Duration: 60 minutes
Starring: David Graells, Dani González and Rafa Vadillo, Ivan Temerev, Vlad Golub and Fedor Kopitov
Producer: Rosa dels Vents Films
Suitable for all ages
“At least until April we will not be able to try. It’s too cold and you can’t climb it.”
With this message my friend, the Russian mountaineer Ivan Temerev, made clear the hardship involved in trying to climb in the Russian Arctic.
The initial plan was to go in May, but that supposes assuming the risk that the ice of the lakes and rivers that we will have to cross begin to complicate the long and complex approach to the entrance of the Putorana Plateau, the zone of the Russian Arctic where we intend to explore the possibility of climbing icefalls.
No one has entered winter in that place before. The plan was clear, we will go in April, we all agreed.
And so it has been. From April 5 to 20, a group of climbers made up of David Graells, Dani González and Rafa Vadillo, together with the Russian climbers Ivan Temerev, Vlad Golub and Fedor Kopitov have carried out an exploratory expedition to climb icefalls in the Plateau de Putorana, in an area of the Russian Arctic closed to foreigners and for which it took almost a year of efforts to obtain the permits and plan the complex logistics necessary.
Ramon Dies, a guide specializing in arctic areas, and Miguel Angel Julián, an ethnologist specializing in indigenous communities in the Arctic, have also participated in the project, since the project has consisted of two parts: the first is exploration and climbing of ice cascades and the second the visit and coexistence with the nomadic reindeer herders of the Nenets ethnic group, the majority ethnic group in the Russian Arctic. The global project had as objective the recording of images to elaborate a video report about the climbing and the life of the nomads.
The expedition began with the landing at the airport in the city of Norilsk, a mining town located about 300 kilometers north of the line of the Polar Circle. It is the northernmost city on the planet and our starting point to access the “Plateau de Putorana”, a large basalt plateau, isolated and wild, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and which, according to maps, has all the conditions to house great potential for climbing icefalls.
We set out across frozen tundra, lakes and rivers using different means to cross them. We invested 3 days to reach the place where we had planned to install the Base Camp from which to explore adjacent valleys in search of icefalls.
The first stage was carried out on some 6-wheeled all-terrain vehicles called “Trekol”. 8 long hours of night on frozen lakes and rivers, it took us to cover the nearly 100 kilometers that can be covered with these vehicles. A long and complicated journey even for these vehicles accustomed to this terrain.
The next stage is planned to be carried out with snowmobiles that drag a wooden box-trailer in which we transport all the material and the members of the expedition. The breakage of one of the 3 snowmobiles that we carry forces us to change our plans and while the 2 snowmobiles that we have left are carrying to the next place where we will spend the night, the group of climbers are advancing using a kind of cross country skis with rudimentary free heel cable bindings. In this part of the Arctic they don’t use skins on skis since they often go through places with water and when they freeze they make the skis useless. They are not a problem while the terrain is flat, but they are exhausting when the terrain accentuates the slope.
The third and final stage of the approach is carried out entirely on skis. We travel 22 kilometers on a huge frozen lake, while the 2 snowmobiles carry the materials.
Once the Base Camp was established, we carried out different explorations in adjacent valleys in search of icefalls. In the first incursions we withdrew before reaching the place where the maps indicate waterfalls, due to the high risk of avalanches. The whole area is at high risk of avalanches and remains of some of them are visible as we progress.
Finally, on April 12, after more than 4 hours climbing up a more open valley and somewhat less exposed to avalanches, a fantastic Circus appears from which 5 aesthetic icefalls hang. The exploration has paid off. David Graells, Dani González and Rafa Vadillo climb in 2 pitches, in intense cold, the 60 meters of the great ice curtain located on the left end of the Circus. They baptize the waterfall as: LEON & TUDELA FALL, 60 mts, WI 5/5+, dedicated to Marc Sabata “Leon” and Carlos Tudela, who have recently left us in mountain accidents.
The temperatures during those days of April have oscillated between -20º and -30º, which gives an idea of the harshness of the place. A place where in winter temperatures exceed -50º.