Who was Anatoli Boukreev?
Anatoli Boukreev was a Russian mountaineer, who ascended some of the highest peaks on Earth in his lifetime. He was one of the toughest mountaineers of all time with an extraordinary stamina as compared to his contemporaries. He made some of the most incredible ascents in the history of mountain climbing, some of them without supplemental oxygen. His expeditions were life-threatening because of avalanches, landslides, blizzards and many other mountaineering obstacles but his love for mountains was much greater than any hindrance that came up his way. He made ascents of seven of the fourteen eight-thousander peaks, i.e., peaks above 8,000 m, without supplemental oxygen. His daring efforts to save fellow climbers in the blizzard of 1996 on Mount Everest is considered one of the greatest displays of courage and determination in the history of mountaineering rescues in. But his spirited life came to end when he was killed an avalanche during an ascent of Mount Annapurna in Nepal. His body was never recovered which could be interpreted as his final act of devotion towards his cathedral, the mountains. He regarded the mountains as his place of worship and he became immortal through his passion for mountaineering which ultimately took his life.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born on January 16, 1958 in Korkino, Russia in a poor family. He completed his high school in 1975.
After high school, he got enrolled at the Chelyabinsk University for Pedagogy and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics in 1979. Alongside, he also finished his course for cross-country skiing.
After graduation, he moved to Kazakhstan and in 1985 he became a part of a Kazakhstani mountaineering team in order to pursue his dream of mountaineering.
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In 1987, he accomplished his first solo ascent of the Lenin Peak (7,134 m), on the border of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
In 1989, he climbed the third highest peak on earth, Kangchenjunga (8556 m), via a new route with ‘Second Soviet Himalaya Expedition’.
In 1990, he went along with American climbers in the ascent of Mt. McKinley, also known as Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America with a summit elevation of 6168 m above sea level. The expedition was successful and upon the team’s return, he completed a solo speed ascent of Mt. McKinley.
In 1991, he successfully completed his first climbing expedition to the highest peak on Earth, Mount Everest (8,848 m), via the South Col route.
In 1993, he was a part of the ascent to K2 (8611 m), the second-highest mountain on Earth, via the Abruzzi Spur, with Peter Metzger and Andy Locke. He faced a dangerous situation during this ascent, when his teammates suggested climbing the summit without taking any rest but he was exhausted and out of energy for the ascent. He was reluctant at first but agreed to climb and thus, on reaching the summit, he was so physically and emotionally drained that he did not feel the joy of victory.
In 1994, he climbed the Makalu (8476 m), the fifth highest mountain in the world, whose shape is a four-sided pyramid.
In 1995, he made the fastest ascent record on Dhaulagiri (8,167 m), in 17 hours 15 minutes. Same year, he again climbed Mount Everest, this time via the North Ridge route.
In 1996, he was the lead climbing guide on the ‘Mountain Madness expedition’ to Mount Everest headed by Scott Fisher, to reach the summit in one day. They were hit by a disastrous blizzard upon reaching the summit, which took several lives, including Fisher’s. Boukreev was able to rescue some of the climbers from this disaster with his courageous act.
Upon his return from Everest, he completed the solo ascent on Lhotse (8516 m), the fourth highest mountain on Earth.
In 1997, he was accompanied by Simone Moro and Dimitri Sobolev in the ascent of Annapurna I (8091 m), the tenth highest mountain peak in the world. At an elevation of 5,700 m, they were hit by an avalanche that took the lives of Boukreev and Sobolev. While Moro faced severe injuries, he was able to descent back to the Annapurna base camp and was flown to Kathmandu for surgery.
Awards & Achievements
In 1990, he decided to attempt a solo ascent to Mt. McKinley, the highest mountain peak in North America. He finished his ascent in a record time of 10.5 hours from the base to the summit and his feat was noted by ‘Climbing’ magazine in a 1990 issue.
In 1996, during his expedition to Mount Everest, he single handedly rescued three stranded climbers from the blizzard which struck them as soon as they reached the summit. It was described as one of the most amazing rescues in mountaineering history and he was highly praised for his act of gallantry.
In 1997, he was honored with the ‘David A. Sowles Memorial Award’, American Alpine Club's highest award for valor in recognition of his heroic role in rescuing three climbers in the 1996 Everest disaster.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1991, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, he acquired the citizenship of the Kazakhstan Republic.
He died on December 25, 1997 in an avalanche during a winter ascent of Annapurna in Nepal.
His girlfriend Linda Wylie traveled to Kathmandu in hopes of finding and rescuing him. But upon her arrival, she confirmed the news that there were no hopes of finding him alive. His body was never found.