Lev Sarkisov

Mountains Have No Nationality

“Only mountains can be better than the mountains”, said Lev Sarkisov who is an Armenian mountaineer that spent his life in Tbilisi. In fact, Sarkisov unearthed his endless love towards the mountaineering from the years of working at the Aviation factory of Tbilisi and witnessed how a group of hikers regularly conducted scientific expeditions. Lev Sarkisov was born in Voronezh, in 1938. During the World War II his father went to the front, and mother moved to Tbilisi with Lev. His grandfather from mother’s side was representing the Tbilisi bourgeoisie. The house that he built still stands in Avlabari.

Mountaineer Lev Sarkisov

Sarkisov became a mountaineer while working in an aircraft factory. The factory was very wealthy, with its own shops, hospitals and hotels. Here the mountaineering group forms, to which Lev also joins. The first high peak to which he ascends with this group is Mount Kazbek. Although they didn’t have much experience then, Sarkisov says that the summit was easy for them. After that, Lev Sarkisov joins one of the mountaineering clubs in Caucasus, where he begins to specialize in the mountains. From there he joins the mountaineering team of armed forces, where he serves as a coach. At the same time, he manages a number of important positions in the factory.

“I worked in three places at the same time, but still didn’t get rich.” jokes Sarkisov. The team that he led was one of the best in the Union.

But for him the key to happiness was not in material wealth. His life was full of adventures and achievements. He achieved the heights every mountaineer dreams of. He is a multiple champion of mountaineering in the Soviet Union, Georgia’s honorary coach; he also was awarded an Order of Edelweiss. In 1999, the president of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze awarded him with the “Medal of Honor”.

Lev Sarkisov

Lev Sarkisov

But all these titles can’t compare to his most important achievement – the title of “Snow Leopard”. This is the name of those mountaineers, who climbed five highest summits of Soviet Union – Communism Peak (7495 m), Victory Peak (7439 m), Lenin Peak (7134 m), Korzhenevskaya Peak (7105 m), and Khan Tengri (7010 m). Sarkisov climbed all these peaks. He climbed Mount Ushba several times along ice-covered routes (one of the most difficult mountains in the world). Besides that, he climbed Mount Ararat 4 times. He is the first Armenian to climb the highest peak in the world – Everest (8848 m). In 1999, the book of Guinness World Record recognized him as the world’s oldest man who climbed Everest.

Armenian Tricolor on the Top of Mt. Ararat

“It was not safe to take the flag of Armenia to the top of Mount Ararat. They could arrest me in case of finding the flag in my backpack. So I bought three colors of fabric from Bayazet and made the Armenian Tricolor by myself at the hotel”- told us Sarkisov.

Flag of Azerbaijan on the top of Everest

In 1999 Georgian mountaineer Beniamin Kashakashvili decided to form a group of mountaineers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Abkhazia and together make a “peace climb” to Mount Everest. The purpose of this ascent was to show, that the representatives of warring countries can work together and be friends, regardless of war. Lev Sarkisov was chosen to represent Armenia, although he was a citizen of Georgia. The thing is that at that time in Armenia there was no suitable candidate. So the team decided that Sarkisov meets all their requirements. The whole expedition was funded by an Armenian businessman who wished to remain anonymous. He believed that the purpose of this expedition is very important. Climbing Everest was not cheap, since the price for climbing was $25.000 per person. Back then it was a mandatory payment to the government of Nepal. Sarkisov’s friends urged him to wait a few more days before starting the ascent, to be able to break the record. But he opposed this.

“No way, now is not the time for records. Our goal is more important.” said Sarkisov. He would not have forgiven himself, if the climb had failed because of him, or if something had happened to the team.

On Everest good weather conditions don’t last that long, so you shouldn’t miss these opportunities. But the weather was bad for several days already, so the day of ascent got delayed. In the camp there was a group of Swedes with Lev Sarkisov. They were armed with the latest expensive gear and equipment, including the Erricsson satellite phone. With this phone you could connect with the whole world. It was also possible to get paid weather forecasts for the next few days. Sarkisov and his team became good friends with Swedes and presented them with Armenian cognac. And Swedes shared their information with them. They said that there would be no good weather until May 12.

So, the team begins the ascent to the summit on May 12, and Sarkisov steps to the top of Everest at the age of 60 years and 1 day, breaking the record. During the ascent the health of the Azerbaijani mountaineer suddenly gets worse. It means that he can no longer continue the ascent, because at this state it would be deadly.

“He felt so terrible about not being able to continue the ascent, and then I promised him to raise the flag of Azerbaijan on the top of the mountain as well. He became my friend and I am happy that I did a good thing.” told us Sarkisov.

Lev Sarkisov

Mountains have no nationality

A failed ascent to Everest

After this ascent, in 1999 the Armenian philanthropist Shant Hovhannisyan decided to form an Armenian group to climb Mount Everest. With this idea he turns to Lev Sarkisov. With the help of Sarkisov, they form a group, which includes Lev Sarkisov, Hayk Tonoyan, Sasha Mailyan, Igor Khalatyan and Shant Hovhannisyan with his friend from Cuba. Sarkisov advises to train on Mount Denali – the highest summit in North America (6190 m).

Mount Denali is located in Alaska. This means that the climatic conditions on this mountain are similar to the climate of Everest, despite the fact that Denali is almost 3000 meters lower. The participants are invited to New York. Hovhannisyan takes all expenses for hotels, transport, accommodation and expensive equipment. During the ascent to Denali, Sarkisov sleeps poorly for several nights, and one time on the glacier he suddenly starts to feel bad. Hayk Tonoyan carries Sarkisov on his shoulders to the camp. Everything ends well, and the team is ready for Everest. However for unknown reasons the asccent does not occur. But even now, when Sarkisov is over 80 years old, he is ready for new peaks. We hope that this ascent will one day take place, at least with different group of people.

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