Alexey Bolotov dies on Everest

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 17/05/2013
Alexey Bolotov. Supplied by mountain.ru

Two new routes were planned on Everest this spring, but now neither will be attempted following the death of one of Russia's most accomplished high altitude mountaineers, the double Piolets d'Or recipient, Alexey Bolotov.

After the debacle at Camp 2 quashed the plans of Jon Griffith, Simone Moro and Ueli Steck to climb a new but undisclosed line on the mountain, only one party with pioneering intentions remained.

Fifty years old Bolotov, from Ekaterinburg, and the legendary Russian Denis Urubko proposed an audacious alpine-style ascent of a new route on the southwest face.

The declared line lay between the original 1975 British route up the centre of the face and the 1980 Polish south pillar. It would undoubtedly feature difficult mixed climbing in the upper section.

While completely accurate details are currently lacking, the pair had acclimatized and were starting back up the mountain from base camp with eight days supplies, anticipating six days on the ascent and two days to get back down.

It is believed that Bolotov was using an alternative approach to the Western Cwm, pioneered in the past by Bozhukov in order to establish a relatively safe and technically straightforward route that bypassed the Khumbu Icefall.

The line starts well right of the Icefall, in a rocky gully on a spur coming down from Nuptse, then traverses glacial terraces left towards the top of the Icefall.

It appears that at around 5:00am and at ca 5,600m Bolotov was using an in-situ rope to make an abseil. It severed over a granite edge as he descended, resulting in a fall of 300m, from which there was no chance of survival.

Later, with the help of the Argentinian guide Damian Benegas, Lhakpa Sherpa, Simone Moro, and the Fish Tail helicopter rescue service, Urubko managed to have the body evacuated to Kathmandu, from where it will be repatriated.

Bolotov was a former Soviet mountaineering champion and one of very few climbers to have received two Piolet's d'Or.

In 1997, after hard routes on the peaks of the former Soviet Union, he joined an Ekaterinburg expedition to Makalu, where he made the first ascent of the right side of the west face, finishing up the west pillar.

Although this was a classic siege, technical difficulties were high and the team was above 7,400m for many days. Five, included Bolotov, summited, though two team members died.

The whole team was awarded a Piolet d'Or

Next year he climbed Everest for the first time, and then in 1999 was part of a four-man team making a new direct route up the north face of Thalay Sagar (6,904m) in the Indian Himalaya. The 1,400m line, High Tension, had reported grades of 7b and A3, and was climbed capsule style.

In 2001 he made a much coveted first ascent of Lhotse Middle (8,414m), at the time the highest unclimbed "summit" in the world. Bolotov was in the first summit party.

In 2002 he climbed Everest again, this time without oxygen, and in 2004 was  part of the team that made the first ascent of the true north face of Jannu (7,711m), an extremely technical climb at altitude.

The whole team was awarded a Piolet d'Or, so although Bolotov was not one of the summit party on this occasion, he collected his second Golden Ice Axe.

Thereafter he concentrated on the 8,000ers, summiting Dhaulagiri,  Cho Oyu, Manaslu and Kangchenjunga.

In 2007 he was one of the successful summiteers in the Russian team that made a hard new route up the west face of K2.

In 2009 he received the first Spirit of Mountaineering commendation, an honour inaugurated by the Alpine Club to celebrate people who " in the true spirit of mountaineering have shown unselfish devotion to help a fellow climber in the mountains, and in doing so have sacrificed their own objective or put their personal risk at safety".

Bolotov's was one of six climbers (including Urubko) who in 2008 had attempted to rescue the stricken Spanish mountaineer Inaki Ochoa de Olza from ca 7,400m on the east ridge of Annapurna.

Prior to Ochoa de Olza's demise, Bolotov had reached Annapurna's 8,026m East summit.

His actions on Annapurna were typical of the man, who was much respected.

Bolotov, a metallurgical engineer, leaves a wife and two children.

Thanks to Anna Piunova, mountain.ru, for help with this report
 



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