first climbed in 1977 by Dennis Hennek, Jim Morrissey, John Roskelley, Galen Rowell and Kim Schmitz is located on the Baltoro Glacier in northern Pakistan. The wall of Great Trango Tower is one of the biggest in the world: the sheer rock face soars for nearly a mile from the base of the tower. The northwest face of Great Trango Tower houses several other routes. Parallelniy Mir is sandwiched between the Ukrainian Route (VI 5.11 A4, 1950m, Lavrinenko-Mogila-Yarechevsky-Zhilin, 2003) and Lost Butterfly (VII 5.10 A4+, Berecz-Nadaski-Tivadar, 1999). “Parallelniy Mir” translated to English means “Parallel World”– and is not to be confused with the 1999 route just right of Lost Butterfly, Parallel Worlds (VII 5.11 A4), put up by Alex Lowe, Jared Ogden and Mark Synnott.

[Photo] Marina Kopteva Collection

The three women used nine camps on their ascent. They swapped leads, climbing as a pair while the third rested or hauled their gear to the next camp.

Parallelniy Mir can be divided in to four parts: free, aid, “easy,” and a final stretch of mixed and aid climbing. The free climbing consisted of the first eighteen pitches and went at around 6b (French system). The second section, the longest and most difficult, consisted of the wall between camps 3 and 8–nearly all of this section’s twenty pitches were aided, some pitches at A2 and others at A3. Kopteva speculates that it could go free around 7b. The third part of the route, an “easy, completely safe, and even pleasant” series of free climb pitches that followed the shoulder between the two walls, graded between 5b or 5c led them to their last camp. The final eight pitches of the route took the team to the summit of the headwall. These pitches were “nowhere near the difficulty of the first big wall,” writes Kopteva, but they included complicated mixed climbing and aid. The team reached the summit on August 25, thirty-five days after they began climbing. A three-day rappel followed, and Kopteva warns that it is “one of the main dangers on the route.” The trio “practically ate nothing” on the descent because they were out of supplies, but Kopteva cheerfully insists that having hardly any food on the descent simply encouraged them to move more quickly.

[Photo] Marina Kopteva Collection

Kopteva, Chibitok and Yasinskaya encountered clear weather from the start of their climb. But after they finished the first wall section of the climb, wintry weather set in. Sharing one down jacket, one down vest and one down blanket between the three of them, they endured the final ten days of their climb in rather chilly conditions. But the stormy weather did bring one good thing–with practically no water on the wall, Kopteva says that “if not for the bad weather and the snow, we almost certainly would have suffered from lack of water.”

[Photo] Marina Kopteva Collection

In regards to climbing style, Kopteva says she “takes her hat off to people who can climb beautiful, logical lines on crazy walls in record speed,” but claims she is not one of them. “Every mountain has its own rules, its own style. Every wall is an individual.” She goes on to say, “I don’t understand, why people try to imitate western style, or why people so wholly and fiercely voice their negative opinions to our tradition, our ‘native’ style of mountaineering.” Far more important than a team’s climbing style is a team’s cohesiveness, she writes. “Being accustomed to your group members, understanding them almost wordlessly…that is 100 times more important than style. Being strong athletes–it’s not enough. You need the team to work like a machine.” That is where her group excelled. The trio climbed Amin Brakk (5850m) in spring of 2010 and are good friends. “On the big walls of Great Trango Tower and Amin Brakk, we have had zero conflicts,” writes Kopteva. “We are ready to make any sacrifices for each other.”

Sources: The American Alpine Journal ,, Marina Kopteva

[Photo] Marina Kopteva Collection