Sergey Kovalev, Master of Sport of International Class, city of Donetsk.

The first thing that impressed me about Slava was his unusual energy. He was the most bright and active personality on one of the first Himalayas expeditions from Odessa at the beginning of the 90s. I had been ordered to supply some clothes for the expedition and at that time I became acquainted with climbers from Odessa.
Later we met at the selection of climbers for the Annapurna expedition in the spring of 1996. It was the preparation of the First National Ukrainian expedition. Slava didn’t win any of the tests requiring technique or physical training. For practice we ran to the top of Elbrus. At the beginning, from Mir station (elevator) to “bochki” (“barrels,” end station), the other runners were ahead. But on the upper part of the route, from “bochki” to the col between the two summits, Slava ran ahead around the others and did not free the trail to his followers, so everyone arrived at the summit together. Higher up, his second wind worked better. And he surprised me not only with that. The main feature engraved on my memory was that such a non-sportive fellow could chin himself 25 times on the horizontal bar. Obviously he hadn’t trained that regularly but he struggled and demonstrated an extraordinary spiritual power. I often observed this in him subsequently, but I have never gotten used to it. He was phenomenal. And in the mountains he walked uniquely: equally slow at 5000m as well as at 8000m, where everyone else bluntly fell down.

So I climbed a lot with Slava - Ama-Dablam, Pumori, Everest…, but Manaslu was like a revelation for me. This is probably the most terrible mountain existing in nature, the only one whose summit has never been climbed twice by the same person. Even on K2 people have climbed more than once. It is very dangerous, upward is plateau inclined on a 20-30 degree - a huge avalanche accumulator. While climbing via any face one is always at risk to be smashed by an avalanche. Moreover one could not see when an avalanche could be triggered. On other mountains it is possible to check with binoculars and estimate the snow condition; here it is invisible. Our route along the south-east ridge was not an exception. We selected this ridge for safety. In general the climbing was very difficult: technically, physically, morally - constant vertical pitches. And all the time there were conflicts and competition between the groups. We arrived at a situation where all three groups made three ascents each but none reached the summit. We had fulfilled our plan but failed to summit. And for the last ascent, we got together at 7800m: me, Leontiev and Pugachov climbed up; and Slava’s group: he, Igor Chaplinsky and Kolya Goryunov -came down from above after an unsuccessful attempt to round the Pinnacle from the left side. Slava looked absolutely ill. From my point of view he dying, he couldn’t speak, his eyes fell back. Normal people in such a condition and at such an altitude die within 24 hours if they are not brought down urgently. I believed that we should begin to rescue him because Yura Strelnikov looked the same and we carried him down. And in Slava’s absolutely similar situation everything happened absolutely otherwise. We worked there for four days and Slava recovered in that four days. For me it was incredible. You know no one recovers at such an altitude, they only die! But Slava decided to stay with us and it shocked me.
After Igor and Kolya had gone down there were four of us and opinion was divided. Slava wanted to summit, Leontiev was neutral and I proposed to get down while we were still alive. We decided to proceed with climbing and I obeyed and worked for the team. On our route arose an insuperable obstacle, the Pinnacle. But there remained a chance to reach the summit via the normal route. So we traversed to the classical route. It was an interminable, absolutely unreal traverse - around 15 km at an elevation of 7800m. We went out before dawn and continued till late at night and no one knew exactly which way to go. We moved underneath terrible hanging icefalls; there was no way to retreat, we seemed to go nowhere at all. Slava, not being aware of the route, said: let pass this piece and then there will be a place for overnight. There was no visibility, ice inclined 50 degrees, and at the end is the eminence. We stretched out along the way, the elevation was already 8000m, it was getting dark, there was hurricane wind, we needed to set the tent at any cost. I went first and found a spot of snow, not ice like everywhere else, and it was possible to dig. It was the first island of snow we had met so I began to dig and prepare a place for the tent. Then Slava came and Leontiev brought the tent. We got inside and found that Pugachev was absent. We were about to go back for him but he had arrived in the deep darkness of late night. It was very cold, because to make our backpacks lighter we had only taken 2 sleeping bags. To those who did not have sleeping bags we gave our down jackets.
Next day we tried to reach the summit. Slava moved slower than usual but he did move. And he didn’t just say that we should go; he showed the direction. The weather was bad, visibility was only 5 meters, so we marked our way with landmarks. No one knew where we were or where the summit was. I insisted on returning to the tent. When we got up next morning the weather improved and the summit appeared to be not far away, much closer than we had supposed. So we went straight up following yesterday’s landmarks. It was absolutely the right direction. Slava was an absolutely perfect high altitude climber - he felt the direction, the snow condition, something else… All the parameters necessary for that were somewhere inside him. At high altitude the components of success are just to stay alive in every situation, taken separately. One must awake, one must eat something, one must come out - the task is to live for one more day. One is beyond reality - this is space and one is there without a space-suit, without anything… Slava was perfectly adjusted to that. High altitude was the natural environment for him, he felt at home there like a fish in water.
We were so hysterical on the top, excited, euphoric that we had crawled there. I personally for the first time was very happy that we had summited - the team had worked exhaustingly for a long time, and suddenly we had achieved that!
Our way down was via the normal route. We were in a hurry to catch up to the helicopter and hoped that some fixed ropes remained on the route left by other expeditions. But there were no ropes so we used ours in the proper way - fixed it then pulled it out, usual climbing work. We did not see the way down, just followed the logical direction, and it was not easy. Slava felt bad - he had stayed at high altitude much longer than the rest of us and the task had now been fulfilled. He had no motivation and thought, well we would miss the helicopter - this is not crucial. He often fell down on the snow, laid for a certain time, then stood up. At one of those moments he asked: how long will it still take to get down? I replied - I didn’t know, it depended on our pace. - What do you think of our pace? - We communicated by radio with BC once per hour. During one session I said, let’s turn back, see, you were over here, and we showed him his imprint on the snow twenty meters upward. Slava took a look, meditated on that, appreciated the humor… and it was a lot of fun! He never felt abused, he was a very pure soul.
Then we came to the glacier, a huge wide glacier. There was dense fog and we had never been on this glacier before, we had no idea how it looked. We just walked down according to our compass heading. It was misty surrealism… we felt nothing but got together with our team who came to meet us. We went further without backpacks and our guys tracked the trail. Then events got precipitated together and perceived vaguely - in one day and night we went down from the summit of an eight thousand meter peak and happened to end up in Kathmandu. I have a photo where we are standing in the hotel hall dressed in our summit clothes - boots, goretex, we had taken no time to change...

