The drama happened on 31 August, on Gasherbrum IV in Pakistan, at 7,684 meters, about 250 meters below the summit. Dmitry Golovchenko and Sergey Nilov had found a small spot on the ridge to pitch their tent for the night. The ground appeared problematic, broken rock covered with ice. The two Russians fixed the tent to a rope loop.
Very quickly, however, they realized that the ground was too sloped, and the tent was in danger of slipping. Sergey climbed out to level the platform and threw Dmitry a safety rope. A short time later, Sergey heard his friend call out, “Seryoga, I’m falling.” Nilov watched the tent with Golovchenko and their gear slide down the slope and disappear into the couloir below.
Descent without tent and food
Nilov spent the night in the open and the following morning rappelled several hundred meters in fall line of the tent. Sergey found his friend and the remains of the tent on a plateau at nearly 7,000 meters. Dmitry had not survived the fall.
Nilov wrapped Golovchenko in the tent remains and set off – without food – on the descent to base camp, which he reached five days later. Sergey spent the nights in snow caves, wrapped in two sleeping bags.
Nilov back in Moscow
Nilov suffered severe frostbite. He has meanwhile returned to Moscow and described to Anna Piunova of the Russian mountaineering portal mountain.ru what happened on Gasherbrum IV. Nilov and Golovchenko had attempted to climb the extremely demanding and therefore rarely climbed almost eight-thousander in the Karakoram in Pakistan via a new route, the Southeast Ridge – in alpine style, i.e. without bottled oxygen, fixed ropes, fixed high camps and high altitude porters. When the accident occurred, they had already been on the mountain for almost two weeks.
No professional climbers
Dmitry Golovchenko and Sergei Nilov had been climbing together for more than two decades – at a very high level. Twice, the two Russians were awarded the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar of Mountaineering”: for their new routes on the 7,273-meter-high Muztagh Tower in the Karakoram (in 2012, with Alexander Lange) and on the 6,904-meter-high Thalay Sagar in the Indian Himalayas (in 2016, with Dmitry Grigoriev). They financed their projects from their savings.
Golovchenko, who made his living as a statistician, lived to be only 40 years old. He is survived by his wife Sasha and two daughters, one twelve years old, the other only six months.
When asked about his attitude towards mountaineering, Dmitry once answered in an interview by Planet Mountain: “Be fair with yourself and the mountain, do what you can, do not take pity of yourself – and (you) will get what you deserve! An achievement is when you make something new on a beautiful mountain.”
P.S.: If you want to support Dmitry’s family, you can find a bank account with IBAN and BIC/SWIFT given by Anna Piunova at mountain.ru (click here), where you can also donate in euros for the surviving dependents of the climber. And to prevent possible doubts: Anna is absolutely trustworthy!