Anatoli Boukreev was a Kazakhstani mountaineer who ascended 10 of the 14 eight-thousanders without supplemental oxygen. He bagged 18 successful over 8000m ascents from 1989 through 1997. Other than that, he became the world’s most prominent for rescuing the climbers in the 1996 Mount Everest disaster. In 1997, during a winter ascent of Annapurna, Anatoli Boukreev died, aged 39, due to an avalanche.
Who Is Anatoli Boukreev? Bio
Anatoli Boukreev was a Soviet born on 16th January 1958 in Korkino, Russian SFSR, USSR. He grew up in poverty, coming from the narod, the ordinary people.
In 1975, upon his high school graduation, Boukreev enrolled at Chelyabinsk University, majoring in Physics. In 1979, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Science. Around the same time, he finished a coaching program for cross-country skiing.
Out of nowhere, mountaineering caught Boukreev’s attention. He then relocated to Alma-Ata (now Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan). There, he started working with the Kazakhstani mountaineering team. After the Soviet Union broke, he took Kazakstani citizenship in 1991.
During the 1990s, he worked as a commercial guide, eventually landing with Scott Fischer‘s adventure company Mountain Madness. And yes, he was one of the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster survivors and rescued many climbers, including Sandy Hill Pittman.
Anatoli Boukreev’s Climbings
In 1987, Boukreev ascented Lenin Peak(7,134 m) solo. Two years later, he sumitted Kangchenjunga (8,586 m) via a new route with Second Soviet Himalaya Expedition on 15th April 1989.
In 1990, the American climber invited Boukreev to guide them to the summit of Denali, Alaska. The expedition succeeded, with the team reaching the summit and descending without harm. During the expedition, Boukreev faced some language barriers and more than that; he felt the sting in his heart when he had to borrow equipment due to an economic crisis.
Before returning home, he decided to assist Denali solo. He summited Denali in 10½ hours from the base to the summit. His achievement was unbelievable and was soon noted by Climbing magazine in a 1990 issue.
On 10th May 1991, Boukreev summited the 7th highest mountain in the world, Dhaulagiri, as part of the First Kazakhstan Himalaya Expedition. On 7th October, he summited the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, via the south col route.
On 14th May 1993, he summited Denali for 3rd time.
The following month, he headed for the world’s second highest mountain, K2 (8,611 m), ascent via the Abruzzi Spur with German’s Peter Metzger and Australia’s Andrew Lock. K2 got Boukreev drained and exhausted. He said he did not feel victory summiting K2. Instead, he found himself surrounded by nothing but danger.
About K2 ascent, Boukreev wrote, “During my years of training as a ski racer, and then as a mountaineer, I had learned how to wring out the last of my energy for a finish. But this is dangerous in mountaineering, because the summit is not the finish of your competition with a great mountain. To survive you must be able to get down from the forbidden zone.”
In 1994, Boukreev summited Makalu II (8,460 m) on 29th April and Makalu (8,476 m) on 15th May.
The following year, he summited Mount Everest, this time via the North Ridge route. On 30th June, he guided the President of Kazakhstan to Peak Abai (4,010 m). By 8th October, he was on top of Dhaulagiri (8,176 m), holding the fastest ascent record (17h 15m). Exactly two months later, he summited Manaslu (8,156 m).
1996 Mount Everest disaster
Signing up as a guide to Scott Fischer’s adventure company Mountain Madness, Boukreev summited Mount Everest on 10th May 1996. That day, he was one of the first to reach the summit. He stayed at or near the summit for nearly 1.5 hours, helping his clients and others to the summit.
By 5:00 pm, a devilish storm struck, disorienting many climbers above the South Col overnight. The following day, eight climbers from three expeditions lost their lives due to a blizzard.
However, taking up significant challenges, Boukreev successfully rescued three climbers above 8000 m. Mountain Madness expedition’s all six climbing clients survived but lost its leader Scott Fishers.
