THE CRACK

The hope dies last.


I was thinking that nothing would happen to me in the mountain ever. This way he thinks that surely every mountaineer perhaps they do not want to think about these things. For a healthy and young person the thought on the death is not habitual. But nevertheless, in high mountains the death can be to every step, in every moment, when you never wait for her. The one who found her although it is once, that one already does not think that it will not touch him. From 1988 July 28 is the day of my second birthday and of homage of my friend...

That day we go out very early, at half after two in the morning. Below, to this time they call him "the night". We have slept only two hours, but if we get up and go out it means that it is already got in ahead; every mountaineer knows it. The full moon behind the saw illuminates all the mountains, projecting his shades on the glacier. We want to spend the most dangerous part of this mass of ice before the sun goes out and that's why we are in a lot of hurry and have not breakfast. We do not even drink the tea. Simply, we get up, wrap ourselves up and go out...

The night is cold and the covering of the snow on the ice is quite solid. We take crampons. It is difficult to take the whole rope dragging between us, also I do not see my partner due to the darkness, from what I recover ten meters of the rope in a few returns around my body. Now between us there are thirty meters of distance. Entering in the shade of the moon we light the lanterns " Cyclops ", and going out of the shade extinguish them.

I have never liked the night march. There is something mysterious in this pale moonlight. With so strong darkness it is a difficult adivinar where the solid snow is and sometimes I sink up to the knee. My partner walks ahead, I am sure more of him that of me himself. He always found the way for three years that we do mountain together, and we have always returned from any complicated situation.

That difficult is to follow him! He comes from the rested, light, fast camp, but I go already three days without rest: climbing or assuring, mountains or march, from the camp "VCSPS" and in a moment here, under "Free Spain". But he goes quickly and does not allow me to breathe... Everything what he wanted is to put the face on the snow and to sleep. But I must relax not even a moment: so that to demonstrate my weakness!? Now I take breath, and forward... Host!

The snow does not support me, I sink almost in every step.

- Valera, waiting! I sink...
- It walks to four tops.
Although it is flat, way of toecaps. This way it is better, supports me. Suspect! If the ice axe breaks the crust and in front teeth... The crampons last, the ice axe lasts, I must not slide, must not be late...

It runs again... Not, I cannot any more, have to breathe... I am already completely sweated. Be, that it pulls the rope, he already will feel that I am stopped. How does he find the way in this labyrinth of cracks? The fact is that nothing is seen! And it runs non-stop. There it goes again... Where has it surrounded this crack? For the left side? There are no traces. For the right hand? This way, more to the right hand, more... Devil! The rope pulls very much. It has already gone above and to the left side.

- Valera: high place!
... It is already the time to happen. Is here the bridge. Now very attentive...

IT IS ALL

The time has stopped... In a moment the ground disappears under my feet. Instantaneously I have understood: the bridge of snow has fallen down, has broken suddenly. The time has stopped: a second lasts this eternity. I fall down to the abyss! What can I do? To shout.

Attention! Did he answer anything to me? It it seems: " Sanya! "

Or can it be that it me it has seemed? Ah, that matters! Just a minute... and I am fitted by the head down, clogged by the rucksack in the crack. Precisely I am fixed. With another word it is not possible to explain. Fixed and without being able to move. In this moment I understand it and it seems that I do not think anything special: I am alive. But in the following moment, it has spent one or two seconds, he falls down on me with all his weight, prensándome to the crack so much that is not possible not even to breathe. Later, slipping, he keeps on falling down, and later... I silence...

- Valera: do I live through these? - I am fixed by the head down, I will not support very much, it pulls the rope...
- Sanya: pull the rope! - He speaks prensando, almost it loses the breath. I understand with a moment that he is very badly and also I understand the most terrible thing:

THIS IS OUR END

I cannot even move. This is everything what I could answer. He wanted to say something more, to say that this is the end, that we are he-goats, who will never think us, that everything was so dumb... But there is no reason in saying, which is so clear. " End, end, end... " - it beats in my temples.

The desperation will only hurry our death.
- Valera: last! - it is me who says.
This is already for desperation, to give intention intentions more to me himself that to him. It is incredible to die like that: in a tomb of ice, it is not known where. Nobody will find us ever. They will start looking only on the following day of not having our news. In effect, a person inside the crack, even with the feet down, does not support any more than 40 minutes. How much time have we left? Approximately 10-15 minutes? It makes me sad for the children: that idiot his father! I make them orphan. That silly thing that thing about the mountaineering! I curse it! Give me a minute! If the miracle was happening and I would have left alive, it would never return to the mountains. To live through a few minutes more! Or God: all the desires of living!

