Desperate Winter Climb in Russia

Fourth night on the wall. A delightful bivy ledge in the middle of the crux headwall on the north ridge. Courtesy of

The north ridge of Mizhirgi East (seen in summer) faces the camera on the far left side of the photo. Courtesy of

News Link: Hard-core winter climbing thrives in Russia, and a quartet of climbers has proved it again with the first winter ascent of the north ridge of Mizhirgi East in the Caucasus Mountains. Though little-known in the West, 16,165-foot Mizhirgi East is a satellite of Europe’s second-highest mountain, 17,073-foot Dychtau, which has a steep, serac-laden, 6,500-foot north face. The north ridge on the far left side of the Mizhirgi-Dychtau wall, firstclimbed in 1952, had never been attempted in winter.

Sasha Gukov, Alik Izotov, Sergey Kondrashkin, and Viktor Koval left base camp on January 2 and crossed the bergschrund the following day. In very stormy weather, they climbed the north buttress over five days. They reached the summit of Mizhirgi East on January 8 and traversed to the higher western peak, before descending to the south and traversing around the mountain over the next two days. 

High wind and spindrift, temperatures to –20°F, sitting bivouacs, two lost packs, and a climber buried by an avalanche during the descent (but saved)—this climb offered the full mix of winter challenges. Read about it and see more photos at

Date of Ascent: January 2009 


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