Piolet d’Or Veteran to Attempt Everest Without Oxygen

Two-time Piolet d’Or winner Valery Babanov of Russia intends to become the oldest person to summit Everest without bottled oxygen.

Now 59, Babanov has done nearly everything over a 40-year climbing career, from 8,000m peaks to new high-difficulty routes, like Jannu’s northwest ridge and Kangtega’s north face.

His two Piolets d’Or came after truly historical climbs. In 2001, he did the first ascent of India’s Meru Shark Finn (Meru Central, 6,310m), solo. Then in 2003, he and Yuri Koshelenko pioneered a new route up Nuptse East (7,804m). If you consider the eastern Point of Nuptse a separate peak, it was a first ascent.

In the Pamirs/Tien Shan, Babanov speed climbed the extremely tough Korguenevskaya Peak (7,108m) and Peak Lenin (7,134m). It took him one day each, from Base Camp to Base Camp.  As an IFMGA guide, he has led groups and taught alpinism in the Alps, Canada, and the Himalaya.

The climbers surrounding Miss Hawley in a hotel lobby .

Valery Babanov (left) and Yuri Koshelenko with the late Elizabeth Hawley in 2003, after the duo climbed a new route on Nuptse’s eastern peak. Photo: Valery Babanov


Babanov has summited six 8,000’ers. On two of them, Broad Peak and GI, he and partner Victor Afanasiev climbed via new routes.

Yet the Russian climber considers this no-O2 Everest attempt the challenge of a lifetime.

“I have been preparing for this all my life,” he wrote on social media. Last year, Babanov trained for Everest by summiting Makalu. However, according to The Himalayan Database, he used supplementary O2 at some point during the climb.

Babanov is currently in the Khumbu Valley, on his way to Everest.

The climbers hold each other's shoulders in front of a bouddhist monastery.

Kristin Harila and Valery Babanov in Lobuche yesterday. Harila is trekking in the area. Photo: Valery Babanov

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.