... It is cold... I must move, this can add a few minutes to my life. To move, to move... That I silence so suspiciously! Why so much do I silence? Nothing of him is heard. It means, that does not move, otherwise would hear his respiration, since it is not that far, only to approximately 10 meters. I must call, it can be that simply he is quiet.

- Valera... Valera!
I silence... buried in silence...
...
I understood clearly - I am alone, alone in a grave of ice, next to a corpse. Horrible!.. Frightful!.. I even feel the smell of the body. Truly this is a bogey. A frozen corpse does not smell. I perceive the bitter one of the blood in my gullet... .Hace fry... How much time have I left? That easy simply to die! Only to close the eyes, to relax... and it is enough. Not, not, not! Not to relax! To fight!

TO FIGHT!

I am sick... The temples strike me: - East is your end, end, end... - The head turns me.
- I must concentrate!... What to do? What can I do?
- To move the left hand. - This way, here there is something. It is possible to reach the neck and unfasten the thong of the helmet. The helmet weighs very much, throws the head down. First of all I must raise the head, if I will not lose the knowledge after a few minutes.
- Come!.. More rapid!..
- With the glove I cannot.
- To the devil the glove! - I remove It with the teeth.
- Does the hand go away to freeze?
- To the devil with the hand!.. - I list, the helmet does not pull already the head, now it hangs by the insurance.
- I must throw everything what it bothers me, quite what stretches me down, quite what could.
- The glasses?...
- To the devil with the glasses!
- The fisureros " chameleons " of Germany, very expensive, were difficult to find...
- so that they serve a dead person?!
- Does he intern?..
- To the devil!
- The cable?..
- To start! More rapid, more... He thinks, thinks...
- What is this so sticky in my face?

- Ah, it is the blood that spills my nose. Not to relax! Reconcentrarme!..
- And now: what bothers me?
- The batteries in the pocket.
- Neither they bother so much...
- But I must do something: to unfasten the zipper of the pocket, to extract the batteries. The box is closed. First,.. second,.. third. I list!
- I have to, without absence, release the helmet. It is hanging by the belt. The fingers are frozen, do not want to obey.
- Where to warm them?
- Inside the mouth.
- I am going to breathe on them... This way... Already, it seems that they move.
- It tries again.
- To press the closing.., again.., more...
- I cannot any more, have no force... I have to rest...

Something sounds falling down down for the crack. Good, that means that the mosquetón was opened in spite of everything. The helmet does not throw me any more. Now I can rest... The this gullet it dries, bitter.

- I wish a water gulp, although it is of snow...

I spend the hand for the walls. Smooth, slippery, ugly. Nevertheless, I am covered of approximately twenty centimeters of snow. It is the one that fell down with the bridge. Oar the snow up to forming a ball and I put it in my mouth.
It melts slowly burning the mouth.: what waits for yet me in this world? In effect, it is so easy to close the eyes, to relax and...
- Not, this is the weakness! I must live! I must fight! To do something! To think! To think!
- It tries to take the rope from you.
- I can reach up to the pectoral mosquetón. Feeling the harness, I turn it, extract a knot and then other. - Now I am going to try to take the rope from myself. I pull a return...
- It does not go, it is clogged between my back and the wall.
- Try to wiggle her... and to pull, to pull, to pull with all your force until finally the ringlet comes loose. Then it extracts superficially other rings until I remove of your back the whole rope.

- Now I am not holding anything and do not hold for anything.
- I can throw the rope...
- Not, it is not possible to pull!
- But he is dead for time.
- If, and it is slightly probable that you keep on living.
- It is equal: it is not possible to pull!
- Perhaps will I be holding a dead person forever?
- But there is nothing to fix the rope.
- If you put it under you, in the snow, it will not go away nowhere.
- Now I can rest, "drink" the snow...

- And then that?..
- The most important thing is to unfasten the rucksack, I am hanging precisely by her. I can reach up to the lock.
- You must pull the lock towards you and then remove a thong.
-... I am going to try it... It is not so easy... Oysters! I cannot obtain it. The completely frozen this hand, I do not feel the fingers.
- You must warm them, or otherwise you will not be able to do anything...
Again I take the fingers to the mouth, breathe on them... To unfasten the thong of the rucksack at all costs. Perhaps, my life depends on it. Repeatedly I try to open the closing. Nevertheless, the thong was so fixed that the lock could not be opened by any means. I move myself all the time as much as I can, wail doing convulsions... In spite of everything: I have obtained it! The thong comes loose! Momentarily he could breathe easier: the shoulder left side was free and the arm also.

