Posted on: October 16, 2007

Editor's Note: This article can also be seen on Vince Anderson's Blog.

"It is the large, siege-mentality expedition that is an aberration, a sixteen-cylinder shark-finned gas-guzzler that should be relegated to the mountaineering junk pile where it so richly deserves to rust."

-R.G. Morse, The Naked Mountain


K2's mighty West Face is one of the greatest big mountain walls in the world and ripe for a beautiful alpine style ascent. This past summer a large, 18-person team of Russians converged upon Concordia intent on forcing a direct line up the steepest part of the face by any means necessary. Like they have done before on Jannu, they sieged the mountain, fixing ropes from base camp to nearly the summit, establishing seven camps enroute! Like Maestri and many others, they have left the refuse of their daftness behind to spite their detractors and litter the face; a not-so-subtle "fuck you!" to the others to follow like a dog pissing on the fire hydrant.

This expedition marks yet another unfortunate regression in mountain sport at the hands of Russians due to their insistence on adhering to such stillborn styles and attitudes. They call this alpinism? I call it what it is: disgusting, lame and weak! There is no reason for what amounts to the fleecing and raping of the ambitions of future—or, perhaps even the current—generations of inspired alpinists. The "Russian Way" is an agent of death to modern alpinism.

By late July they had breached the main difficulties of the wall, fixing ropes to over 8,000 meters. "The bastion has been climbed!" They would stay there as long as needed to push the route up the remaining 500 meters to the top. There would be little left to uncertainty. Like a machine, the 18-member climbing team would continue to slowly grind and manufacture their way up the face. This is much more reminiscent of a military exercise, not true alpinism. True alpinism is art; it is beauty, things that are quite the opposite of this folly. Hubris, narcissism, vanity and especially solipsism are their true inspiration. Three weeks later, the final 500 meters to K2's summit succumbed to their greedy hands.

Since these Russians—though certainly not all—clearly were unable to climb K2's West Face by fair means this summer, then they should have waited until they were able to do so. And, if it is—more likely—just beyond them, then they should have gone elsewhere and tried something that was within their means. Instead, they chose to bring the mountain down to their own pathetic level. Certainly, they should have left it for others who do have the skills, courage and vision to do so. It can be done.

While I am sure my ranting might easily be dismissed as just the jealous rants of a rival climber, I harbor no illusions that I might have been able to do the face justice myself. Still, I would love to have tried and would have humbly accepted defeat had it proved beyond me.

It is a true tragedy that this face has been violated in such a manner. It is forever changed both physically and psychologically. If there is any saving grace it is that in their efforts to force the route up the straightest possible line up the face, they left the obvious, much more elegant "crescent" line to the left untouched. Shame on these men for desecrating yet another great one in the name of the "Russian Way!" What these gentlemen really lack is imagination.

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You've gone too far, Mr. Anderson.You're making them look like criminals. I don't if this is jealousy or something else.

2013-05-21 18:05:55

.. but just another chapter in history of climbing. Alpine style is still pure and true. It will outlive this and I'm sure many others. They're just setting the bar, like they always have.

I'm with the majority of the folks here. You want to show them a 'not-so-subtle fuck you', go climb it alpine style.

2007-12-18 15:33:21

Until you'll make this western K2 wall in alpine-style this article will be your shame!!!

Positive sides of this climbing: 1. First climbing this route. 2. First climbing this year. 3. Climbing without local helpers (sherpa) 4. AND MOST IMPORTANT: WITHOUT DEAD! (remember ~30% dead climber percentage? Now it is a bit lower)

2007-12-17 06:32:26
Chris T

In his 2002 State of the Union address, US President GWB referred to Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the "Axis of Evil", there by alienating those nations and deepening the rift between their perspective and that of the some of the rest of world.

Former US President Ronald Reagan referred to the former Soviet Union as the "evil empire". Again, this categorization did little but alienate and annoy the accused.

Is Vince Anderson the GWB of climbing? Does this silly, hasty generalization, "The Russian Way", not alienate Russian alpinism/climbing? Are people from Russia not amazing athletes, capable of amazing feats? If Mr. Anderson is concerned with the current state of world alpinism perhaps he aught not chastise and criticize, but rather embrace and educate. It has always been my understanding that sugar will get you more than salt.

In this post, Mr. Anderson accuses these climbers of "hubris, narcissism, vanity, and solipsism". There's a saying about glass houses and throwing rocks, Mr. Anderson, which you need to review. Is it not hubris, narcissism and vanity that makes us compete in ice climbing competitions with our shirts off? Is it not hubris, narcissism and vanity which makes us publish and report our petty climbing accomplishments to the world? We all possess these qualities, for we are human. Please, Mr. Anderson, do not forget that your gobies bleed as well.

