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K2 summit push special: Aggei’s SMS from the NW ridge, "Forgive me father for I am fed up"

2 October 2008

02:26 pm CDT Aug 23, 2007
(K2Climb.net) A few days back, ExWeb published an image of a Kazakh kid in a high camp on K2’s NW ridge. He looked at the camera with the eyes of a young man at his limit.

ExWeb contributor Andrey Verkhovod has provided the face with a name, a story – and a confession.

The kid’s name is Aggei Skopin – at 22 years old, he is the youngest member of the Kazakh team, and K2’s highly difficult NW ridge is his first climbing experience above 7,000m.

Dear Father Alexander – I’ve had enough

Overwhelmed after 10 days working non-stop on the route regardless of bad weather, and a night spent without O2 at 8,000m, Aggei let his thoughts flow in an SMS to Father Alexander – a long-time friend of the Kazakh National team members back home in Almaty.

“Hello Father Alexander,” Aggei wrote on Aug. 19. “We returned down to BC two days ago, for a rest before the summit push, which will be launched on Aug. 24. I have decided not to take part in the bid … I’ve had it after a night spent at 8,000m – I am fed up.”

The climber is instead hauling gear and supplies for the summit group up to 5,000m, and will then retreat back to BC. Aggei did, however, add a note in his SMS on something he felt proud of:

Taking the church up on K2

“I did take many photos with your magazine – I will show them to you when I return,” he wrote. “I took the magazine with me every time I climbed on the route, stuffed in my backpack :).”

The magazine Aggei is referring to is a bulletin published for his parish by the Russian Orthodox Church in Kazakhstan, Andrey explains.

“On the cover of this particular issue was a photo of Father Alexander’s new church,” Andrey said.

Father Alexander’s new church is very special for the Kazakh National climbing team, since they helped to build it one year ago. Leading member Denis Urubko even hung from a crane to place the golden cross on top of the dome (see previous story).

A Soviet 1st degree climber facing the death zone

As for Aggei, he will turn 23 on Sept. 10 – but that doesn’t make him a climbing rookie. In addition to a university degree in IT, he holds a “1st climbing degree,” according to the good-old Soviet scale of sportsmanship, thus proving he has already dealt with many difficult routes in Central Asian ranges.

He had never climbed above 7,000m, though, and K2’s NW ridge is definitely a tough introduction to the death zone.

Summit push is on – no matter the weather

Meanwhile, the team’s strategy has been respected, and the climbers have set off from BC today, in order to launch a summit push tomorrow. In sat-phone chat, Andrey asked Aggei whether the team would wait for a favorable weather forecast.

‘Surely not,’ Aggei said. ‘We will go as planned.’

The summit push will be led by the most experienced climbers on the team: 11×8,000er summiteer young guns Maxut Zhumayev and Vasily Pivtsov, together with veterans Sergei Brodsky (Kangchenjunga w/o O2 in 2002), Andrey Puchinin (Elbrus speed climb winner and Snow Leopard in just one season) and Russian Sergey Bogomolov (twelve 8,000ers bagged).

“It seems that coach Iljinsky has decided to send his best warriors for the definitive attack, preserving the younger climbers for future expeditions,” Andrey said. “All camps and ropes are ready for the summit bid – all the team needs is good weather and good luck.”

Maxut and Vassily – taking the rookie along?

Maxut and Vassili may have included one of the rookies in their summit group – according to a later dispatch today, 23-year-old Alexander Sofrygin has set off from BC with the two climbing aces.

“Alexander’s experience is similar to Aggei’s,” Andrey reported. “The highest peak he has summited is Khan Tengri, which he bagged back in 2004. Alex is currently doing regular two-year active service in the Kazakh Army, in the military’s special mountain unit.”

“Both Aggei and Alex are members of the Central Kazakh Army Sport Club (CSKA), as are almost all Kazakh members of the current NW ridge expedition,” Andrey said.

“So are Denis Urubko and Sergey Samoilov, who will soon arrive at the Base Camp of K2’s north side. It is important to note, however, that only few of them are Kazakh Army servicemen — in this case only Alex and Denis Urubko are members of the Army’s special mountain unit.”

The climbing idols factory not just for military

“CSKA is a sports organization whose members do not necessarily have to serve in the Army – it is quite an open club,” Andrey explained. “For many years, since Soviet Union times, it was a breeding unit that brought up many (I would say most) of the greatest Kazakh climbers, including Anatoli Boukreev, Valeri Khrishchatyi, Zinur Khalitov, Kazbek Valiev, Vladimir Suviga and others – not to mention the current breed.”

CSKA is a sort of highest-quality training machine, with old traditions and history that continually attracts new ambitious guys…and girls. Attention on rising star Svetlana Sharipova, who recently scaled Dhaulagiri together with Denis Urubko and and Sergey Samoilov – she is also a member of CSKA.”

Their names have become familiar to the international climbing community: Maxut Zhumayev, Vassiliy Pivtsov, Damir Molgachev, Serguey Brodsky, Denis Urubko, Serguey Samoilov…and Anatoli Boukreev. They are the Kazakh climbers, at times coached by Ervand Iljinsky, and always looked after by father Alexander, a priest in Almaty.

Kazakhstan holds great history and a lot of heart. It is the original site for “Star City”, former Russia’s Space Center. Baikonur Cosmodrome was the launch site when Gagarin became the first man in Space, and this is also where Marcos Pontes, Brazil’s first man to be sent to space, landed yesterday, together with space-time record holder cosmonaut Valery Tokarev and American astronaut Bill McArthur.

Kazakhstan is the place for the speed climbs and scary avalanches at Khan Tengri. As for the Kazakh climbers – they too have lofty goals, and are well known to be tough.

A team launched by the Central Kazakh Army Sport Club (CSKA) is currently attempting K2’s NW ridge, on the mountain’s Chinese side. Young star climbers Maxut (Zhuma) Zhumayev and Vassily (Vaso) Pivtsov have summited eleven 8000ers. The two were the first non-sherpa climbers to reach the summit of Everest this season (no O2) and were awarded Best of ExWeb for a double header of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna last year. Barely 30 years old, the two Kazakhs walked to the peaks and climbed each in one single push.

Russian Serguey Bogomolov is joining this dream team with twelve 8000ers summited and following a tragedy on K2’s Abruzzi Spur last year when an avalanche killed his team mates. Baglan Zhunussov and coach Ervand Iljinsky lead the expedition.

Andrey Verkhovod, a climber from Almaty, has been feeding ExplorersWeb valuable information on Kazakh mountains and climbers for years.

After 10 days working non-stop on the route regardless of bad weather, and a night spent without O2 at 8,000m, Aggie pushed send on the following SMS: “Hello Father Alexander, I have decided not to take part in the summit bid…I’ve had it after a night spent at 8,000m – I am fed up.”


Aggei will turn 23 on Sept. 10. In addition to a university degree in IT, he holds a “1st climbing degree,” according to the good-old Soviet scale of sportsmanship.

“I took the magazine with me every time I climbed on the route, stuffed in my backpack,” Aggei told Father Alexander. Image of the Magazine’s cover showing the new church by Andrey Verkhovod .

“It seems that coach Iljinsky (left) has decided to send his best warriors (Puchinin on his right side) for the definitive attack, preserving the younger climbers for future expeditions,” Andrey said .

“All camps and ropes are ready for the summit bid, all the team needs is good weather and good luck.” Image of Brodsky climbing to C4.

23-year-old Alexander Sofrygin (in image) set off from BC earlier today, together with aces Maxut and Vassily.

Author:
Andrey Verkhovod
Source:
http://www.k2climb.net
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