In August 2014 Chris Fitzgerald and I travelled to the Chukotka region in far eastern Russia to climb some new towers near the small town of Bilibino.
The granite towers here to our knowledge have never been climbed and are north of the Arctic Circle. We travelled about 60km by quad bikes west from Bilibino and were dropped off 4.5km walk from our base camp (980m Alt). We shuffled 4 loads and then camped at the base of a peak named Komandnaya (Commander) for 23 days.
We climbed 6 new routes on 4 different walls. The first two on a wall named The General. The Turilov Route, 20/6a+, 375m, we climbed this route in a single push following the same crack system the whole way and all on natural protection. The second route completed on this wall was “Basil Brush”, 23/7a, 465m. This route climbed the central nose of the wall and was climbed over several days with bolted sections; most of the belays are bolted. It is a stunning, proud line with excellent crack and corner climbing. We then did a route on the shoulder of Peak Komandnaya named Epaulette, 17/5c, 280m easy pleasant climbing all on natural protection. The next valley over we climbed a route named “Gardening Australia”, 18/5c, 305m, on Launch Peak, again all on natural protection.
Next we started climbing a direct line on Komandnaya. We climbed up the centre of the wall establishing five pitches up to grade 20/6b at about 250m. We got rained off about halfway up the wall. We then sat through 4 days of rain in BC and were unable to complete the route by the time our pick up party was to arrive. The headwall we were about to start looked amazing with perfect rock. We walked back out in more rain and were driven back to Bilibino. The sun then came out and we managed a quick trip out with our local friend Evgeny and climbed a domed granite peak to the NW of Komandnaya with a single pitch of grade 12/4a.
During our time in the area we also did some paragliding that proved difficult due to the very rocky nature of most of the summits making take off problematic. We also walked many of the surrounding valleys and saw countless more towers and walls that looked great to climb. There would be 100’s of new routes to climb in this condensed area. The quality of rock in general is excellent. There are no glaciers or massive scree slopes to the base of any of the walls making approaches straightforward.
The Bilibino big walls offer some new and exciting climbing in a region that was closed to foreigners and even Russians 20 years ago. The area is extremely isolated but once in Bilibino (a town that services mining and a nuclear power plant) getting to the climbing is a lot less epic with a road that gets you close and relatively short walk-in approach. The people of Bilibino were most helpful to us and truly made this trip possible though their kindness and hospitality.
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As summer approaches, I keep looking through my list of past walks to see which ones I want to do again.
In September 1986 I walked from Lake St Clair, up past Little Hugel to Mt Hugel. I then continued down the western slopes to Lake Hermione, followed a valley up to Lake Petrarch and walked back down to Lake St Clair. A good partly offtrack bushwalk. This time I only had two days, so the plan was to camp next to a tarn up on the Mt Hugel plateau.
One of the biggest jobs at Mont is customer service, with the inbox sometimes a little overwhelming! But the emails are overwhelmingly positive; questions about our gear, emails about how well a customers gear worked, and fun stories and photos from the wild.
It isn’t all smiles, though, negative emails do occasionally pop up. But not to let that get us down, often these emails highlight a failure of communication on our part or provide information for us to reflect upon and improve.