Excercise Siberian Challenge



........We will now not be visiting St Petersburg as we will only be having 3 days in Moscow before we return to the UK. We are likely to leave Cherskiy on 9 August, arriving in Moscow on 11 August. We will then have 3 days in Moscow and likely leave for UK on 15 August this has to be confirmed by the British Embassy.

Everything is going very well here. The weather is hot but excellent. One day of rain. We are hopefully getting Andy, Phil and Ned up Pobeda today but it is proving a difficult peak. All others have peaked a few and everyone is well.







On Friday 14 July all members of Ex SIBERIAN CHALLENGE (the RLC Millenium Exercise) paraded at the AMC South Cerney in preparation for the flight to Moscow. Over the pervious month much final preparation was undertaken including the packing, cataloging and loading of over 5 tones of stores including medical equipment, rations and scientific stores from Reading University.


The team boarded a C130 supplied by RAP Support Command at 0800 Saturday morning. The 5 hour flight to Moscow's main civil airport went without a hitch and we were received by a large reception committee headed by Maj Peter Daniell (the acting MA) and Mr Andree Legoshine the Commander of the Air Mobile Rescue Service of EMERCOM of Russia. Customs clearence, for all personnel was rapid and everyone was soon on a coach to EMERCOM's HQ at ZUSCOSKY airport some 1,5 hours away.


The accommodation provided was excellent with double rooms and all facilities including a Sauna. At this stage friendships were renewed with the Russian team members whom we had last met in Scotland during the training phase in February. A reception consisting of much appreciated cold beer was provided on the patio; the temperature in MOSCOW being a stifling 30C.

Sunday started with a meeting to discuss the requirements of the Russian customs concerning the import of equipment. Care had been taken not to import sensitive equipment such as radios and GPS receivers or controlled drugs but current Russian law dictates a tax to be paid on all goods imported, 40% on items not being exported again (food etc) and 30% on items temporally imported. Luckily EMERCOM staff were in close contact with the Russian Customs. Problems also occurred with the nomenclature involved in climbing equipment explanations were required into the meaning of 'Dead Men' and 'Balaclavas'

In the afternoon a coach was provided by EMERCOM to enable a quick visit to Red Square and Victory Park. Due to the location of ZUKOSKY airport some 1,5 hours is required for driving into MOSCOW.

Meanwhile Maj Tim Smith welcomed DRLC and 2 members of Glencoe Mountain Reccue Team to MOSCOW airport in time for the evening reception for the Expedition.

At 1700 hours a reception was held in the British Embassy, all team members wore Expedition Rugby shirts and Combat 95, which were to prove comfortable in the heat of Moscow. Some 80 guests appeared at the Embassy and one felt sympathy for the Russian Military personnel in fall service dress. At 1815 hours HRH the Princess Royal arrived to meet all members of the team, not only in her role as Colonel in Chief but also as Patron for the exercise. One of the special guests was Mr Oleg Grazimov who was the first person to traverse the mountains and who the organizers met in 1998 when initially planning the exercise, he was amazed to see the result of an evening's conversation at the Russian Geographical Institute. She spoke to all members including one who was so overawed by the occasion that he managed to spill his drink. Our other Patron Mr Ian MacNaught-Davis the President of the International Alpine Committee was also present, both patrons were In Moscow to attend the International Olympic Committee meeting which had just selected Beijing as the venue for the 2008 Olympics.

On the return from Moscow evidence of the work undertaken dy the Rescue service was easily found, a victim of a traffic accident was passed 5 km short of the camp and during the day there had been some 9 callouts including 3 drownings, 2 traffic accidents and 3 fire deaths.

