After a Life of Climbing Together, Two Ukrainians Die Side By Side in Russian Attack

Two Ukrainian climbers died this weekend in the country’s war with Russia — including one who had survived the 2013 Nanga Parbat massacre.

Oleksandr Zakolodny and Hryhoriy Grigoriev were killed near Soledar on Jan. 21 during a Russian attack, the Kharkiv Alpinist Club wrote.

The two men shared a long personal history, according to the post from the Ukrainian alpine club. Both 35 years old, they had learned climbing together, competed together, and went to the mountains together.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Zakolodny and Grigoriev were among the first of many climbers to join the fight. They volunteered in the “first days,” the Kharkiv Alpinist Club wrote, serving in the same special unit. And on Saturday, they “died side by side” in the same battle.

The men’s deaths have not been officially confirmed because “the battle was heavy and their comrades could not take away the bodies of the dead,” the club said (auto-translated).

“This is an irreparable loss,” the post said.

Two talented mountaineers

On Facebook, fellow Ukrainian climber Gennadii Kopeika commemorated the two fallen mountaineers, noting that Zakolodny had survived the 2013 massacre at Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth tallest mountain.

At the time, 16 militants traveled to base camp during the Pakistan mountain’s high season, ultimately killing 11 people, including 10 climbers and one local man. The deaths included people from China, Slovakia, Lithuania, Nepal — and three citizens of Kharkiv.

Zakolodny, who was climbing during the attack, managed to escape the bloodshed, Kopeika noted in his post.

“Oleksandr [Zakolodny] was always lucky — he was descending at the time. But 10 years later he was unlucky — terrorists killed him on his homeland,” the post said.

Both Zakolodny and Grigoriev had received many recognitions in climbing.

Zakolodny was a Master of Sports in Mountaineering, a candidate for Master of Sports in Climbing and Tourism, and a member of the National Mountaineering Team of Ukraine. Nicknamed “Snow Leopard,” he was also vice president of the Climbing Federation of Ukraine, and participated in several expeditions on 8,000m peaks, reported.

As for Grigoriev, he was working on his Master of Sports in Rock Climbing, and also participated in marathons, cycling, and triathlons. He performed many public works, always helped at competitions as a judge, and was “an honest, kind, decent person,” the Kharkiv Alpine Club wrote.

Zakolodny leaves behind his wife Olga and their two daughters, while Grigoriev has a sister.

Last month, Ukrainian officials said that about 13,000 of the country’s soldiers have died since the start of Russia’s invasion.

Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is also a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. When he’s not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he’s hanging out with his dog Campana.