Seven Summits not the end for Burnaby mountaineer
Ravil Chamgoulov has been to the top of the world. In every part of the world.
The Burnaby electrical engineer is one of about 350 people who've completed the "Seven Summits," climbing the highest mountain in each of the globe's seven continents.
On May 31 he returned from the challenge's ultimate climb, Everest.
For Chamgoulov, summiting the planet's tallest mountain was the climax of a 10-year quest that began in May, 2004 when he reached the top of North America's highest peak, Mt. McKinley. By December, 2007, he'd achieved six of the seven summits, including the Vinson Massif in Antarctica.
But to summit Everest took six years of training, securing sponsorship from companies like Freshslice Pizza to cover the $65,000 cost of his solo expedition, and waiting for a permit to open up in the tightly-controlled schedule of climbers allowed up the mountain every season.
Chamgoulov, a climber for over 25 years during which he's achieved more than 200 summits, planned to tackle the technically difficult route up the north side of the mountain. He would be accompanied by only a Sherpa and a guide. That way he could avoid the busier, less arduous south route, which is often crowded by more inexperienced climbers and well-heeled adventurers who, said Chamgoulov, essentially pay their way to get to the top.
ABOVE: Chamgoulov atop Vinson Massif (16,067 feet), the highest peak of Antarctica. December 2005.
On April 18 an avalanche thundered down the south route near Everest's base camp. It killed 16 Nepalese guides and cast a pall over the entire mountain.
Chamgoulov, who was already on the mountain, didn't know if he'd be allowed to continue his climb.
"It was a time of uncertainty," he said. "We didn't know if the season would continue. All the Sherpas are relatives, so it affected us emotionally."
Some of the Sherpas who worked the mountain threatened to quit if the families of those who were killed weren't better compensated. All of them wanted improvements to their insurance coverage.
The Seven Summits
(with date achieved)
- NORTH AMERICA: Mt. Denali/McKinley, 20,320 feet - May 2004
- SOUTH AMERICA: Mt. Aconcagua, 22,841 feet - March 2005
- EUROPE: Mt. Elbrus, 18,540 feet - September 2005
- ANTARCTICA: Vinson Massif, 16,067 feet - December 2005
- AUSTRALIA: Mt. Kosciuszko, 7,130 feet - May 2006
- AFRICA: Mt. Kilimanjaro, 19,340 feet - December 2007
- ASIA: Mt. Everest (29,035 feet) - May 2014
By April 24, many of the expeditions at base camp awaiting their turn to head up the south route were abandoned.
After Nepal's government agreed to boost compensation to the dead Sherpas' families, the climbing season resumed.
Chamgoulov reached Everest's summit on May 25, at 7 a.m. Much of the climb's last stretch was done in darkness to allow more time for the difficult descent to be done in daylight.
"The summit is not a destination," said Chamgoulov. "It's just half way to home. Most accidents happen in the first two hours of the descent."
Standing on top of the world was more of a relief, a chance to catch his breath for a moment, said Chamgoulov.
"It's a sense of achievement, a kind of relaxation that it's done," he said.
ABOVE: Approaching the North Col on Everest.
But is it?
While Chamgoulov has completed the Seven Summits, his personal website is entitled 8summits.com.
The mountaineering community is divided over which mountain is considered the highest peak in the Australian continent, which extends to Tasmania, New Guinea and neighbouring islands.
One faction says Puncak Jaya in Indonesia, at 4,884 metres, is that continent's tallest mountain. While another regards 2,228 metre-high Mount Kosciusko, in Australia's New South Wales province, as the summit.
Chamgoulov climbed the latter in 2006.
To become one of only approximately 120 mountaineers to satisfy the Seven Summits requirements of both factions, he'd actually have to climb eight mountains.
Chamgoulov is keeping his future climbing plans close to his chest.
"I'm not climbing to see nice views," said Chamgoulov. "I will never stop climbing mountains."
Chamgoulov will give a presentation on July 5, at 1:30 p.m., about his Everest climb at the Burnaby headquarters of Freshslice Pizza, 1610 Ingleton Ave. For more information and to register, go to www.freshslice.com/everest