“In 2013, Sanya survived the attack by Pakistani terrorists on the Nanga Parbat base camp. In 2023, Sanya was killed in the attack by Russian terrorists on Ukraine.” This is how the Ukrainian mountaineer Andrii Vergeles commented on Facebook about the death of Oleksandr, called “Sanya”, Zakolodniy. He died last Saturday in fighting for the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar, as did his friend Hryhoriy Hryhoriev, also an ambitious mountaineer and climber. Both were 35 years old.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, like many other Ukrainian mountaineers, they put down their ice axes and rope and took up arms to defend their homeland.
Great sense of responsibility
Zakolodniy was one of the country’s best-known alpinists. He was vice-president of the Ukrainian mountaineering association – one who got involved. For ten years, Zakolodniy has been training children and young people in the “Vertikal” climbing center he runs in the megacity of Kharkiv.
Irina Poltavets, a friend of the Zakolodniy family, writes on Facebook that he was “physically incredibly strong” as a sport climber and also as a high-altitude climber, characterizing him as follows: “Always smiling, active, incredibly responsible not only for himself and his large family (four daughters), but also for other people’s children and the future of the sport and the country.” Zakolodniy is survived by his wife Olga and two daughters and two daughters from his wife’s previous marriage.
Survived Nanga Parbat attack
As a student, Zakolodniy joined a hiking club in Kharkiv. There he also gained his first experiences in climbing. He later deepened this during his sports studies. Zakolodniy was a member of the Ukrainian national mountaineering squad and took part in a number of expeditions. He earned the prestigious mountaineering title “Snow Leopard” by climbing all five seven-thousanders in the former Soviet Union.
The 8485 meter high Makalu in Nepal, the fifth highest mountain on earth
In 2010, Zakolodniy was also a member of a Ukrainian expedition to the eight-thousander Makalu in Nepal, where the 13-strong mountaineering team opened up a new route variant through the challenging southwest face. Zakolodniy did without the summit and turned back at 7700 meters: He helped a teammate who was sick with altitude sickness down to the base camp.
In 2013, Zakolodniy was part of an international team attempting the 8,125-metre Nanga Parbat in Pakistan. During the expedition, Taliban terrorists broke into the base camp and shot dead eleven climbers, including three Ukrainians. Zakolodniy only escaped the attack because he was on the mountain at the time.
Initially rejected by the army
Photographer Denis Kolisnychenko, who has been friends with Zakolodniy since childhood, reports on Facebook that shortly after the Russian invasion began, the climber helped him and many acquaintances to escape from the besieged town of Chuhuiv near Kharkiv. Zakolodniy also told him that the Ukrainian army initially rejected the climber as unsuitable.
In the end, however, Zakolodniy and his friend Hryhoriev were accepted into a special unit, for which they fought to the end. “War takes the best,” concluded Kolisnychenko.