Wednesday, 5 June 2013

In the footsteps of Anatoli Boukreev, Maxut Zhumayev sets up the Kazakh Alpine Club

I met Anatoli Boukreev when I lived in Almaty, Kazakhstan, from 1996 to 1999. When in Kazakhstan, Anatoli lived in a small alpine village above the ski field of Shymbulak, at just below 3,000 metres, and not far from the peaks posted below.

Talgar Peak, 5017 m, is one of the northernmost peaks in the Tien Shan, the most northern "five-thousand metre" mountain in Asia. Anatoli Bookreev lived in a small alpine village below this range.

This village is a weekend haven for many working mountaineers who live in the foothills of the Tien Shan in Almaty, and every Friday night either walk the four hours to their alpine huts from Almaty or drive.

I fondly recall spending Christmas and New Years day (1996-97) with my good mates Sergy and Yuri,(right) their families and other Kazakh and Russian mountaineers in their club huts  consuming large amounts of Vodka, horse meat and intestines, the staple of Kazakhstan. Outside at least a metre of snow covered the ground offering superb skiing.
It was here I first met Anatoly Boukreev, and was impressed by this strong, quiet mountaineer.
Spending days with Kazakhstani mountaineers and their extended families in the alpine huts in the Tien Shans while blizzards rage outside, was a warm and close experience. It was amazing to find in your midst those who have scaled Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalau, Dhalagauri, and to hear them speaking modestly of significant climbs in most ranges of the world. I was also impressed by their fanatical approach to fitness and love of speed climbing.

Around this time there were a lot of young fit mountaineers in their late teens and early 30s doing a lot of training in the area.. One of them was Maxut Zhumayev

Two years ago Maxut Zhumayev completed a remarkable achievement.

At age 36, he had climbed the last of all fourteen 8000 metre peaks without oxygen including K2 which he called the hardest of the lot.

“What is there for me after?” Zhumayev, a sergeant in the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan recalled thinking.

What he did was set himself a new goal. He would establish the Kazakh Alpine Club which he envisioned as being modelled along the lines of European alpine clubs.
Maxut Zhumayev with his son Isatay (Photo: courtesy Maxut Zhumayev)

The Kazakh Alpine Club is today just over three months old but that doesn’t deter Zhumayev from describing an ambitious vision to connect mountaineers in Kazakhstan, including older ones who climbed under the banner of the former Soviet Union.

“We would like to build some special mountain infrastructure including rest and camping places, and a network of huts like those in America and Europe,” said Zhumayev.

Over the next three to five years he wants to establish a guiding and mountaineering institute where young Kazakh mountaineers can be trained formally and conducting youth camps.

Other plans include drawing up climbing maps, collating information for climbers, building viewpoints for tourists, even building bridges to cross mountain streams.
“It’s my new Everest,” he said with a laugh about the work that lies ahead.

Lots of small cabins dot the landscape in a small village above Shymbulak where many Kazakh mountaineers do their training. It was here I met Anatoli Boukreev and Maxut Zhumayev. Photo: Bob McKerrow 

To help him along, Zhumayev has sought the help of the Austrian Alpine Association (Edelweiss section) which will provide him with advice on how to establish and grow the club. A memorandum of cooperation was signed in October and Zhumayev said he believes this memorandum will be helpful in the future as the Kazakh Alpine Club builds its infrastructure and organizational framework. ( Some of the information on Maxut  is from the recent UIAA newsletter)


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