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Rescue Expedition (Bukreev A and Sobolev D)
How it was…
Every time Andryushka (Andrey Tselishchev) came to Almaty, we, in the company of our doctor Valentin Makarov, loaded into my old Volga, went to Anatoly Bukreev at Gorny Sadovod. The night of songs with the final “Zoyka” and discussions under the sauce of mountaineering memories charged us with a good mood until the next meetings. This tradition originated after our ascent of Dhaulagiri on the western face. Knowing how risky our passion for extreme climbing is, you least of all expect tragic cases for yourself and your friends.
The news of the tragedy reached our city three days after the avalanche descended on Anatoly Bukreev and Dmitry Sobolev during the ascent to the top of Annapurna.
Chairman of CSKA Kazakhstan Novikov P.M. and senior coach of Kazakhstan in mountaineering Ilyinsky E.T. decided to send a group of Kazakh climbers to the accident site.
The group was determined as follows: Rinat Khaibullin - head, Dmitry Muravyov, Sergey Ovcharenko and Andrey Molotov. A day and a half was spent on issuing visas, and on December 30 at night we drove by car to Tashkent, from where we flew to Kathmandu via Delhi.
We got to the Tashkent airport half an hour before the plane's departure. With the help of Shabanov and Radik Bakaev, we went through customs and boarded the plane.
In Delhi, there were no seats on Kathmandu, and the next flight was only early in the morning. After spending the rest of New Year's Eve at the hotel, we arrived in Kathmandu on a Nepal Airline flight and headed to the Gauri Shankar Hotel, where Linda Wylie, Anatoly's close friend, was waiting for us.
Departing from Almaty, we had absolutely no idea where we would look for the group, because after heavy snowfalls, the team changed the original climbing plan. We hoped to get information from Linda, but she was only able to provide an approximate climbing route, which she knew from the words of Simone Moro, Anatoly's partner, who miraculously survived after falling from eight hundred meters. By that time, Simone had already been transferred to Italy for treatment. Having contacted him by phone, we received additional information to search for Anatoly Bukreev and Dmitry Sobolev.
On January 2, according to the plan, I, together with the colonel of the Nepalese military aviation, took off in a four-seater helicopter in the direction of Annapurna. After two hours of flight, we found ourselves in the center of the rock-ice circus of the Annapurna massif. A giant ridge surrounds the glacier, and our task was to find the tent in which the climbers spent the night before the tragedy. After almost half an hour circling over the circus, I began to lose hope, but then the pilot noticed a point, approaching which we realized that it was a tent. After dropping me off at the base camp at 4100m, the helicopter flew back to Kathmandu. The next day, at eight in the morning, a Mi-8 MTV helicopter, piloted by our friend Sergei Danilov, arrived with the rest of the rescuers on board. To the noise of the blades, I began to explain where the tent was, set up on the wall at about 5900 m. Realizing perfectly well that we had no chance of getting to the accident site on foot (lack of acclimatization plus accumulated fatigue), I hoped only for the skill of Sergey Danilov . Having made several circles over the place of the avalanche, Sergey began to look for a site where we could land. Taking into account the complexity of the terrain, the possibility of a repeated avalanche, as well as the height of the landing, Sergey hovered two meters above the slope. Jumping down, I waved to the others to follow me. The helicopter went down into the valley.
When planning our departure, we hoped for a miracle - Anatoly and Dmitry managed to get out of the avalanche and waited for the rescuers to arrive. However, having reached the tent, we found there only things left by the climbers.
It's all over - a thought flashed through my head - an avalanche with an area of more than a hundred square meters is beyond our strength.
We, spreading out along the slope, began to search for any things that would help clarify the whereabouts of the guys. After several hours of fruitless searching, looking at the setting sun, I realized that a decision had to be made. To continue the search, that is, to spend the night at a height of six thousand, without acclimatization, without knowing the route of descent, was undoubtedly risky. Moreover, there was no rescue squad that could insure our four. The decision was made to descend. Having loaded some of the personal belongings of Anatoly and Dmitry into backpacks, our group began to move down. Splitting into two deuces, we went in the direction of the base camp. One of the avalanches that came down covered our deuce, fortunately, without consequences. The avalanche slopes around created a certain risk for the group, besides we were tired. Already in deep darkness we reached a safe glacier.
A month later, Linda organized a memorial day in Colorado dedicated to Anatoly Bukreev. This day was not a memorial day, it was a meeting of Anatoly's friends, slides were shown there and “Zoyka” sounded. There I met Simone, who had already recovered from his injuries. We decided to repeat the trip to the accident site next spring, when the snow melts. We still hoped to find Anatoly and Dmitry.
In March Linda, Simone and I met in Kathmandu. The helicopter dropped us to the site of the avalanche. New avalanches left no trace of the tent that served us as a landmark in January. We started the descent. And then another avalanche breaks Simone, and then me. After ten meters I managed to linger, Simone hung on my rope. Severe pain in the knee of the leg, stuck in the dense snow ... No, this time nothing happened. With redoubled caution we descend to the glacier. It can be seen that Anatoly is destined to remain forever in these snows.
