Forums Trip Reports New name in Mount Elbrus region: Toothpick Couloir
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    It seems that there are no places here, where the foot of man has never stepped or the wavy autograph of a pow-lover has never been signed. Well, no! After a thorough inspection one will certainly find a sweet line, attracting with its untouched beauty and beckoning particular riders with its fresh fluffy goods.
    One of such places was a scenic ridge, situated between the ridge of Mt. Tcheget and Main Caucasus Range, named Shark’s Teeth because of many gendarmes. Finely visible from the crest (called “Balda”) of Mt. Tcheget harsh rocky wall, dark because of northern exposure, formerly made dozens of riders dream of being first to ride it.
    But for many years it was unsubdued – until one fine sunny day in March, when two foolhardy adventurers having put their fleecy skins on and having put their backpacks on went making history…
    After a thoughtful overlook and long discussion they’d chosen the couloir going down from between the 5th tooth and the 6th tooth. Classical couloir looked like the easiest and the most rational line. Several other variants were rejected because of their technical difficulty, as for the approach and also with respect to the descent – any mistake would cause hundreds of meters of fall. We left that for future heroes – that couloir was quite enough for us.
    Weather report promised two days of good weather and we couldn’t delay. We decided to spend the first day for developing attack: to find out the best approach, to figure out the amount of work and necessary equipment, and to reach the desired goal on the second day.
    There were 3 variants of the ascent:
    The most obvious – to climb the couloir, but its steepness and probability of avalanche release were frightening.
    The safest – to climb one by one all the 5 teeth on the ridge, but it was technically difficult.
    The last – to skin the other (southern) side of the mountain, according to maps it should be of moderate steepness, but we hadn’t any photos or other information…
    So tactical plan for the first day was:
    to consider the approach on the southern side, if the ascent was impossible, too difficult or unsafe – to get to the technical part of the ridge and to estimate its difficulty. From afar it looked like 2B-3A (according to Russian system of classification). In the case of lack of equipment – to postpone till the next day.
    So, on the 9th of March they were standing on Donguz-Orun Lake, putting on their skins under burning sun and trying to get tuned for one of the most exciting adventures in their lives. After 15 minute long preparation they leisurely made their way towards passes of Main Caucasus Range. It must be said that preceding groups usually had been stopped here by signal fireworks and submachine guns’ shooting into the air – frontier troops don’t really like unregistered presence in the border zone. But those fellows were peculiarly prepared with permits in their pockets and frontier post being aware, so the first 300 vertical meters they passed in majestic silence of the mountains, which had been broken from time to time only by sounds of restless wind straying in curved folds of ancient glacier moraines.
    1.5 hours later, having surmounted the tricky labyrinth of intricate terrain the two skinners were standing in the middle of huge circus like gladiators before Caesar getting ready for final battle, excitedly discussing the path. Southern side of the ridge has revealed its secrets except for the main one – where the starting point of the couloir was.
    Decision was made only after doing away with a chocolate – if from the North the couloir is next to the 5th tooth, then probably we should count to 5 here either? But it should work only if all of the teeth were equally visible from both sides. We had to rely on this assumption because we didn’t have any other idea, and we still had an extra day to correct possible mistake, and that gave us hope…
    After another 200 meters of vertical on skins baked by the sunlight adventurers reached their ascent couloir. Then they had to continue on foot.
    Studiously by-passing potential slabs, moving on stones and hiding behind rocks, kicking steps in icy snow, being wet of sweat our heroes were steadily climbing upwards, getting closer to their cherished goal.
    Throat was dry of thirst, overheated muscles refused to work, anxious mind was in expectation of sunstroke. There was not a bit of shade in southern couloir to cool down. If hell exists with its fire – at that moment it was on the southern mountainside of Caucasus Range, where two Dante followers were passing along their circles of hell in the hope of finding paradise.
    But it’s said “walk and ye shall reach”, so at 14:30 they reached the top, being fagged but not beaten. And they saw that by some miracle they ended up in the intended destination point! Counting teeth worked great.
    Both climbers – Slava and Dima were standing on a small saddle, hidden between two gendarmes. Beyond it like beyond fabulous gate there was starting point of hoped-for couloir. And further like a black-and-white background – dear Tcheget was rising, which they were looking at from a very unusual southern aspect. Perhaps, no one had ever seen it this way in winter. “Balda” looked so small that a casual traveller from its top could mistakenly recognize our heroes as two plain pebbles on the ridge.
    The couloir’s gate looked frightful. 45 degree funnel was not inspiring trust and in a case of snow release it wouldn’t leave a chance for a rider to hide. Remoteness of the place entailed extra risks, we had to play safe – first, we cut a small cornice – the couloir didn’t move, moreover – it demonstrated that it was full of light fluffy snow. Oh, god…
    Then Dima backed up with a belay, cut the funnel, got untied and rode left side of the couloir making speedy turns. The couloir didn’t move…
    Having hurriedly put the rest of equipment in his backpack Slava was staying on the start. There were a couple hundred meters of dangerous and alluring happiness beyond him. “I guess it won’t..” He remembered guys: Eldar, Misha and Kolya, who had gone in this mountains – he nearly was a witness of that. Then it “shouldn’t have happened” either. He thought of his beautiful wife and charming 1-month old daughter. “I guess it won’t..”
    Slava flew in a shroud of clouds made of white smoke like a snowy shooting star. He rushed so fast cutting smooth snow surface with his board, leaving giant spraying powder tails behind.
    “That was unbelievable!” – radio chattered in a singing Serezha’s voice. Even nestled on Balda and using binoculars he couldn’t hide his delight at the ride. Sometimes it’s better to give in, but definitely not that day. Perfect snow, perfect day, perfect run.
    Agitated pioneers stood at the foot of the couloir and couldn’t believe that they made their little dream come true. Because only these two men really knew how much sweat, time and efforts it took to accomplish that mission, which one could consider to be light and easy.
    They were happy.
    Happy to give a new name in Mount Elbrus region. In that gorge which once had given them new life.
    Text and photos: Shapovalov Slava (Na Kurazhe – mountain guides company)
    Participants: Shapovalov Slava, Kosikov Dima
    Support: Pereyaslov Sergei
    Translated for Dmitriy Metelya

    50 Posts

    Thanks for this nice report! High quality pictures and a fresh writing style made it really worth reading and motivated me, even now in summer time!

    Amplid Milligram 163, Tour Operator 159 & LabCarbon 162, Phantom Alphas 14/15, Atomic Backland w/ Phantom LinkLevers,

    601 Posts

    Epic prose. Nice writeup. Thanks for sharing!

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    246 Posts

    a pleasure to read, and (i’m sure) a pleasure to ride as well.

    675 Posts

    Yeah! Nice TR.

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