- Nevertheless, I must hurry.
The effort increases the blood inflow to the head. The knowledge clouds over me.. Removing of the shoulder the thong, I spend the rucksack inside the crack below me, making a support like that for the hand. I try to raise my body... But I do not obtain it.

The rucksack is too much below. Oar of that time the snow on me and her I am too tight on the rucksack. Thanks to this I have managed to rise a little supported on the right arm. But when the weight slackened, I crawl suddenly towards the depth of the crack. The impermeable suit slides excelentemente.
- I have to notice with the crampons. I do not want to fall down in the mouth of the wolf!
The cold of the ice penetrates more and deeper, stuns the muscles, paralyzes the willpower.
- I must move, must act, must fight!
I need a support for the hand. Although it is only a small protrusion, a roughness. Throughout there is pure, smooth, slippery ice.
- Is it possible to try to make a small detainee?
- But: with what? What do I have to do her?
- The mosquetones in the harness.
I extract a mosquetón and start scratching with him the wall. But the ice to this depth is more solid than a stone. The mosquetón leaves not even a small scrape. I despair.
- Is it possible that I remain here forever?! ¿? Is it possible that this is my end again?! How many times have I already died today?...: one was rotting to melt the snow and to form a prey?

Oar the snow towards a ball, I press it vigorously to the ice after my back and wait until it melts and sticks to the wall. I hope that it chatters and sufridamente, with great patience. I do not have another exit... The ball melts up to turning into a fingernail, and I load in her with the thumb of the right hand. At first I load little by little. It seems that it lasts.

- Now I am going to prove to raise my body with the hand.
- The risk is enormous. If the prey is started, you will fall down to the crack deeper.
- But I do not have another exit, the equal one I will freeze.

It is incredible! But the protrusion bears my weight. I raise my body with the finger of the right hand. Fixing the crampons, I move the feet backwards and above approximately ten centimeters and again I assure with the crampons. Now I fight only with the crampons hanging with the head down, but I can rest on the rucksack. Rising in the hand, I move again the feet behind. The crack expands above and the feet can bend. When I have managed to lower the feet along the crack with an angle of forty grades, I decide that it is already a time to put myself of foot.

But it is not so easy to do it, I have not even a support. Then, I catch to the trousers and attempt to join.

But the fact is that the feet are more above that the head, I cannot obtain it in any way... After several exhausting but unsuccessful tries, I take another decision. I turn round putting the face below, support the hands on the rucksack and move my body backwards and above as a crab, simultaneously throwing the right leg below. If in this moment the rucksack desencajara, I would fall down below with the head to the fund of the crack. Fortunately, the rucksack is not started.
To put myself on the feet in the wished position, I need to lower the right leg to the arms, which means to do a considerable espatarre. I crawl, drag, drag... I feel the hands frozen up to the limit. It seems that they are going to break. Pulling at weight of the whole leg, I unroll the body and taking again the left trousers drag my body and get up, raise...

IN FOOT

When I have managed to straighten up on the feet, I understand that finally I have a possibility. But when I look above at the walls suspended on me and by which there are hanging a few chuzas of ice of two meters long on my head without protection, I warn that how small my probability is, almost unreal.
I start having shakes, it shakes me as a fever. It vibrates every cell of my body, they strike the teeth, the cold comes up to the bones. The clothes wetted through are covered of a crust of ice. In these conditions I am helpless, helpless and weak. I feel lamentable and deplorable.
Suddenly I remember that I have a jacket of fluff in the rucksack. Inclining carefully I extract the rucksack and take with tremulous hands the jacket, but it is completely wet and does not warm anything. Nevertheless, the conscience of having it gives me forces, since in addition to the jacket, sack of the rucksack the rope and the nails of ice. Before this moment I was not remembering them. A pity that I have three alone, but without them it might not go out.

With frozen hands I screw a nail to the ice, connect the end of the rope with my body and other with the rucksack. Also I do a slipknot in the rope.
The rules to climb only I remember them well, I even practised them in certain occasion in trainings. Now all this knowledge is useful.

