Maria Khitrikova sometime near her twenty-first birthday which she celebrated on Gasherbrum II last summer. Her body was found on Elbrus on March 3. [Photo Courtesy of] Anna Piunova
The Ukrainian climbing community is mourning the loss of a talented young alpinist: twenty-one-year-old Maria (Masha) Khitrikova who was killed while guiding on Mt.Elbrus (5642m) last week. She is the daughter of the famous Soviet alpinist Vladimir Khitrikov.
On March 2, eleven climbers in two groups summited Mt. Elbrus, then encountered poor weather on the descent. Most of the climbers successfully made it down, but two, Roman Kutsiy and Denis Lisov, fell behind. Khitrikova stayed back to help the pair. A few hours later, using a satellite phone, Khitrikova called to say they had become lost in the poor visibility.
Khitrikova with Elbrus race medals. [Photo Courtesy of] Anna Piunova
On the evening of March 3 rescuers found Kutsiy at approximately 4200m. He was evacuated and taken to a nearby hospital where he was treated for angina. Though the details are not completely clear, Kutsiy relayed that the three were unroped and fell repeatedly on icy terrain. At some point, Khitrikova lost one of her crampons and presumably fell. Khitrikova’s body was found to the left of the Pastukhoy Cliffs at approximately 4700m on March 4. The search for Lisov continues. Helicopters are often used for rescues on Elbrus, but the inclement weather kept them grounded early on in the search. According to Anna Piunova of mountain.ru, “[Khitrikova] was the big hope of Ukrainian mountaineering, one of the country’s most talented and promising girls… [A] wondergirl of high altitude mountaineering.”
Despite her young age she had an impressive resume having won the Elbrus speed race in 2009, as well as successfully summiting Gasherbrums I (8035m) and II (8068m) last summer, Pik Lenin (7134m), Khan Tengri (6995m), Ama Dablam (6812m) and Pik Korzhenevskoy (7105m).