Aradan. The fairy land of magical couloirs

           Have you ever dreamed of being transported into a fairy land like Dorothy Gale? I have! Having come to the pass, that separates civilization from it’s absence, and having seen this scenic spine in the deep of Western Sayan Mountains, I felt myself as if I was reading L. Frank Baum books again. Certainly, there was no chance to see Munchkins, Winged Monkeys and Fairies, but we could meet chipmunks, sonorous birds or the master of the taiga – brown bear. The other associations were steady: huge circus, surrounded with three high and steep walls, remoteness and inclement Siberian climate, surely guarding this wonderful area from any invasion.

         Opening season in Siberia became usual for riders from European part of Russia. Early snowfalls and perfect snow dispose to ride since November. It seems like only lazy people haven’t ridden Sheregesh forest. Priiskovy becomes popular, Ergaki welcome pioneers. And it turned out, that it’s worse season end too – but you have to sweat for it. 

         Aradan Spine is 20 kilometers away (in the opposite direction from Ergaki) from Federal highway M-54, that connects Krasnoyarsk city and the capital of Tyva Republic Kyzyl. In spite of 50-kilometers distance two spines are completely different: rocky bastions of Ergaki, footworn by tourists, and classic walls of Aradan – remote and solitary. You can meet someone in the summer but winters are silent here.

          So, we decided to follow leaving winter and get some white stuff on May holidays. The way to the mountains was not difficult from the point of technique, but it was hard. River crossing, 1A category pass, 20 kilometers of skinning across white fields under baking May sun together with backpacks with equipment and food for a week became worthy challenge for rookie splitboarders. I had an experience of splitboarding but for my fellows it was the first time in such difficult conditions.

      We’ve done well – wanted to spend a day but got too tired to walk 40 minutes more to the final point (as it turned out in the morning). Before second day afternoon we had reached the destination, cheerfully shuffling with our skins, and stood motionless, astonished with surrounding us beauty. Snow-white valley, surrounded with black walls, age-old cedars – as if it was waiting for us, thriftily had melted the snow on a small rhododendron lawn.

      Then it began – five days of endless emotional merry-go-round. Wake up, hot tea and hearty meal, put skins on and go, go, go, sun burns – where’s my sunscreen, too late – ears and nose are burn. Reached the top, made a photo, transformed the splitboard – hey, binding, stand on your place! And.. drop it! We counted thirteen couloirs cutting into the walls of Aradan circus. Thirteen Grand Couloirs (here: the biggest couloir on Cheget Mountain, Caucasus Mountains)! Can you imagine? (Of course, I fib a little – there were two or three Grand-like, the others were a bit smaller.) But! Three Grands and ten “almost-Grands” – this is super cool, isn’t it?

      A half of the couloirs are north-exposed, so sunshine is a seldom guest there. Though, in May, in appropriate circumstances it is possible to catch an hour when the sun shines above a couloir straight through it. It doesn’t heat much, but it gives light. In addition – two night snowfalls.. Mmm-m-m.. Snow, snow, SNOW!

      We used to come back in the middle of the day; 500-700 meters of elevation took several hours for one ascent-descent cycle. The weather indulged us and disposed for unhurried comfort and chilling out. We aired wet clothes, fed our grumbling bellies and just enjoyed that unity with nature, listening birds twittering. May is a perfect time for splitting! In a half an hour you get from harsh couloirs full of frosty snow to green grass under the warm sun!

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      Five days passed like in a fairy tale, and the time to prepare for skinning back came. I could just knock with my Sparks, like Dorothy knocked with her boots, to get home immediately, but I didn’t. So, together with (faithful Toto?) my friends I started making a new skintrack back. I really wanted to stay for a moment in that snow-white winter. But May sunshine heated more and more, the snow melted visibly – green spring was coming to that place inexorably.

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  Another winter was coming to an end for to come back again. Everything is good in its season.

Written by Slava Shapovalov
Translated by Dmitriy Metelya
Pictured by Ivan Mulyakov

Араданский хребет