Alpiniads in Zailiskiy Alatau

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At the dawn of its development the Soviet mountaineering was not only a sport, but also a peculiar activity, an area of energy use for young builders of communism. Such unlike spheres as the pastime, study of Motherland, the Red Army tough soldiers training, and the collective labour were interwoven within it.

Per se the whole sport in 1930s was a mass sportive event, and ‘we’ was a favourite pronoun of the first soviet hikers. That is why, not accidentally in that period there emerged such a type of climbing when a peak was being conquered by a few hundred people at the same time. By analogy with Olympiads they were called ‘Alpiniads’.

…The register of Kazakhstani mountaineering is usually done from 1930, when G. Beloglazov, V. Gorbunov, and I. Myssovsky conquered Maloalmatinsky peak and planted a red banner on its summit. And the beginning of the especially fast development of this sport in Kazakhstan was marked by the first mass mount of seventeen people headed by Victor Zimin to the same peak in 1934.

This success lent them wings, and next year they decided to accomplish the Mass Komsomol Alpiniad to Maloalmatinsky peak on the model of Caucasian hikers. Why are the first mounts in Zailiskiy Alatau related just to this peak? The reason of it is its closeness to Alma-Ata and the relative availability of approach. Surrounded by many alpine peaks, this one attracts imagination to itself solely by its sight and calls to test men’s valor. At that period the idea of the mass climbing seemed rather audacious though. But how all this was in tune with the character of the epoch!

…So, the long-awaited July of 1935 rolled around. Komsomol members decided to dedicate their Alpiniad to the 15th anniversary of Kazakhstan. Despite the hard times, common boys and girls of the Soviet Union were all enthusiastic in those years. Therefore many things may seem strange to their today’s equals in age.

For instance, following the spirit of those times, throughout the whole route, right along the path, young climbers were to issue wall newspapers under such titles as “We shall reach it!” “We shall win!”, and others. The last issue was made at the very summit under the title “We win!”.

Those years any event, if only it was possible to use aviation, could not do away without airplanes. The alpiniad members were ecstatic when an airplane suddenly appeared above their heads and dropped a pile of fly sheets.

The Mass Komsomol Alpiniad was considered significant not only as a sporting event. Not without reason organizers and participants of this mount became K. Komarov, the secretary of the city Komsomol Committee and K. Tashtitov, the secretary of the Central Committee of Leninist Young Communist League of Kazakhstan.

Out of 267 participants 250 people climbed the summit. It was a victory! A bit later, in memory of this Alpiniad, Maloalmatinsky peak was renamed Komsomol peak.

And below, downtown, in the Federation park the hikers were awaited by the most sincere and solemn receipt: with flowers, orchestra, speeches and placards, in the manner all winners were honoured at that time. The head of these first mass mounts was Victor Zimin, a participant of the civil war, ‘a 25-thousand worker’, who had come to Kazakhstan to develop the mass physical training movement.

But this mass record was soon beaten. Within a month Komsomol peak was conquered by 365 (!) people: NKVD soldiers and commanding officers under the guidance of the last alpiniad participant I.E. Glatolenkov. Among the conquerors there were six women, commanders’ wives. Atop, following the rules, mountaineers set up a small bust of F.E. Dzerzhinsky, the patron of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission NKVD.

The year of 1935 survived in everyone’s memory due to other reasons, too. In Alma-Ata for the first time in the country there was founded a new public organization, the Hikers’ Club. It was a methodological (and political!) center, an assembly place, an organizer of mass mounts and difficult expeditions, and it played the important role in mountain and sports development in the republic. It is majorly thanks to this club’s activity Zailiskiy Alatau very quickly became the second after Caucasus region in the country for the mass mountain climbing.

…Interesting that the tradition of mass climbs survived up to nowadays. And the author of these lines happened to be the participant of them in his hiker’s youth in 1970s. And it stuck to my memory. As a matter of fact, such mass mounts when a few hundred people all in one walk to the summit is an unforgettable spectacle.

The first sunbeam that has slipped from behind the nearest mountain catches the alpiniad’s participants already on the move. The chain of people stretches for many hundreds of meters; they busily crisp with their heavy boots against the frozen snow, hammer stones with ice axes, intently breathe in the frosty air and together feel sorry, silently and out loud, for those who stayed below, downtown. And although not everyone who walks in this column for the first time will get to Himalayas, or become hikers, even if they never make the mount again, this proud acute feeling of the conquered peak will stay within them forever.

…This tradition keeps on living in the new Kazakhstan, too. The regular climbs to the legendary Komsomol peak (hastily renamed by the sportive org-men the more accustomed to the today’s ear Nursultan) attract in the same way both veteran hikers and newcomers.

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