Rinat Khaibullin

Chronicle of the last days
On December 29, a Nepalese army helicopter, under the control of Lieutenant Modan (a very experienced pilot who took out victims from Everest in May 1997), flew to the site of the avalanche. Simone Moro, despite his injuries, flew out with him. But the clouds did not allow them to land on the site of Camp 1.
Unfortunately, on December 30, Simone Moro was forced to fly to Italy for treatment. Before leaving, he described in detail the site of the accident and the organization of Camp 1. Camp 1 was built by them as the main intermediate camp under the slopes of Mount Fang near Annapurna. There was prepared a supply of food for 20 days, bivouac equipment. If Boukreev and Sobolev were able to dig out from under the avalanche and get to the tent, then they would have a real chance to survive and wait for rescuers. Only 50 meters remained from the tongue of the avalanche to the tent. That's what everyone was hoping for in the last days. The path from the base camp to Camp 1 was marked with stakes every 80 meters, Simone confirmed that they were clearly visible.
Moro also said that immediately after the accident he saw fragments of a backpack and other things in the chute behind the glacier, but he did not see any bodies and no one responded to his screams. His own injuries were quite serious (one eye was completely closed after the impact, the tendons on both hands were damaged), so after 20 minutes he was forced to start descending to the base camp. Generally speaking, the route was chosen very carefully and thought out to the smallest detail, intermediate camps, equipment, products were prepared. The avalanche didn't look very big, but it came down from a very high altitude interspersed with ice. Moro was 6,000 m higher than everyone else. Boukreev, with a supply of ropes, climbed along the railing, not fastened, about 100 m below. According to Moreau, at the time of the avalanche, he jumped to the right, but, unfortunately, he was on the line of the main blow.
On December 30, 1997, a group of climbers flew from Alma-Ata to the accident site: Rinat Khaibullin, Sergey Ovcharenko, Dmitry Molotov and Dmitry Muravyov. They set off from Alma-Ata along the route Alma-Ata - Tashkent - Delhi - Kathmandu. They arrived in Kathmandu on January 1, 1998 at approximately 13:00 Nepal time (10:00 Moscow time).
On December 31, the helicopter took off again with two Sherpas and Boukreev's girlfriend Linda Wylie. The plan was to land at Camp 1. In case of problems, the pilot should land the Sherpas at the base camp so that they climbed to Camp 1 on foot and reported the result to the pilot by radio. Arriving at the upper camp, the rescuers could not find any traces above the camp. They believed this was Camp 1. Back in Kathmandu, they contacted Simone Moro and identified the site as ABC (Advanced Base Camp).
On January 1, the situation is as follows. Arrived Rinat Khaibullin, together with Elisabeth Hawley and helicopter pilot Col. Modan, decided on the maps exactly where all the camps are located. Now Camp 1 was easy to find. Rinat was able to fully identify Simone's information about the location of the camp. After that, he flew by helicopter to determine the terrain and returned to the base camp near Annapurna. The entire Alma-Ata rescue team has moved to Pokhara awaiting news from Rinat and, depending on this, they are ready to fly to the advanced base camp or Camp 1. A large Russian helicopter is stationed in Pokhara, ready to immediately fly to Camp 1 for help and evacuation. If no one is found at Camp 1, the team will leave one Sherpa at the base camp for contact and continue searching in the area of the accident until January 10, after which they will return to Kathmandu. The route above the base camp is rather difficult, but everyone is ready: the team and the pilot have studied the geography of the accident site, there is a large supply of food and fuel in Camp 1. All hope is that Bukreev and Sobolev are in Camp 1. There were no snowfalls in the past days, and the route from the base camp to 5300 m is marked with clearly visible landmarks. The route crosses an icefall and is poorly visible, then rises to a plateau and goes up to 5500 m under the slopes of Mount Fang.
But after that, Kathmandu finally received information from the Sherpas, who made their way to Camp 1 through deep snow on December 31. They did not find the missing Bukreev and Sobolev in the camp, and no signs of bodies on the avalanche. There was no more hope.
On January 3, a rescue team flew to the site of Camp 1 to search for bodies in the avalanche. If bodies are found, they will call a helicopter to evacuate the body of Dmitry Sobolev to Kathmandu. If the body of Anatoly Bukreev is found, he will be buried at the place of death. This will be the most worthy place of his last refuge. The site of Camp 1 is located under the slopes of the steep wall of the top of Fang near Annapurna, which will become a beautiful gravestone for the departed climber. In the spring, climbers will be able to return and place a headstone on his grave.
If the bodies are not found, then the rescue team will descend to the base camp and return to Pokhara on foot. The helicopter will no longer be used. Simone Moro said that an Italian expedition to the Annapurna South Face is planned this spring, and they will be able to continue searching for the bodies in April.

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