Here part 2.
THE "YOUNG ONE" DEALT THE CARDS
Alexander Abramov spreads before me the photos from the expedition album and continues his story:
- Seven mountain climbers plus Marat left from Moscow to the expedition to the sixth highest peak of the world. In Kathmandu we were joined by four sherpas and a Nepalese cook.
Every participant was a mini-sponsor of the expedition: we gathered 12 500 US dollars, without considering the cost of visas, airline tickets...
We left on 11 September.
... When we arrived in Kathmandu, many members of the expedition didn't know how to be with Marat. He is a very well-known person, even in Tibet people recognised him on the streets. Everyone wanted to have a picture with Safin. Marat did not reject the Nepalese people: "And you want to have a photo for the memory, come here, dear friend".
He generally seemed to be a very open person, not being a star at all.
Possibly because Marat understood: his habits and achievements on court will not help to climb the mountains.
He walked in the same clothes than us, ate tender mutton from the common pot, borsch from the culinary specialist Yuri Beloyvan, slept in the rooms for four in cheap hotels of Dzhangmu, Nyalam and Old Tingri, after getting into the sleeping bag (we feared not the cold but to catch louse). How Marat was able to get into the sleeping bag with his height is a riddle. But with stoicism he continued to fight with the sleeping bag also in Tibet, after becoming a constant object of jokes.
Safin was not offended. He himself joked a lot too. But he didn't want to play poker with us in the evening: "Guys, let me as the youngest one better deal you the cards, but you play as much as you like ".
- Well and you, of course, didn't drink alcohol? - I pour tea into Abramov's mug.
- We took a little alcohol with us - a bottle of Australian wine for each participant of the expedition. Therefore we enjoyed life practically without any alcohol.
NIGHT OF TENNIS IN KATHMANDU
- In the mountains Safin, in my opinion, like thawed: he jested, he was the soul of the company, told anecdotes. But I didn't ask him about tennis, although I myself like to run on the court with the racket in my spare time. Well, about what to ask: how to serve? It is stupid. But there was one day in Kathmandu, the night, when Safin told to us about tennis for two hours.
We were gathered on the flat roof of a house, as guests of Katya and Igor, my friends who live in Nepal for ten years already. The sky was full of stars like candles on the chocolate cake, the table was set, Marat was relaxed like a cat in the hammock. My friend Sergey Kofanov took a guitar. We sang, laughed, thought, "how great that we are all here...".
And here Dima Moskalev asked Safin, how much does a real tennis racket cost. Simply asked, and as a result we listened to the lecture for two hours and were fascinated : who and why wins in big tennis. And due to what it's possible to beat the invincible Roger Federer on hard, and Nadal on clay. It's a pity that none of us surmised to switch on the dictophone. Marat talked, talked, like he tuned himself up for the future victories...
TO THE MOUNTAIN WITHOUT THE ICE-AXE
- Safin was the focus of attention. Didn't this cause any conflicts among the participants in the expedition?
- It's bad when differences in the team surface. I am not a bad psychologist, from the childhood I sense possible conflict situations. I foresee problems in the group for a couple of days ahead. So here, the presence of Marat joined us all together, everyone wanted to give him valuable advice: how to bind knots and laces on the boots, to cope with the tent, to climb on the cliffs and to get down ... The microclimate in the group was excellent.
- Marat really did subjugate the apexes of Nepal with the ice-axe?
- In Kathmandu we spent four days getting permission for the ascent. On 15 September on two jeeps we left for the mountains. Our route: Kathmandu - Dzangmu - Nyalam - Old Tingri - base camp - ascending - base camp - Old Tingri - Nyalam - Dzangmu - Kathmandu.
Marat reached with us only the base camp, it was at 5100 meters, this is almost the height of Elbrus.
As we moved to the base camp, we simultaneously completed two ascendings. On 16 September we rose to the mountain Murat (4100 meters), on 19 September we ascended Shigar (4700 meters). Marat went with us, only without the ice-axe, because ice-axe could prove useful only at the height of 6400 meters, not earlier. So Marat didn't change the tennis racket for the ice-axe, as they romantically wrote in some newspapers. He just didn't have the chance. To Murat and Shigar he ascended with the telescopic stick.
During the ascending I had to check on Marat. The spirit of competition in the mountains is unacceptable. "Calmer, Marat, calmer". I don't need dramatic episodes in the mountains, guys fighting with each other. He understood that.
But when we rose to the first apex Murat, outwardly calm Safin started to dance like a kid! And rose his arms proudly. Probably he didn't rejoice the Davis Cup victory that much. I of course congratulated him only after descent from the mountain: mountain climbing is not tennis. Victory here means the ascent to the apex and the successful descent.
MARAT IS NOT A DUNCE
- How did Safin explain his departure to Moscow?
- He made the decision to return in the base camp. I think he made the right decision. Because Safin is not a mountain climber, he is a tennis-player who has contractual obligations to the sponsors. When Marat climbed the mountains, he did not represent his country, he used his vacation in order to get new emotions and impressions.
Ascending to Cho Oyu, as to any other 8000-meter-peak is dangerous at any time of the year! No one can guarantee security at the heights higher than the base camp and especially higher than 7000 and 8000 meters. He left on the jeep back to Kathmandu. And on 23 September he was already in Moscow at the Davis Cup semi-final.
Abramov looks at the watch, his story is approaching the end.
- What I think of him now? He is an honest and a very good person. In the mountains I understood why this man will never cheat and get himself a point when the ball was out. And Marat is not a dunce by nature. I often lead well-off, successful people to the mountains, some of them think that they must be successful in everything, even in mountain climbing. And here frequently occurs the psychological breakage, people begin to panic, facing the external problems. Indeed we are only successful in a specific sector of life.
In contrast to the "successful dunces" Safin did not whimper in the mountains. Guys were upset after learning about his decision to return to Moscow. He had managed to become one of us in our team. Therefore I sincerely wish for him as the best mountain climber among the tennis players to conquer new apexes. But should Marat start feeling spleenful again I myself will invite him to the mountains. On 10 October Alexander Abramov's group completed a successful ascending to Cho Oyu. They ascended to the apex: Konstantin Zhelezov, Alexandr Abramov, Yevgeny Semenov, Yuri Beloyvan, Alexander Chesnokov, Dmitry Moskalev. On their way up Abramov managed to rescue a Taiwanese mountain climber who had broken his foot. Transporting the guy, Abramov clicked him to his protection rope and descended with him 25 meters on the vertical ice wall.
43 years old, USSR master of sports for mountain climbing, professional mountain climber. Instructor, mountain guide, high-altitude cameraman. Active member of Russian geographical society. He has accomplished ascendings in the mountains of Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, France, Switzerland, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, USA, Argentina, Indonesia, Tanzania, Nepal, Tibet, Crimea (Ukraine), Guinea, Alaska, Australia, New Zealand.