I look above. The crack rises above with an angle of 40-45 grades and after thirty meters it finishes with a wall extraplummet. I rise for the crack assuring to me every four or five meters, once installed three insurances I fix the rope and under. I recover two low nails and rise again for the rope with the slipknot up to the point where the rope is fixed, because I do not know exactly if I will have quite sane to come even above. This wall of ice hanging on me, and the exit is not seen. I recover the rucksack, fix it in the nail and rise above again.
I have done all these technical manipulations four times until finally I come at the end of the plane of the crack that ends with the collapsed wall. From below up fungi of ice stands out, and from above directly on my head they are hanging the stalactites of ice of two meters long. Each of them threatens to fall down and to cross me through. I do not want to think about this now and to lose my attention in them.
Now I must raise ten meters for the wall extraplummet and then conquer the cornice of snow of one meter.

I rise for the wall doing steps with the rope in every nail and putting the feet inside. When I approach under the cornice, the water starts falling down from above.
Apparently, out the sun went out and it warms the snow. I must hurry before they fall down the gigantic chupos. I am wetted up to the bones by the water and by the perspiration, all my body is frozen and answers badly. What more fear gives to me the fact is that in any moment the muscles can suffer a convulsion. When a muscle on vigorous starts hardening, momentarily I try to relax it. Nevertheless, I obtain it with difficulty. Then, hung on the nail, if I relax completely... at once I freeze. The most difficult thing was appearing ahead... He was not waiting for THE CORNICE: that luck that the ice axe has not fallen down! The fact is that not long ago I was looking alike that it was already going away to serve me. In that moment it was ready to throw everything. This means that there appears already a hope to go out of this frozen grave. The willpower to live pushes out of the crack. But as conquering this cornice? At first I try to divide it with the peak of the ice axe, moving to and fro in the rings of the rope. Nevertheless, I do not obtain it by any means. The peak sinks in the snow. Then, I try to fix the ice axe horizontally and to load it.

Again the defeat! With the load it jumps very easily, rotating in the soft snow.
- What to do? Is it possible that has not gone out and that never goes out of here? Think!... - I stoop and hang on the key, resting and thinking...
- First, I must raise for the ice above all that is possible.
I divide the hard snow under the cornice up to the ice and put the nail of ice more above, under the cornice. Then I do a ring and put inside the right foot. Now I am hanging under the cornice, inclining behind. In this position I harden and am a question of fixing the ice axe in the snow as above as possible with a small angle. Resting on him with the right hand, I harden in the right foot, the foot left side hanging in the air. The position is very unstable, but now I can already touch with the left hand the opposite rim of the crack: The hand without the glove slides for the ice.
Free me inside the rims of the crack only with the hands: one rests to the ice axe, other one to the ice. The legs are hanging on the abyss. I try to get up with the hands, but something does not leave me. The knot of the insurance brakes me. The arms tremble traicioneramente for the effort, every second I am weaker.
If the hand slides, the ice axe will not support this force and I will fall down. But seeing in one meter on the head the freedom, the sun and the life, it does not want to fall down.
- I must go down and cover the knot. - I start lowering slowly the body and flexionar the leg, until I am evident hanging.
- Of what are you hung? Because the knot is further down.
- To if, I am hung of the baga of the ice axe.
Hurra to! The ice axe bears me! This is:

THE VICTORY!

Now I can rest a little and rise for the ice axe. After a few minutes I throw five meters of the rope raising the knot it arrives. The most important thing is not stopping, not to lose the time, because with every minute it praises forces they go away.
- To working without limit! - The first movements are well-known: the foot to the stirrup, the right hand to the ice axe, to straighten up in foot, the left hand to the opposite cornice.
- Now, to excelling itself with the arms.
- That is. - Again I am in the disagreeable, very unstable position: a cross with the arms and the legs hanging on the abyss.
- To get up! To get up!
- Host! It does not allow anything me to raise again.

I look below. The right crampon has got hooked up of the step.
- is it possible that this is my end?!

Ten meters of the rope are sufficient to fall down again in the grave of ice.
- Not, not, I must support myself. To support me at all costs! I want to live!
The hands shiver for the effort, the left leg is hanging freely... I am going to try to get hooked up with her by the cornice.
I turn aside to the right hand and raise the left leg as above as it is possible to me up to the left hand, and I hook with the side teeth of the crampon to the cornice.
- It seems that it has bitten.
- Insurance?
I remove the left hand, and inclining very slowly towards the right foot remove the ring of the crampon. Now the right leg is free. I join completely with the hands on the ice axe, but the arms are absent. Then, I overcome the right foot up to putting it next to the left foot: In this position, the feet are more above that the head, because they are supported by the cornice of above. In this position, moving the feet and the head, I rise more and more above until the head reaches at the edge of the crack. Then I push myself with the feet and roll with the head down about the slope, until I hang by the rope. On me the blue sky, the sun, the life. Around only majestic mountains.

Minsk, 1988