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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'
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
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.
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.
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.
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'
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
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
to the Mountains
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
(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
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.
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.
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'.
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.