Australians Chris Fitzgerald and Chris Warner have climbed six new routes up to 10 pitches in length on four separate granite walls in the Chukotka region of far eastern Russia.
To their knowledge these towers, north of the Arctic Circle, have never been previously climbed, the area remaining off limits to both Russians and foreigners until 20 years ago.
The pair got wind of the towers when a friend of Warner showed him a picture taken by a client, illustrating his local walking area.
From the small town of Bilibino the pair travelled 60km on quad bikes, then shuffled gear a further 4.5km to the base of a peak named Komandnaya (Commander), where they camped for 23 days.
They first climbed two routes on a wall named The General. The 375m Turilov Route (6a+) followed a continuous crack system and was climbed in a single push using natural gear
The rather more demanding Basil Brush (465m, 7a) breached the central prow and was climbed over several days, with a number of sections requiring bolts. This is a stunning line in a fine crack and corner system.
Epaulette (280m, 5c) on the shoulder of Komandnaya gave pleasant climbing using natural gear, while in the adjacent valley Gardening Australia on Launch Peak gave 305m of climbing up to 5c, again with natural pro.
A direct line on Komandnaya was thwarted by heavy rain after five pitches (up to 6b), the two unable to finish it before their pick-up team arrived. The headwall above their high point featured perfect rock and looked amazing.
Their final climb was a granite dome to the northwest of Komandnaya, which gave a single pitch of 4a.
During a little paragliding and walking through surrounding valleys they saw many towers and walls, giving potential for hundreds of new routes in this compact area.
With no glaciers or massive scree slopes, approaches are straightforward and the local people most friendly, making the trip possible through their kindness and hospitality.
The area is extremely isolated: its nice to know the world is still hiding some places.
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