Initially Monday was intended to be the day on which equipment was to be issued but bureaucracy at customs resulted in a change of plan. Letters were required by EMERCOM authorizing them to represent the British Army in the Discussions for the import of the equipment as well as providing authority for the movement of kit. Instead a training day was held including Medical Training and familiarization with the Motorola VHF radios to be used by all teams whilst in Siberia, the Russians were also to provide remote re-broadcasting stations in the mountains in order to extend ranges. During the morning DRLC visited the training before departing to meet Minister and then returning to UK. During the evening personnel were escorted out of camp to delight in the local culture and a pleasant bar was soon found. The local population was most welcoming and were amazed to see such a large party of British personnel in an area which had been closed until 5 years ago. As one of our members found it is even hard to purchase a ticket at the train station in Moscow as the area is refereed to as the 'Holiday Area'

At this stage the party was joined by three scientists from Moscow University under Dr Victor Popkovnin a famous glacialologist. These 3 assisted by Dr Steve Gurney from Reading University were to be part of the British Party and their work was endorsed by Reading University

Tuesday was also spent waiting for the equipment and it was finally released on late Tuesday evening. The hard work undertaken by the EMERCOM staff cannot be undervalued, they also ensured a minimum importation tax. The equipment was issued during the night and by Wednesday morning all bulk equipment was loaded and awaiting dispatch to the airport at ZUCOVSKY. The loading of the aircraft was undertaken by the Russian Team members.

Travel to the Mountains

Initially a large IL-76 was to be used. Unfortunately one had crashed on take off at Moscow on Saturday morning and as a result the fleet was grounded. All 77 personnel and equipment (17 tons) was loaded onto an IL-62 passenger aircraft during the afternoon and the aircraft ready for flight on the evening of Wednesday 18 July. Permission was gained for the Military Attache to attend the departure and we were escorted to the airport. Numerous aircraft were visible including the TU-144 the Russian version of Concorde. Minister arrived a speeches were made by the Minister, Andree Legoshin and Tim Smith. This was followed by a toast (in Vodka) and departure of the aircraft.

The flight took 6 hours and crossed 6 time zones. It was comfortable and uneventful. On landing, early on Thursday morning, unloading immediately took place. The idea was to transfer personnel and equipment to an MI-8 (HIP) and MI-26 (HALO) helicopter. Even though the MI-26 can carry some 70 combat troops the volume of equipment being taken resulted the requirement for a double lift. Problem also occurred with the pre-positioning of fuel for the 900 km flight. The recent floods in Siberia, which were reported in the international press had resulted in to consumption of significant government stocks and some airheads were completely depleted. There was a requirement for the pre-positioning of some 35 tonnes of fuel near the exercise location. Other problems were encountered with the possible satellite footprint affecting the location of base camp and the possibility of having to pay a 'tourist' tax for all personnel including extra taxes for photographs, berry picking and fishing. As a result the helicopter departure was delayed and the party was still sat on the airfield 10 hours later. The Russian hosts arranged 'floor space' in the local EMERCOM Headquarters building for the British party.

The initial lift was to be 10 experienced recce personnel (including 4 British) in the MI-8 to locate base camp followed by 40 Russians and some 14 tonnes of stores to establish base camp. The second lift was to be the remaining Russians and British and some 6 tonnes which would be undertaken by MI-26. The round trip was expected to take 11 hours and with only 1 crew only 1 MI-26 lift would be undertaken a day.

On Thursday evening the British party were extracted from the Airport and taken to the Local EMERCOM offices. Some 2 hours later a local restaurant in YAKUSK was overrun by 31 people (including Russian scientists from Moscow University) and all food stocks as well as a considerable amount of liquid consumed.

Friday morning saw the departure of the 1th lift. The MI-26 was not expected to return until late evening and this provided a chance to visit the town and undertake some sightseeing. The local staff also took the team to another Hotel some 40 km south of YAKUSK as well as to see the River LENA (the ninth longest in the world that is 6 km wide at YAKUSK). Some shopping was undertaken but there were a limited number of items to purchase. Unlike Moscow shopping has not reached western standards and waiting seemed to be main task involved in shopping or a visit to the bank.

On returning to base it was discovered that although the MI-26 had delivered the personnel and equipment to Base Camp, adverse weather had resulted ill it being grounded in MEMO some 700 km away. This would delay our departure further.

