Expo 2020 Dubai: Mountaineer scales 30 tallest peaks to mark Kazakhstan's 30th National Day

Maksut Zhumaev believes mountains have a soul and their own language

By SM Ayaz Zakir

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Published: Sat 25 Dec 2021, 3:56 PM

Last updated: Sat 25 Dec 2021, 7:46 PM

Kazakhstan mountaineer Maksut Zhumaev knows how to honour his country and leave a lasting impact on the world at the same time.

For his country's 30th National Day, Zhumaev led one of the largest global mountaineering initiatives. A team of 30 Kazakhstani mountaineers, including Zhumaev, climbed 30 peaks across the world to commemorate their country's independence.

Zhumaev, who was at Expo 2020 Dubai to celebrate Kazakhstan's National Day, has not only helped set a new benchmark for mountaineers in his country and beyond, but he also raised his country's rank to another level.

He conquered the 14 highest peaks in the world in 10 years and 10 days without the use of additional oxygen or Sherpas.

Climbing to the summit of 14 peaks is referred to as 'eight-thousanders' and is regarded as a mountaineering challenge. Only 44 mountaineers have achieved this feat.

Above 5,000 metres, the conditions start to become unfavourable. "We become who we really are," Zhumaev said. "Even the most resilient organism begins to fail at an altitude of 5,000 metres."

As a result, he said mountaineers may experience panic attacks, disorientation in space and a sharp increase in blood pressure.

"Therefore, all climbers and mountain hikers are advised to have mandatory regular training," he said.

Zhumaev's love for mountain climbing began in his early childhood. He grew up in Western Kazakhstan in a village near Uralsk, where there are several steep expanses but no far-reaching mountains.

After the first eight-thousander of Shishapangma, Zhumaev was added to Kazakhstan's national team in 2000. This is the only instance in the history of mountaineering when a third-grade climber, who had no experience in climbing six-seven-thousanders, immediately climbed an eight-thousander without oxygen.

Zhumaev said that the most difficult peak for him was the K2, which he had to attempt five times.

“I finally conquered the peak with my partner and friend Vasily Pivtsov along with Gerlinda Kaltenbrunner from Austria and Dariusz Zaluski from Poland on August 23, 2011. Continuity is the most important attribute for a team,” he said.

Zhumaev understands this and believes mountains have a soul and their own language.

For the past several decades, Zhumaev has been engaged in coaching and education. He has worked towards popularising mountaineering among the youth of Kazakhstan, instructing and accompanying local and foreign tourists in their ascents to the peaks of Kazakhstan and other heights of Eurasia.

“The Kazakh mountains are an excellent springboard for overcoming any fears," he said. "Maybe that's why they are so attractive to tourists from all over the world? They are loved, sought after and always come back to set their own new record. And Kazakhstan, as a hospitable host, is ready to receive its guests again and again.”


Despite his many achievements, the adventure isn't over Zhumaev, and it doesn’t look like it will be anytime soon.

“I am planning to climb Mount Vinson in Antarctica and Mount Kosciuszko in Australia. I have also planned to embark on North and South Poles, thereby closing the total summit programme, which will make me the second person on the planet after Reinhold Messner to achieve this feat,” Zhumaev said.


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