Scottish duo Simon Smith and Graham Dawson have just returned from a recently discovered granite massif in the Chuvan mountains in Chukotka, North Eastern Russia - coming away with the first ascent of a 300m E4 named Ilium. After a "hair-raising" approach on quad and dirt bikes, the first British expedition to the area encountered wild stormy weather and the unseasonably early onset of winter, plastering the walls in snow and ice.
Simon compared the Siberian environment to his home playground in Scotland, commenting:
"It was kind of like camping on the Cairngorm plateau in late November...but with more bears."
Despite extremely adverse climbing conditions, a brief weather window allowed the pair to establish a new route on a formation called 'The General'. The 300m E4 was named Ilium and involved quality climbing with the odd bit of 'necky gardening'. Further vertical forays proved fruitless as bad conditions prevailed, and, as classic Scottish mixed conditions rolled in, they regretted not packing their ice tools. After escaping from basecamp in a storm the two battled over high passes in even higher winds with huge loads in search of climbable rock.
"Unfortunately winter had set in firmly and much time was spent going slowly insane in a tent, drinking ourselves into delirium on a tipple the locals called 'spirit'; medical ethanol, recommended for the weight conscious camper, a mind-bending taste sensation mixed with boiled Haribo."
Summing up their trip, Simon added:
"Despite the disappointing weather the trip was a blast and made really special by the genuine warmth and hospitality of the Russians who helped us along the way."
Simon and Graham would like to thank The Jeremy Willson Mountain Exploration Grant and the sponsors below for making the trip possible.