Saturday (21 July) morning arrived with rumour and counter rumour. Generally it seemed to be agreed that any departure would occur on Monday as the aircraft was still 4 - 5 hours flight away. An alternative program was rapidly devised only when we called to the airport to load the MI-26. We atrived, suitably transported in a Russian military 'box-body' to find that most of the aircraft was loaded and personnel equipment was required. By 5 pm everything was on board including 6,5 tones of equipment (including 450 gallons of Petrol), extra fuel tanks, personnel equipment and 23 British and 13 Russian personnel. Everybody was accommodated on top of the equipment and we took off.

The first leg took 2 hours as the aircraft flew to Tyoply Kluch, located at the foothills. We stopped for about 1 hour to refuel and then flew for 3 hours into the mountains arriving at 0200 Sunday morning local (MAGADAN) time. Landing was in daylight due to the proximity of the Artic Circle and unloading commenced.

Initial Phase

On arrival it was discovered that the Russian main body had established Base Camp and basic comms. A large accommodation tent had been allocated to the British reducing the need to use our own mountaineering tentage. A number of 4 man tents were erected in the Base for stores and equipment. The Recce party was already deployed and during the regular radio check confirmed that conditions were extreme in the valley floor with not only a severe mosquito threat but hard going over the glacial moraines resulting in progress, when laden, reduced to 2 kms a hour maximum.

On waking personnel were briefed on Base Camp routine, the camp was to provide all support for 47 Russians and 30 British (including the science party) for 3 weeks so strict discipline was needed. Russian mountaineering laws were to be obeyed including the requirement for full written route plans and frequent comms checks. The Russians continued to consolidate the Base Camp which was eventually to include an impressive medical facility with an operating capability, operations tent, shower, sauna, cookhouse and various flagpoles. One Russian party went Bear hunting armed with a variety of automatic weapons and shotguns but the nearest tracks were 1 km down the valley, the hunting team managed to shoot a 'fish'.

Meanwhile the British continued to expand an Advanced Base Camp some 10 km South of the Base Camp at the foot of 4 glaciers. The Recce team explored 'Heart Shaped' glacier and even managed to scale one of the lower (2607 m) unclimbed peaks, a major achievement on our first full day. By the close of the first day 13 personnel were in the advanced camp, the science team had pre-positioned some equipment at the base of a glacier 4 km away and one peak had been scaled.


MA British Embassy


1. All is going well with both mountaineering and science. Most of the team have now climbed at least one peak with many climbing three. The main ascent of the highest peak (Pobeda) is due to take place tomorrow with one of our instructors and Cpl Woodhead (ATLO RAF Aldergrove). All others in the climbing party are due to climb West Pobeda in the next few days.

2. The conditions are very unusual. Daily temperatures are in the region of +30-35C both at Basecamp and on the mountain. The terrain is very wild, with most routes to climbs being over bolder fields. All are certainly being tested in extreme conditions. There is a distinct lack of wild life, with only a few birds (mainly Ptarmigan) being seen since we arrived.

3. All the team have been able to send e-mails home and there has been a satellite telephone which has allowed me to keep in contact with Peter Daniell at the Embassy. Peter is hoping that the BBC pay a visit to the Expedition but this is yet to be confirmed and is obviously the BBCTs decision.

4. The recovery plan is that we return to Moscow over the weekend 11/12 August subject to minor changes. The RAF flight departing Moscow on Sat 18 Aug at 1730 hrs local has been confirmed, arriving RAF Lyneham at approximately 1830 hrs local.

5. My plan is to be in Deepcut from Mon 20 to Wed 22 Aug to report on the Expedition and to finalise the financial issues with Lt Col Owen. I intend to produce an Expedition Report in a similar format to the RLC Journal/Millennium Journal.





HRH Princess Anne meeting Expedition leader Major Tim Smith, Deputy Minister of EMERCOM Mr Yuri Brashnikov (wearing glasses), British Embassy Deputy Head of Mission , Mr David Gowan.

HRH Princess Anne being greeted by Director Royal LogisticCorps, Brigadier Tony Dalby-Welsh, and British Embassy Deputy Head of Mission, Mr David Gowan.



HRH Princess Anne meeting members of EMERCOM

Royal Logistic Corps soldier in front of expedition noticeboard


15.07 On Sunday 15th a reception at the Brittish Embassy was attended by all members and our patrons HRH The Princess Royal and Ian McNaught-Davis.

