Featured TR: From Russia With Pow – First Descents in Frolikha

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The Ascent

Alarm clock did it job. Snowflakes were hitting the tent, and setting up the alarm for an hour later not without pleasure I thought: “No luck!” But triumph of laziness didn’t last for long, because somebody went outside and told that the sky was starry. “No way!” – I exclaimed and leant out of the tent. Surprisingly, there really were stars in the sky. In for a penny, in for a pound. Having climbed into my sleeping bag I was waiting for Max to light the stove.

It was 6 a.m. but freeriders-conquerors weren’t ready at all. I tried to hurry my fellows, but having understood it was senseless I decided to go alone slowly. There was no way for them to miss the skin-track made with my splitboard. Though.. who knew what those sleepies would do!

First part, which we’d managed in two hours I passed in one. I was not in a hurry. And where are my companions? The first signs of them catching up on me appeared in half an hour. In response to my attempts to blow them up, guys told that they’d left the camp in time and that they weren’t going to account for accusation. My argument was that it’s 8 a.m., but then they showed me 3 different watches displaying 7 a.m. “Winter time” had been canceled in our country but my cell-phone continued to set watch forward and backward.

Having laughed at the failure of the leader, we went on cheerfully. After taking a bite on that place where we stopped ascending last time, we reached the ridge by 11 a.m. Having spent 2 more hours on 400 vertical meters left we were on the summit by 1 p.m. Hell yeah! We’ve done half the work!

Endless peaks of Barguzin Spine as far as an eye could see on the one hand, Baikal Lake and dim profiles of snow-white peaks of Baikal Spine on the other, huge lake at the foot of the mountain, and what is more – no one had ever been here in winter! Moreover, having such unusual mission.

Our delight could be outbid only by fantastical scenery of northern circus, which we found on the hidden part of the mountain. 3 pairs of eyes were staring at me waiting. On the one hand fast changing weather, not examined lines and our fellows, waiting at the foot of western mountainside. On the other – unique beautiful line, which was more than worthy of pioneer riding. And an illusive perspective to DO IT later. And what do you think?

Of course I behaved as wise leader (worst looser) and decided to follow initial plan. Another point was no way for future boasting of “how I’ve ridden that slope” because the slope was hidden. But yet we hadn’t regretted! The gully was full of perfect winter snow deep enough to touch it’s surface with your crotch, so after the first turn cognitive dissonance disappeared and the wildest freeride began! Even the cloud which appeared at that moment didn’t spoil impression of riding, but it did for photos. That’s why you only have to trust that it was unspeakably cool.


Having descended to the camp, after dinner and celebration with alcohol remaining, we were going to make a decision for the next day. The main idea was to leave and, if we had time- to ride on Davan Pass, luckily it was on the way. But after having a glance at my partners and sighing deeply I however said that stupid thing:

– I suggest to climb again and ride that northern circus!

Two days of 1.5 kilometer elevation in a row, 15 kilometers long exit with backpacks and more than 1000 kilometers of driving to Irkutsk – that was an extreme plan. Desire to do it was changing with doubts and back again in our eyes as fast as kaleidoscope pictures do. The last argument was Oleg – that day he hadn’t join us for technical reasons. So that’s why he had to use his second chance, hadn’t he? The others told that the way they would feel next morning would show. OK then, two of us already and it’s better than one.

The morning met us with clear starry sky and with temperature down to -10 C. The day promised to be the best one. Certainly, if we’d cope with it. Three of us were ready for that, including me. The ascent was the same (should it differ?), but it was cooler, it was windy also, sun shined brightly, we’re too tired to move our legs and our common equipment was carried by three together, instead of six. As for the rest – the same mountains, the same path.

In spite of later start we went in the same pace and by 2 p.m. reached the summit. More than 10 times I asked myself: “Why do you need it!?” – yes, I needed that line, even without photos and reports, even if no one ever knew I’d done it. I want to do it, I can do it, that’s why I must do it. That’s not my duty by somebody, that’s my personal duty.

The circus was waiting for us in all it’s beauty, and it seemed that it’d been preparing the whole night, like a languishing girl. It was picking in the shadows to underline its relief, applying snow white makeup on its luring smooth slopes. But it was a mask hiding not tenderness but a severe adventure. Steep couloirs at the start, convex parts with obviously loaded contours, recent avalanche paths – all that stuff looked like my favorite Cheget Mountain (Caucasus Mountains). And the elevation and absence of any tracks completed the scenery.

The last appeal to the mind: “We don’t know what’s the exit there. Are you ready to climb back if something’s wrong?” This was unnoticed even by its author. We’d dropped in.

Everything appeared to be even more severe than it seemed from the top. Angles, distances, avalanche danger – true big mountain ride, who’d had thought! On the other hand – incredible scenery, optimal snow, perfect relief! All of those together – grand adventure!

500 meters of steep gullies turned into long woodlands which later turned into pillows giving an opportunity to jump. Endless line!

If there exists perfect day of freeriding – it should look like that one!

The Conclusion

Being washed out we came down to the river, which had almost become our own. The camp was within an hour of skinning. Sun was mercilessly warming up, snow melted in our sight, ice on the river was disappearing fast, baring mirror water of impetuous mountain stream. That day spring came to that hospitable northern land. The next day long way home was waiting for us together with going out under backpacks, which became significantly lighter, hundreds kilometers by the ice of Lake Baikal, cars, planes, trains… Soon we’d wander off back to our routine and life plans. But at that moment…


At that moment sprawling on ice and having put my head to the river I was drinking with eager gulps. I was drinking freedom. That freedom which doesn’t fear any prohibitions, which can’t be repressed with any evil law. It was freedom of a man, who is not afraid to leave beaten tracks, to step into unknown, to get to know something new and bring it to other people. It was freedom which is invulnerable to darkness, because after each even longest night there is dawn.

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About The Author

Since I could walk, sliding around on some form of frozen water has been my passion, starting with skiing and hockey, then switching to snowboarding in middle school and never looking back. After moving back to my home state of Vermont, I found that resort riding just wasn't cutting it for me. So I skipped buying a season pass, and bought a splitboard. That first tour was the same ah-ha moment I had when I first strapped on a snowboard in middle school. When not splitboarding, I work in digital media, mountain bike, play hockey and enjoy all of the amazing beers the Green Mountain State has to offer. Look for me to write about gear, trip reports, tips and tricks and other miscellanea such as climate change, often with an east coast bent.

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