Slava was a pretty targeted person. His motivation manifested in any activity - to summon all his internal resources and achieve the purpose: it didn’t matter whether he was chinning a bar or climbing a mountain. It struck me always how Slava made an aim and reached it, ignoring obstacles.
Mt. Hidden Peak was one more illustration of this. Slava was hit in the hand by falling ice on the first day of work on the route. His hand was fractured, but in two weeks he succeeded in healing. When later in Odessa an X-ray was made and the doctor asked how long ago he got this trauma, he could not believe the truth and said it was impossible for the bones to knit so fast. We had made a splint of a box carton for Slava’s hand and he wore it. And walked not over a plain! He didn’t even know whether it was a fracture but he knew well that he must climb the mountain.

Being so strong a sportsman, Slava was an absolutely placable person, I have never met such a placable guy - we could swear at each other heavily, almost coming to blows, and then go to a lake bank, play guitar, laugh at some jokes… He appreciated good jokes even in difficult situations; it was easy to be with him. As members of the Ukrainian National team we met each other 2-3 times per year and every time was a pleasure. In the year 2000, for the Championship of Ukraine, Slava and I climbed Grand Joras in France, a technically difficult mountain, not steep, around 70 degrees, but as smooth as a “lamb’s forehead.” The route was 1500m long and there was no shelf for overnight; the route was called accordingly “no siesta.” And this tremendous lamb’s forehead was covered with icy snot. Well, we climbed the mountain, the first night, the second… For overnights it is always necessary to attach to some reliable kind of relief. We found an internal angle in the rock. At night it snowed and all the grains of snow seemed to flow exactly into our coulouir. I slept in the same gear that I worked in - boots and clothes inside goretex bag. Several times during the night I had to get out and shake hail out of the hammock. And Slava, like a real high altitude mountaineer, took off his clothes and boots, got on down socks and was sleeping not bad. Reaching him in the morning I saw the following picture: Slava’s hammock was full of water, up to the neck and Slava was lying in a cold bath. It became clear that further climbing was impossible, but…to take a bath on Grand Joras!
Once more funny story at that time in Chamonix. We were buying trekking trousers for Slava; for a long time we picked out, tried on, bargained. It was a real show to dress Slava - he was so spontaneous and characteristic. At last we bought the trousers and got some discount. Slava was happy and wanted to celebrate the bargain. So we visited a restaurant with a view of Mount Blanc, a pretty expensive one where a glass of beer cost 10-12 euros. So we left there around 100 euros - celebrating an acquisition of 10 euros. And when the bill had been brought Slava even didn’t move his face - that’s me, I invited you. He was a man with good sense and he never lost his dignity. Any situation connected with Slava was always an exceptional story from any moment …already he was creating History.