Bilibino big walls climbed by Australians in Russia
This summer Australian climbers Chris Fitzgerald and Chris Warner, acting on a photo taken by a Russian friend, travelled to the remote Bilibino area in eastern Russia where they made the first ascent of 6 new routes on what they believe are 4 previously virgin peaks. The report by Chris Warner.
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 a 4.5km walk from our base camp (980m altitude). 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, was climbed 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 ascends 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; this offers easy pleasant climbing all on natural protection. In the adjacent valley 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, but then got rained off about halfway up the wall. We sat through 4 days of rain in BC but were unable to complete the route by the time our pick up party was to arrive. The headwall we were about to start, after our first 250m, looked amazing with perfect rock. We walked back in more rain and were driven to Bilibino. The sun then came out and we managed a quick trip 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 as the rocky nature of most of the summits made take-off problematic. We also explored many of the surrounding valleys and saw countless more towers and walls that looked great to climb. There are certainly 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. We believe 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 fairly straightforward as there is a road that gets you close, and this is followed by relatively short walk-in approaches. The people of Bilibino were most helpful to us and truly made this trip possible though their kindness and hospitality.
by Chris Warner.