Валерий Бабанов закончил Французскую школу гидов ENSA в Шамони.
На сегодняшний день является единственным представителем из России, имеющим международный диплом Профессионального Гида UIAGM.
С осени 2002 года входит в международную ассоциацию горных гидов.
New route "Infinity Direct" on SW face of MacKinley.
We have just flied back from Alaska. Very tired, but very pleased, that we succeed to go through the route that we had conceived: to pave a new line on the enormous MacKinley South Face.
Finally we called the route “Infinity Direct”.
I was obsessed the idea of ascent all the year.
Fabricio and I tried it first time last spring of 2004, but we had to bale and return from the wall because of a heavy storm. And since that day a dream of this route completely took my fancy.
At home I even had put up a photo of the planned route on MacKinley on the wall having said to myself that one day I would come back and climb it.
Overall of the route - 1600 meters, and the extent - about 2 kilometers. The route represents a constant combination of ice, snow and rocky sites. The maximal complexity of mixed climbing - М4. But a pair of rocky sites, in my opinion, quite fit М5.
The total grade 5 (Alaskan) or Russian 5B.
More than a half of the route we simo-climbed: i.e. the leader climbs, put some racks and pitons, and the second simo-climbs and takes off all the left gear. And nobody stops.
Naturally, nobody counted the pitches. What a waste of energy to count up all the climbed pitches on such huge wall ... all the same you will get confused. Everything resolves into continuous movement.
But you have to trust absolutely each other, and to be good acclimatized at this altitude.
You have to take minimum of belongings and gear. Gas for one refueling, a little of chocolate sticks, 1-2 liters of water. Without sleeping bags and pads. It is possible to take bivouac sac or a very light tent in the case of storm. Everyone climbs with a backpack of 10-12 kg: it is no matter whether you climb the first or the second.
Such style of ascent is called “push climbing”. It is the easiest, fastest, but at the same time the most risky choice in "game".
On complex, extended routes and furthermore on first-ascents, such climbing style is used very seldom due to its physical overwork and riskinesses.
This consistence of the Alpine style is used by not many climbers in Alaska, on such mountain giants as MacKinley and Foraker where overalls frequently exceed three kilometers.
But in its turn there is “a reason” in such approach to climbing. You have more chances to be kept in a short window of good weather, more chances to avoid a sudden storm.
Weather is extremely astable and unpredictable. As a rule, higher than four thousand meters the temperature seldom rises negative 15-20 C.
During our acclimatization ascent on MacKinley in the early June, the temperature at the summit area was about negative 40-45C. At least, my thermometer went off scale.
A storm is the extremely unpleasant thing there. Snow falling, a gale-force wind, arctic cold - all of these are the integral specialties of Alaskan bad weather.
Before our ascent, we got a preliminary forecast with only one and a half day of good weather. It was not enough for such big wall as Southwest Face of MacKinley where altitude difference exceeds three kilometers: it is quite comparable to the Himalaya sizes, but the weather is worse than there.
Initially, we planned that if weather allows our “Infinity Direct” would merge with classical route West Rib at 4700 meters and we would continue climbing up to the summit, 6194 meter. It would be ideal...
But clean passing the new route without summit would quite suit us. Both of us understood that in our case the main object of our ascent was not the top.
The aim was a new route and the style that we were going to use.
We left the camp on June, 7 at . At we crossed a bergschrund. And right from there, from the altitude of 3100 meters, the real climbing began.It was not cold, and when the sun reached the wall it became just warm. Sometimes we climbed only in sweater without a windproof jacket.Periodically clouds enveiled the wall and visibility became to be very blurred, that we could not orient on the route.
But as a whole, climbing was very pleasant. The high altitude did not put its stranglehold, we could use friends and chocks without any problems, and the ice was not over-frozen.
Everything went on how it should be. We quickly added altitude.
But when we reached the place of merge of our route with West Rib at 4700m at about wind impulses and snow charges became so strong that it was obvious that any minute a heavy storm would come on.
We were feeling uncertain what to do next: to continue climbing upwards aside the summit or to descend on a snow plateau where the camp4300м was set. According the forecast the storm came for some days.
In good weather it would take us only 6-8 hours to get to the summit, but not that moment...
The increasing wind, snow and condensing black clouds forced us to vamoose... We had the good sense to make a wise choice and started to descend aside the snow plateau and people. The storm meanwhile gained its fury and already seemed one continuous snow mess around us.
Three hours more required us to search the pass in an ice-fall where we got, having lost the way in a fog and finally we got the equal place. The mountain seemed not want to let off the uninvited visitors.
When already at , we, very tired, piled into a warm tent of our friends from Alpindustria team settled at 4300m, we understood that we were out of the woods... We climbed the route and jumped out of tenacious embraces of bad weather.
P.S. Already now, after getting experience of two last expeditions to MacKinley area I am at loss to tell what area can be considered more as the main in a climbing season: i.e. you should train in Alaska to successfully climb in Himalayas or to train in Himalayas and then successfully climb difficult routes in MacKinley area?
It's an interesting thing but I never asked this question before.
“Infinity Direct”, a new route on MacKinley SouthWest Face (up to 4700m). Grade - 5 (Alaskan) Altitude Difference: 1600 meters. Total time: 14 hours. Valery Babanov, Russia - Canada Raphael Slawinski, Canada
Translated : Mountain.ru
Mt.McKinley SW face with "Infinity Direct" in the centr.
Mt.Mckinley SW face.
Mt.McKinley after two days storm.
Long way to McKinley.
Raphael Slawinski. West Buttress of Mt.McKinley.
Mt.McKinley West Buttress. Strong wind.
Mt.McKinley at 5700m.
Magic light on McKinley.
McKinley summit in the night.
Andrej Stremfel, Valeriy Babanov, Raphael Slawinski in Base Camp.