Anatoli Boukreev : biography
Anatoli Nikolaevich Boukreev (January 16, 1958 – December 25, 1997) was an ethnic-Russian Kazakhstani mountaineer who made ascents of seven of the fourteen eight-thousander peaks, i.e., peaks above , without supplemental oxygen. He made 18 successful ascents of peaks above 8000 m from 1989 through 1997.
Boukreev had a reputation as an elite mountaineer in international climbing circles, (for summiting K2 in 1993 and Mount Everest via the North Ridge route in 1995) but became more widely known for his role in saving climbers during the deadly 1996 climbing season on Everest.
In 1997 Boukreev was killed in an avalanche during a winter ascent of Annapurna in Nepal. Boukreev’s girlfriend, Linda Wylie, edited his memoirs and published them in 2002 under the title, Above the Clouds: The Diaries of a High-Altitude Mountaineer.
Speed ascent of Denali
In May 1990 Boukreev was invited by an American climber to guide several clients to the summit of Mt. McKinley. McKinley, also known as Denali, has its challenges such as hidden crevasse and unpredictably cold weather due to its proximity to the Arctic Circle and the ocean.
The expedition was a success and the team reached the summit and returned without incident. During the climb there had been somewhat of a language barrier and Boukreev felt the sting of needing to borrow equipment due to his economic circumstances. After the team had returned home, and before Anatoli returned to the Soviet Union, he decided to attempt a solo speed ascent of McKinley.
Anatoli Boukreev’s solo speed ascent of Mt. McKinley in 1990 was completed in 10½ hours from the base to the summit. That season acclimated climbers were normally taking three to four days and five camps to summit — Anatoli’s feat was noted by Climbing magazine in a 1990 issue, and commented on by Denali Park rangers who described it as "unreal".
In 1993, Boukreev reached the summit of K2 via the Abruzzi Spur, where he shared the summit with two other men from his team, Peter Metzger and Andy Locke. K2 is the second-highest mountain on Earth after Mount Everest.
Galen Rowell described Boukreev’s rescue efforts in the Wall Street Journal as:
However, author Jon Krakauer was generally critical of Boukreev in his book, Into Thin Air. Subsequently, Boukreev was contacted by various media for a response, and also wrote his own account of the events on Everest in The Climb, a book co-written with Gary Weston DeWalt.
The core of the controversy was Boukreev’s decision to attempt the summit without supplementary oxygen and to descend to the camp ahead of his clients in the face of approaching darkness and blizzard. He was one of the first to reach the summit on the day of the disaster and stayed at or near the summit for nearly 1.5 hours helping others with their summit efforts, before returning to his tent by 5 pm on May 10, well ahead of the later summiters on his team.
Boukreev’s supporters point to the fact that his return to camp allowed him enough rest that, when the blizzard had subsided around midnight, he was able to mount a rescue attempt and to lead several climbers still stranded on the mountain back to the safety of the camp. Boukreev’s detractors say that had he simply stayed with the clients, he would have been in better position to assist them down the mountain, though it should be noted that every one of Boukreev’s clients survived, including the three (Pittman, Fox, Madsen) that he rescued on May 11 after he had rested and overcome hypoxia. The only client deaths that day were suffered by the Adventure Consultants expedition, led by guide Rob Hall, who lost his own life when he did choose to stay and help a client complete a late summit rather than helping the client descend and replenish.
In a response to Into Thin Air, Simone Moro had the following to say to Jon Krakauer:
Before returning to the States after the events on Everest in 1996, Boukreev climbed the 8,516 metres (27,940 ft) Lhotse, which is in proximity to Everest. He decided on the solo ascent because he hoped that in the process of climbing it he might find some inner clarity to what had just transpired on Everest.