Overnight, Boukreev became subject to the most sensational rescues in mountaineering history. Why was it given so much praise? Because he went on to rescue a few hours single-handedly after climbing Everest without oxygen.
However, his bravery was overshadowed by Jon Krakauer’s book, “Into Thin Air.” Various media urged a response and reply from Boukreev on Krakauer’s claims. Later, in his defense, Boukreev published “ The Climb,” a book co-written with Gary Weston DeWalt.
He was mainly dragged into controversy about his decision to summit without supplementary oxygen. The next controversial thing was he descended to the camp ahead of his clients. By 5 pm, he was already in the tent on May 10.
In the storm, the Adventure Consultants expedition suffered the only client death that day, led by guide Rob Hall, who lost his own life while descending. Krakauer mainly criticized the guide’s decision to stay and assist a client for a late summit rather than helping the client to descend, which would be much safer.
Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner also pointed to Boukreev, saying, Boukreev was inaccurate in guiding Everest without supplemental oxygen.
Similarly, an American mountaineer and filmmaker, David Breashears, criticized Boukreev stating, despite descending first, he was already down, sitting in his tent, which definitely caused the client to lose guidance and be unassisted during the storm.
According to Krakauer, Boukreev could not fit into the role of a standard guide. There was a dispute between him and Scott Fischer, who died returning from the summit.
On the way to the summit, Fischer directed Boukreev to look after and guide the group. On the contrary, Boukreev reportedly remained at Base Camp and followed the group five hours later.
When a client named Dale Kruse fell ill, Fischer was forced to go down with him to base camp after Boukreev was not with the team. Fischer encountered Boukreev at the Khumbu Icefall. Fisher complained about Boukreev to publicist Jane Bromet and business partner Karen Dickinson at base camp.
After the 1996 Everest Incident
On 17th May 1996, Boukreev submitted the 8,516-metre (27,940 ft) Lhotse solo without supplemental oxygen, recording 21 h 16 min from Base Camp.
On 25th September 1996, he guided the third Kazakhstan Himalaya Expedition to Cho Oyu (8,201 m) summit. On 9th October 1996, he summited Shishapangma (8,008 m), the 14th highest mountain.
In April 1997, he returned to Mount Everest ascent as a guide for an Indonesian military expedition. On 23rd May 1997, he summited Lhotse and Broad Peak (8,047 m) on 7th July 1997, solo. On 14 July 1997, he solo climbed Gasherbrum II.
Boukreev was the recipient of the “David A. Sowles Memorial Award”, which recognizes people for unselfish devotion at personal risk in assisting fellow climbers imperiled in the mountains.
You may also like:
Death At Mt. Annapurna
In 1997, Boukreev began an attempt to summit the south face of Annapurna I (8,091 m) with fellow professional mountaineer Simone Moro and Dimitri Sobolev, a Kazakhstan cinematographer. They were documenting the attempt. On 25th December at noon, an Avalanche from the heights of Annapurna’s Western Wall rumbled down the long couloir where Moro and Boukreev were fixing the rope.
Fortunately, Moro managed to dig himself out after a few minutes and soon descended to Annapurna base camp. He was rescued by helicopter and flew to Kathmandu for treatment. Meanwhile, Boukreev or Sobolev was swept up by car-sized blocks of ice and was never found.
In his memory. chorten is built at the site of Annapurna base camp, carving his favorite quotes.
“Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion.”
Forever On Mountain!!
Was Anatoli Boukreev Married?
Anatoli Boukreev was never married. But, yes, he was survived by his girlfriend, Linda Wylie, who flew to Nepal after hearing about the Annapurna Avalanche accident. Several rescue missions were attempted, but bad weather prevented search teams. On 3rd January 1998, the searcher’s group finally reached Camp I only to see an empty tent.
Anatoli Boukreev’s body was never found.
With no hope, Wylie stated from Kathmandu, ” This is the end… there are no hopes of finding him alive.”