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Latest Work: Siberia’s Granite Cities

In 2018, I joined a climbing and exploration expedition sponsored by Red Bull to explore the Sundrun Pillars, aka the “Granite Cities,” of Ulakhan-Sis, Siberia. I won’t be revealing too much about this expedition now as there will be more content and stories being released in the near future. But I did want to give a tease with a few photographs from our trip.

I accompanied an international team of climbers, including Kilian Fischhuber of Austria, Robert Leistner of Germany, and Galya Terenteva of Russia. It was a huge journey just to reach this extremely remote location, and none of us had any idea if these odd formations, almost reminiscent of Easter Island idols, were even climbable.

My good friend Dane Henry was also with me as DP to film this expedition for our Novus Select production for Red Bell. The photographer Elias Holzknecht was also there with us, as well as the project champion Florian Klinger.

To reach the Granite Cities, we first flew to Moscow, then to the Sakha Republic’s capital Yakutsk—one of Russia’s most secluded cities and coldest, with an average temperature of 16 degrees F. Next, we took a flight to Belaya Gora, then boarded a boat up the Indigirka River for roughly 200 km. Finally, after three days of punishing hiking through the tundra, we arrived at these pillars.

It was a photographer who first “discovered” these unusual granite pillars in the middle of Ulakhan-Sis, Siberia. Biologist and photographer Alexander Krivoshapkin spied them from a helicopter while flying over the vast Siberian tundra on a trip to count wild reindeer herds.

Sergey Karpukhin, a geologist and a photographer, saw Krivoshapkin’s pictures and became obsessed with reaching this area and undertook three expeditions of increasing size to photograph was he dubbed the “Granite Cities.”

“This place is almost one of the last ones undiscovered on the planet,” he admired.

How did these 20-meter granite turrets form? Perhaps it was the extreme freeze-thaw cycles of Siberia that eroded the surrounding sandstone.

The Yakuts believed the granite spires looked like warriors. Their word for them—kisilyakhi—derives from “kisi,” meaning man.

Indeed, much of the climbing required a warrior’s mindset, and I was super impressed with the abilities of these professional athletes to show exceptional courage in establishing many new routes in this otherworldly landscape.

This is just a gallery of images from our trip, released by the Red Bull Content Pool for editorial usage. Stay tuned for a film about our trip!

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