Piolet d’Or Winner Yuri Koshelenko Bags First Ascent in Indian Himalaya

Flying under the radar as usual while climbing in lonely Himalayan valleys, Piolet d’Or winner Yuri Koshelenko of Russia has bagged another first ascent.

The unnamed peak lies in Rangtik Topko, a side valley of Zanskar, in India’s Ladakh region. The climbers’ GPS gave it an altitude of 6,218m.

topo route in red on a photo of the previously unclimbed peak.

A red line marks the climbers’ route on the right-hand, snowy side of the peak. Photo: Yuri Koshelenko


Koshelenko joined Bayarsaikhan Luvsand and Mikhail Pups in Zanskar. Koshelenko noted that there have been no previous expeditions in that area, and even peaks higher than 6,000m require no climbing permit or liaison officer.

The team summited the peak on June 11 after an eight-hour climb from the glacier. Koshelenko told ExplorersWeb that the ascent was long, some 2,000 vertical meters, but not technically difficult.

“We climbed simultaneously (unroped) to the summit,” he said.

After discussing possible names with locals, they agreed to call the peak Vajrayogini, after a Hindu goddess of knowledge and wisdom.

Growing popularity

The area is becoming popular among small climbing teams ready to explore the many unclimbed peaks around Zanskar. Last year, Patrick Tirler and Moritz Sigmund opened a demanding new big wall route in the same Rangtik Topko. Around the same time, Francesco Ratti, Gerome Perruquet, Alessandro Bau, and Lorenzo D’ Addario bagged two new rock routes in the adjacent Miyar Valley, and a team of young local climbers made two first ascents in the area, probably close to the Russian’s recent achievement.

topo map with ridges, valleys and rivers marked

Topo map of the area by Kimikazu Sakamoto, from the American Alpine Journal


Like the 2023 Indian climbers, Koshelenko and his partners aimed for snowy peaks rather than big rock walls.

Snowy peak near a bigger, rocky one.

The location of the recently climbed peak. Photo: Yuri Koshelenko


Koshelenko is no stranger to first ascents. Last fall, he teamed up with Alexey Lonchinsky to summit unclimbed 6,645m Rolwaling Kang Shar in Nepal.

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.