Go back to Russia.
Go back to Bilibino.
A long drive in.
Vadim picked us up the following morning for a quick drive out to the edge of town where we met our off road driver (not the “da, da, da” guy from the day before), or two of them in fact: Sergey and Uktam; as well as the other star of the show, a 10 ton, 6 wheel drive Kamaz. After a quick tea, we threw or junk show into the back and all four of us climbed into the cab. After some 40 kilometers of good dirt road driving, we turned off onto a rough track and headed off in the direction of the mountains (way too early based on what Evegeny had instructed). What followed were about 6 hours of river crossings, abandoned gold mining operations, improbably steep ridge climbs and descents, boulder field drives and finally getting the Kamaz nearly stuck in a “soft” and shifting boulder field. It was at that point that both Sergei and I got out and walked ahead for a little reconnaissance. My 30 minute hike took me up to a pass where I thought I was looking at the backside boulder fields of The General and The Commander formations some 5km away but of course I could not be sure. To get there, we’d need to backtrack down the ridge we’ve just driven, drop down into valley, go up over the next ridge and then go into and up the next valley over. Sergei however was still missing at that point and Uktam was getting impatient, blaring the horn and then firing his rifle into the air. When Sergei finally came back, he insisted that he found a way despite our protests that we should probably cross over to the next valley.
Deep in the mountains.
Well, given that they had the truck keys, things went their way and we meandered our way up an incorrect valley to a spot where the mining “road” crossed a nice stream. Yet again, I thought that we were looking at the backsides of the two formations from some 5km away (and well below). We unpacked our shit, had a cup of tea with them and then they left. Alone in the middle of nowhere – I don’t think we’ve ever been this isolated from humanity in the past. Besides Sergei and Uktam, the last human activity we had seen was in the mining establishments along the main road some 4 hours driving time earlier. We could only hope that they would remember where they had left us in a week.
Next morning, we decided to leave the climbing gear behind and hike up to the pass at the head of the valley to see where the hell we were. The boulder hopping took us about two hours. From the “pass” at the head of the valley we were in fact looking down into the cirque formed by The General and The Commander (and the two protrusions of the boulder field visible from camp were the backsides of the formations). We hike around for another hour looking for a way down into the cirque as that descent would be required to access the climbing.
Vadim and Uktam and the 10 ton Kamaz that would take us into the mountains. Uktam’s compound on the outskirts of town (Aug. 2018).
Packing up (Aug. 2018).
Sergei feeding their large black crow – bird is trained to respond to its name and come over for a snack (Aug. 2018).
An hour out of Bilibino, we took a little break at a pass. This is still along the main road (Aug. 2018).
Views from the pass (Aug. 2018).
The ride (Aug. 2018).
Our ride and some abandoned gold mining hardware (Aug. 2018).
Crossing streams and small rivers (Aug. 2018).
And eventually into some steep and very rough terrain. Click photo for a video of nearly getting the Kamaz stuck in shifting boulders (Aug. 2018).
The Kamaz (with Uktam and Shirley) as seen from my quick recon hike. Click for a short video (Aug. 2018).
Views from the pass at the end of my little recon hike. The backsides of General (left) and the Commander are visible. The correct approach valley is behind the ridge on the left; we’d get deposited in the valley on the right (Aug. 2018).
Sergei pulling a u-turn. Click for a quick video (Aug. 2018).
Uktam, Shirley and Sergei (Aug. 2018).
About to get voluntarily marooned in the wrong valley of an unnamed range above the Arctic Circle in Chukotka. Pre-departure tea time for our drivers Uktam and Sergei (Aug. 2018).
Hope these guys remember where they left us…
Alone in Siberia (Aug. 2018).
Click for a quick video (Aug. 2018).
Evening in camp (Aug. 2018).
Dinner time. We had brought our liquid fuel stove plus canisters but apparently gasoline is hard to come by in Bilibino. Instead, Vadim loaned us a white gas stove and we bought some gas canisters instead. Worked well (Aug. 2018).
Morning French press coffee in camp (Aug. 2018).
Setting off on our first day to find out where the hell we are. We thought that that General-Commander Cirque might be beyond the skyline but were not sure. Also, we were not sure how to get there if in fact we were correct (Aug. 2018).
Lots of (supposedly) edible (and some highly poisonous) mushrooms down lower in the valleys and even this odd one up high (Aug. 2018).
Scouting hike (Aug. 2018).
View back towards our camp – the flat, dark green section of the valley down low (Aug. 2018).
Found it – now how do we get down?
Shirley and the top of The General (Aug. 2018).
Views from the head of our valley into an adjacent valley (and the rest of the compact range; Aug. 2018).
The General in profile (Aug. 2018).
Boulder hopping was the name of the game. What looked like nice, open – part sandy, part grassy – terrain turned out to be miserable boulder fields when viewed up close (Aug. 2018).
Heading (hopping) down to camp (Aug. 2018).
The streams ran clean and cold (Aug. 2018).
Shirley admiring some unusual Arctic flora (Aug. 2018).
Warming up with a fire and tea (Aug. 2018).
It’s either beef or a dairy product (Aug. 2018).
Go to Our One Climb.
Go back to Russia.