From A. Moshnikov's Diary
February 22, 1997.
We started from the snow cave early in the morning (7am) in half-light but with a full Moon. The altimeter displayed 2200m. We were climbing up a steep firn slope to the first icy step, trying not to look down. 2400m. On the step Nick began leading, I was belaying, behind were Vasily, Volodia and Sergei. This was mainly ice climbing up to the Eigernordwand railway station windows.
Spectators, helicopters... There was no isolation and no feeling of being at one with the mountain. Besides a disquiet arose due to wall approach. Near the windows, under a rock roof we found a huge pile of wind blown snow. The guys stopped to prepare platform for the tent, while I continued climbing, now on vertical rocks, to fixe ropes for the next day.
Extreme climbing... After a long break from technically difficult wall climbing my progress was slow and uncertain. However, as the saying goes "eyes are frightened but hands are doing"... I finished in darkness and left equipment helter-skelter suspended. If snow fell by the night we would have to dig it all out.
The bivouac was perfectly comfortable.
In the morning I continued leading, belayed by Nick. The rocks were difficult, mostly aid climbing. It was hard to arrange belays, "rams' brows" were all around and no exit. Earlier ice had probably been abundant but now there were only occasional ribbons. I pendulumed to the left, hoping that the others would manage it, and entered into a vertical couloir with vague prospects for further progress. Nick encouraged me from below as I was poising on that vertical wall, standing on my front points and shifting from one ice spot to another. A little to the left I managed to cling to an icy "feather" with my "jackal" axe. I hoped it would be stable enough and climbed into a vertical chimney, which held good ice! It should be simplier here, only a few more meters to the bivouac.
This morning Nick was leading. Sergei was belaying him, and I went third to take a video. This was regular grade 5 climbing, and Nick rushed.
"The Death bivouac". Having anchored the ropes, the guys began to prepare the bivouac site while Nick and I pushed on laying more fixed ropes. We placed two along an icy couloir, and a third steeply, about 80 degrees, up to a rock bastion. We were aid climbing in the dark... and I virtually had "to pull" Nick down - it was time to stop working. The night was not too bad. I spent it bent in the corner of the tent. The guys dozed sitting. I could feel inside that the weather was worsening. It would be nice to have a time to reach the Spider and then... then let God decide.
From the morning we had steep climbing. Nick continued leading and he scrambled up smoothed "rams' brows" and up a narrow icy couloir to some steepening walls abutted against a serious overhang. This was here where we would bivouac.
While the guys chopped at the ice to make the platform I climbed up to the roof. Sh-shit!.. I had barely fallen down - when belaying Volodia forgot to give me more rope. This was just the result of ascents walking, without technical difficulties, on Communism Peak for the last 3 years.
The weather degenerated, and the rocks were quickly covered with snow in the beginning blizzard. I slipped off twice having barely left my fingers in crack... However, I felt with my stomach that the exit into the Spider should be nearby. The crack went upwards, it lured but I did not succumb to its decoy. I put on the crampons and traversed right and went quasi-running up into a darkening nowhere. The Spider! More correctly it was only the base but we could anchor our ropes there and this gave us a hope. I dived back downwards, already in the total darkness.
The bivouac was terrible, the worst sample of sitting bivi.
A whole day of sitting. The blizzard continues and our mood can not be worse. The mountain is large and powerful but the people are small and weak. We sit, dig snow, cook, joke and wait. We wait interminably for the weather to improve. I don't want to think about serious matters, and only occasionally reflect on the condition of the upper anchors - are they safe enough?.. Sitting becomes too painful... I think a little about the way ahead - may be we should switch to the classic route, otherwise we can fail to reach the summit...
It is difficult to believe that all this would ever end. Far below, behind the blizzard and the haze, there is life, while here there is only the whisper of snow over the tent and somewhere deep inside the mountain something powerful and mechanical is moving. The people yearn to vanquish nature but it is only waiting, smiling, for a proper moment to demonstrate who is master here...
Night... Again long sleepless hours of waiting for the weather, the life and the mood.
A terrible night. The sleeping bags got completely sodden, and it had got colder. Even only a thought about the necessity to get out and start climbing horrified me - I had no desire to move, and felt like I was sleep-walking. I did not understand what the hell had drawn me here, I had not climbed big walls for 6 years. My elbows and knees ache and my fingers became swollen and numb. Several times during the night I crawled out from under Volodia and kneaded my hands.
In the morning the blizzard continued, but I sharply stopped the conversation to discuss whether we should resume the progress. If we sat for another whole day they would rescue us by helicopter: we would not be able to climb the overhang even with the fixed ropes. And there was no way down.
Nick started leading. The roof was no joke, as jumars slipped along the iced-up rope. Serguei took an hour and a half agonizing over one pitch, and Nick had broken the pick of his ice hammer. These were only the people who could endure all this, and the weather did not improve. Frequently we were forced to warm feet and hands, we got still standing under small avalanches, we shuddered of ice pieces which bashed our helmets. We pressed on climbing cautiously up through the Spider, where there was a lot of fresh snow and very poor opportunuty for belays. We scarcely crawled up to rocks and made another sitting bivouac.
The summit day!
This morning we left the Spider and switched to the classic route. The view was spectacular: the whole rock surface was covered with "snow flower" crystals from yesterday's snow storm. The rocks were cold and slippery. Sometimes it felt that we would never escape from here, and that the thread linking us to warmth and life in the human world below had just worn too thin.
But Nick the superman was leading ahead - using his crampons and "jackals" to great effect, he approached the crest like a steam train.
About 1pm we were standing on the top where the sunny weather rewarded us with a fantastic sight: the famous Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn saluted us...
And then we descended to the cordiality of the Swiss, Canadians, Frenchmen: all unacquainted but so affalable and hospitable...