The mountaineering game ends the life of the legend Dmitry Golovchenko | Sports

The game ends like this, in a brutal way: a man at the limit of his physical and mental resistance madly searches for the remains of his friend in the glacier at the foot of a terrible mountain: Gasherbrum IV (7,925 m, Pakistan). Sergey Nilov finds him, wraps his remains in the fabric of his tent and continues down, like a ghost, towards his base camp. Loneliness, unfathomable, becomes material and accompanies him like a sinister shadow. Incomprehension is mixed with the most painful of sadness. Dmitry Golovchencko’s body may never be rescued and it is almost certain that Nilov will never find a teammate like the one he has just lost, a friend with whom he spent years perpetuating his childhood, playing at climbing the most intimidating mountains that exist. In 1976, after climbing Changabang, Peter Boardman stated that there is no mountain that is insurmountable if you really try, a belief shared by Nilov and Golovchenko, two who did not need to look at the weather report before entering a wall. If you wait for good weather to arrive, you will never be a mountaineer, they believed. That’s why they displayed two Golden Piolets, the highest prize a mountaineer can win: they were happy times. Each triumph led to ecstasy and fed back into their voracity, taking them from one place to another walking increasingly on an invisible edge.

Thus, enduring wind, snowfall and hardly any visibility, they had been on the virgin southeast ridge of the G IV since last August 21. Moving forward by groping and biting. Launching brief messages via satellite to save battery: “Bad weather. Wind. Snow. We think about how not to eat.” In fact, they both knew perfectly well how not to eat so that the provisions they carried would last as long as possible. In 2019 they spent 18 days on Jannu, the last week without barely eating anything, after climbing the east face and completing an epic descent down the southern slope that led them to send a funny message: “We’re not kidding: we want to go down! ”. Only their immense experience allowed them to come out alive and smiling. On the southeast ridge of Gasherbrum IV nothing was rolled. Reaching the foot of the ridge was a small adventure in itself, a complicated journey through a labyrinthine and treacherous glacier and, finally, a little peace to pitch a tent at 7,000 meters and face from that point the most technical part of the route. But bad weather hit the Russian couple from the beginning. The reference website in the world of Russian mountaineering, Mountain.rua collaborator on the expedition, posted her daily telegrams with the same militancy with which she denounced the invasion of Ukraine a year ago, suddenly placing herself in a complicated and threatening situation in her country. He explained a few days ago that the couple reached an altitude of 7,580 meters on the mountain, but the details of the accident that ended Golovchencko’s life remain unrevealed, although it apparently occurred while they were trying to reach the summit and not during their retreat. as initially assumed. Although Nilov has already been to a hospital in Islamabad (Pakistan) where he is recovering from extreme fatigue and serious frostbite on both feet, the survivor does not have the strength to explain the details of the tragedy and his subsequent descent alone, a true nightmare. Only an exceptional mountaineer can remain alive after descending such a challenging route by himself. In fact, the couple’s original plans were not to descend the ascent route, but to look for friendlier terrain on the other side of the mountain.

Gasherbrum IV only has 17 ascents (in 2008, Alberto Iñurrategi, Ferrán Latorre, Mikel Zabalza, Juan Vallejo and José Carlos Tamayo reached the northern summit by climbing the northwest ridge) and those who face this mountain are also measured by the weight of the history, of its great surnames. In 1958, the incomparable Walter Bonatti and his Italian compatriot Carlo Mauri signed the first ascent, in this case along the northeast ridge, within an expedition led by the no less legendary Ricardo Cassin. If their climb was a remarkable feat, the epic of the Polish Wojtek Kurtyka and the Austrian Robert Schauer in 1985 was forever noted as the most wild, committed and visionary activity ever carried out: both overcame the west face, known as the shining wall, in strict and minimalist alpine style, enduring climbing pitches in which a fall would have killed them both and spending eight nights on the wall. To say, as is customary, that they went beyond any acceptable physical and psychological limits is to say nothing.

Nilov and Golovchenko intended, in turn, to engrave their name in the history of a mountain that only accepts pedigree surnames. Yes, they were going to suffer. They took that for granted. No, bad weather was not going to force them to give up. Yes, the game of mountaineering cannot be played if one is not clear about one’s obligations or the rules. In the game of mountaineering, a resignation is not a defeat. Only death is. And then, the game loses all traces of a playful experience.

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