Natalya Belyankina Becomes the Youngest Woman to Complete the Snow Leopard Challenge

Natalya Belyankina has become the youngest woman to complete the grueling Snow Leopard challenge. It involves climbing the five highest peaks in the former Soviet Union. Belyankina is 27 and is from Saint Petersburg, Russia.

She also took part in two rescue operations and traversed Khan Tengri from north to south. On Ismoil Somoni, her last summit, her high camp was at 7,420m and she spent five days above 7,000m.

Until 2021, 689 climbers have earned the Snow Leopard award, including several who did the series several times. Evgeny Ivanov was the first to finish, in 1961. At that time, there were four peaks. It expanded to five in 1990, with the re-addition of Pobeda.

Including Belyankina, 32 women have completed the challenge. Like Ivanov, some of them only did four peaks. The first woman was Ludmila Agranovskaya, in 1970. She summited all five 7,000’ers, according to Russian Climb.

The five 7,000m peaks of the Snow Leopard challenge.


In 1984, Elena Myndrikova did the four peaks on the list, at the age of 24.

Belyankina has now climbed all five, 11 years after the last female climber to do so (Diana Terentieva in 2011).

Among the 32 women, one climber, Elvira Nasonova, completed the Snow Leopard challenge three times, in 1973, 1988, and 1991.

Japan’s Junko Tabei, the first woman to summit Mount Everest (1975), did the five peaks of the Snow Leopard challenge in 1995. She was 56 at the time and thus became the oldest woman to do so.

Natalya Belyankina. Photo: Natalya Belyankina/Instagram

Kris Annapurna

KrisAnnapurna is a writer with ExplorersWeb.

Kris has been writing about history and tales in alpinism, news, mountaineering, and news updates in the Himalaya, Karakoram, etc., for the past year with ExplorersWeb. Prior to that, Kris worked as a real estate agent, interpreter, and translator in criminal law. Now based in Madrid, Spain, she was born and raised in Hungary.