Ukrainians “Unsolve” Annapurna III’s SE Ridge!

This autumn, small teams have opened several bold new routes on slightly smaller mountains in the Himalaya. In a wonderful alpine achievement, three Ukrainians have climbed the vertiginous Southeast Ridge of Annapurna III.

That Southeast Ridge is considered one of the last great problems of high-altitude alpinism. Viacheslav Polezhaiko, Nikita Balabanov, and Mikhail Fomin managed to complete a dream line up a nightmarish, nearly 3,000m wall.

The Ukrainians are strong contenders for their second Piolet d’Or next year. Photo: Cherkasy Mountaineering Federation


Although lacking the celebrity of the 8,091m main summit, Annapurna III is a major challenge from all sides. Kenton Cool, Ian Parnell, and John Varco made an ascent in 2003, via the southwest buttress. However, the SE Ridge has stood for four decades as one of the last great problems of the Himalaya.

Nick Colton and Tim Leach of the UK made the first attempt on the ridge in 1981. They turned around at 6,400m. The route shot to fame after the award-winning 2016 documentary Unclimbed, by David Lama, Hansjorg Auer, and Alex Blumel, below. Lama and Auer later died in an avalanche in Canada.


Also in 2016, two of the recent Annapurna III summiters, Nikita Balabanov and Mikhail Fomin, earned a Piolet d’Or for the first ascent of another 7,000’er: the NNW Pillar of Talung. The 7,348m peak forms part of the border between Nepal and the Indian state of Sikkim, south of Kangchenjunga. It was only their second Himalayan expedition!

The climb is not yet over

The descent to Base Camp seems anything but easy, and we are still awaiting word. Their only texts are to the Cherkasy Mountaineering Federation, which released the news that they summited Annapurna III on Saturday morning.

On summit day, they stopped for the night at 6,700m. Yesterday, Sunday, they reported that they were about to have one more bivouac at 6,400m.

“We’re having fun!” they insisted. Forecasts showed that both the climb and descent are taking place in very high winds. We’ll update as soon as we receive news.

Annapurna III forecast. Photo: Cherkasy Mountaineering Federation


Correction: This article mistakenly referred to this climb as the first on Annapurna III since 2003. There have been a number of climbs between 2003 and 2021. The story has been corrected to reflect this.