Mr. Anderson claims that "true alpinism is art; it is beauty..." and that this ascent is "much more reminiscent of a military exercise" and the team "like a machine...". The true artist recognizes the beauty of a flower as well as that of a mechanism. Mechanisms, such as an automobile or a coffee grinder, are beautiful as well. The beauty may, however, be different. A machine's beauty may lie in the acknowledgment, planning and subsequent satisfaction of a need. This is the art of engineering, Mr Anderson. Wasn't that spring-loaded-camming-device that saved your life in your last whipper not the most beautiful thing on the planet? How about your precious ice tools? Ice screws? Rope? How about every 'thing' you own? It has all been engineered. So, the implication is that you are not a true artist, Mr. Anderson, and therefore, by your own statement, not a true alpinist?

The statement is also made that "they chose to bring the mountain down to their own pathetic level". To think that 18 humans could bring a mountain anywhere is absurd. They used certain tools to move themselves and accomplish a certain job. So the question becomes, which tools are allowed in order to make a given ascent a "stylish" ascent? As I recall, Mr. Anderson, you used ice tools, ropes, etc on your ascent of the Rupal Face. Somehow this is an award-winning ascent and the other is not? Could one not make the claim that unless you free-solo, holding your breath, bare-foot, naked, hungry, thirsty and sleepless that you are not making a "stylish" ascent? At what layer is the line drawn? And deeper still is the question of who becomes the one to draw that line? My claim is that each of us must draw, and re-draw, our own lines, stripping down to only that which we feel is necessary to complete any given climb to our own standard of acceptable risk. It is not for any of us to judge another based upon where that person draws their line. Astroman has been free-soloed many times, so does that become the new standard for that climb, such that you shouldn't be allowed on it if you can't free-solo it?

Well, this rant could go on for many more pages, filling the Alpinist's servers and tearing apart Mr. Anderson's statement. But is there any use in doing so? No more use than criticizing any endeavor in the mountains: they are all frivolous when considering the state human existence. There are too many people who would see climbing, and climbers, abolished for there to be any animosity within the global climbing community.

To the climbers who made the first ascent of K2's west face, I congratulate you on an amazing feat of human perseverance in the worst of conditions. Perhaps next time it can be an international team (with me a member :)?

To Mr. Anderson: you have proven yourself, undeniably, and on multiple occasions, to be one of the most gifted athletes in climbing. But remember that in the larger scheme of things, climbing is nothing and that is it only the relationships we develop while climbing and living that make even life itself a worthwhile endeavor. And now it is time, Mr. Anderson, to prove yourself to be the man of humility and worldly understanding I know you to be, enlightened of of the differences between the cultures on this planet.

Mr. Anderson has one perspective on climbing, but there are many other perspectives. Please, everyone, do not forget the world is much bigger than any, and all, of us. Chinque.

2007-11-29 18:27:10

"nay-sayers who made the first ascents" should have read "nay-sayers who did not make the first ascent".


2007-10-18 12:53:09

When Batso first climbed El Capitan he employed the same techniques (anyone remember the "bat cart" for hauling gear?), and came under considerable fire, however, in retrospect the beauty of the line they created and the simple fact that they opened a climb that had been considered impossible prior to the ascent opened peoples eyes to what was possible. Your comments remind me of RR's after Batso and Dean climbed the wall of the early morning light on El Cap - as I recall, after RR decided to reclimb the route and chop all the bolts he stopped chopping when he discovered the beauty and technical nature of the route .... Perhaps the Russians are doing the same recon. Their methods were questionable, I'll agree, but the commitment to stay at altitude through some serious weather and to open the route cannot be ignored. Perhaps in years to come others will come to "clean" the route, to climb it in true alpine style. Who knows, others may, now that their line has been climbed, find other lines on the face which they can open in alpine style, much like the nose route has been climbed free and even free solo. Styles evolve, as do routes, often as a result of conflict and nay-sayers who made the first ascents. I may not agree with the Russians style, but given the conditions under which they climbed I cannot say that I, personally, could do any better. Others, no doubt, may feel to the contrary, and to them I suppose the wall is offering an open invitation to try.


2007-10-18 12:51:56

i agree that alpine style is purer and requires far more commitment then siege style. But I more important i think, like someone said in a magazine not too long ago, that long commting one push alpine round trips are the only acceptable way to ascend, and that everyone becomes more occupied acting as style police on the internet then actually climbing, free, aid, alpine or whatever they really love and enjoy.

2007-10-17 06:36:48

So go climb it alpine style with Steve, that'll show em'

2007-10-16 17:26:02
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