Slideshow: Unclimbed Big Walls of Siberia

Posted on: December 29, 2014

Inspired by a friend's photo, during summer of 2014, Australians Chris Fitzgerald and Chris Warner traveled to northeastern Russia to climb untouched remote walls in the arctic's Chuvan Mountains. They navigated past signs of the fallen Soviet Union, including aging hammer-and-sickle symbols, abandoned prison camps, barbwire, and along an unpaved road to town of Bilibino in the region of Chukotka. The small town was built in the 1950s to mine gold. From 1965 to 1974, workers built the world's northern-most nuclear power plant there, which is still in operation today. It was a photo taken by Evgeny Turilov, who works as a nuclear engineer at the plant, that lured the team to visit these walls.

The team completed the final 60 kilometers of travel by quad bike, ending with a stretch of soaked tundra. In a valley hidden from view even to the townspeople of Bilibino, they spent 23 days ascending six new free routes on four sweeping, sheer walls up to 500 meters tall. Some routes were climbed bolt-free in a day, with the team following a single crack system from bottom to top, while others required bolts and multiple days to complete. They shared vodka with people they met, and when that became low, they added ethanol to their drink. The conversation continued like the constant drizzle of rain. —Chris Van Leuven

The General wall as seen from Komandnaya ("Commander") Peak. Basil Brush (7a [5.11c]), climbed over five days by Fitzgerald and Warner, ascends the center of the face. [Photo] Chris Warner
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