18.07 Team of 26 British soldiers, 48 Emercom members, 1 scientist from Reeding university, 3 of Moscow State University and 2 Consultants from "WILD RUSSIA" arrived to Yakutsk by Emercom IL-62. Two Emercom helicopters (MI-26 and MI-8) from Khabarovsk had already arrived to Yakutsk. After discussion a movement plan has been set: MI-8 flies for recce with 8 passengers (Ned Rimmer, Phil Kirby, Frazer from glen coe mount. Rescue and Emercom members) Yakutsk - Khandyga - BC and after that goes to Moma to get fuel and be there on standby. The pilot - Colonel Alexander Pustovoi, who took part in many recent rescues in Yakutia during the Lensk flood. The rest of the expedition is devided in two parts to fly to the BC in two runs using MI-26. The first run takes all personnel of Emercom and main part of the BC utilities. Next day the British part and scientists.

19.07 The MI-8 and MI-26 flew to the BC. The rest of Expedition enjoyed the life in Yakutsk visiting the river Lena and central part of the city. On 20.07 the second MI-26 run happened. BC is now located at the river junction in 12 km from Obruchev Glacier. The weather is very hot - 30 C during the day and 10 at night on the glacier. A LOT of mosquitoes and migges.
Ice appeared to be stone-solid that makes ascents technically quite difficult. So far the British team climbed 2 summits while Russians are preparing a plan for ascents.

Other news are coming soon.

Yegor Churakov from Yakutsk.





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Joint British Army and Russian Emercom adventure expedition to North Eastern Siberia

Siberian Challenge


Excercise SIBERIAN CHALLENGE is a Royal Logistics Corps sponsored mountaineering expedition to the Cherskiy Mountain Range in Yakutia (North-Eastern Siberia) in the late summer of 2001. The expedition will involve Russian Emercom elements and British soldiers in both Support and Mountaineering Teams. The Expedition aims to establish relations between Russian and British Mountain Rescue Teams as well as to encourage young mountaineers within the RLC and EMERCOM. The expedition has received political approval from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and support from such organizations as:

On 12-17 November 2000, an official committee from EMERCOM (Russian Ministry for Emergencies) and Wild Russia visited London to meet with officials from the RLC and MOD. The aim of the visit was to establish formal relations between both parties. It was agreed following the meeting between the MOD and EMERCOM that the Expedition will take place in July and August 2001. It was also agreed to organise joint training in Scotland in February 2001 in order to improve communication and mountain skills between the Russian and British Teams prior to the main Expedition in North Eastern Siberia. Click here to view pictures from this visit.

The Russian Team from EMERCOM visited Edinburgh on 2 February 2001 to meet MOD officials. Click here to view pictures from this visit. The Russian Team then travelled further north where they met members of the British Team to conduct training in the Cairngorm Mountains. There then followed a period of training with the Glen Coe Mountain Rescue Team. Pictures from this training will be available shortly.

Why was it decided to conduct such an expedition?

  • To provide an opportunity for young persons from Russia and the UK to be involved in true adventure.
  • To enhance the relationship between Russia and the UK in accordance with the OUTREACH programme.
  • To establish a knowledge of the role and capabilities of EMERCOM.
  • To establish relations between Russian and British Mountain Rescue Teams.
  • To improve the self confidence and self reliance of those involved.
  • To provide a severe testing environment for clothing and equipment.
  • To test long range communication capabilities.
  • To collect new scientific data from an area which is more remote than the Poles. This will be conducted by scientists from Reading and Moscow Universities.
  • The remoteness of the Cherskiy Mountain Range.
Breaking News

Representatives from ORT, NTV, RTR and ITAR-TASS have visited Glen Coe on Tuesday 13 February 2001 to report on a joint exercise between EMERCOM and the Glen Coe Mountain Rescue Team. This exercise was supported by Royal Navy Search and Rescue helicopters.

This exercise was also covered by Scottish TV (STV) and ITN as well as the local Scottish press. Click here to view more information and pictures from the excercises in Scotland.

Any enquiries or comments can be sent to Major Tim Smith at