All pictures © Elias Holzknecht and Nicholas Adam /Red Bull Content Pool

Climbers Killian Fischhuber, Galina Terenteva and Robert Leistner, and guide Sergey Karpukhin traveled to Ulakhan-Sis Siberia for a rock climbing expedition: this remote location has had very few human visitors, not to mention climbers.
The goal of this expedition was to explore this region and get to the top of towers. The team established numerous first ascents and climbs. The rock quality was less than ideal, but the setting, the endless number of unclimbed towers more than made up for it.

The amazing Sundrun Pillars, reminiscent of the Easter Island idols in the Pacific Ocean, were first discovered by biologist and photographer Alexander Krivoshapkin when he passed over the vast Siberian area in a helicopter during a trip to count wild reindeer herds.
Fellow photographer Sergey Karpukhin was inspired by Krivoshapkin’s shots to see them for himself and undertook three expeditions of increasing size to photograph them from the land in the enormous Sakha Republic – almost as large as India in area.
Karpukhin revealed: “This place is almost one of the last ones undiscovered on the planet. My first expedition was conducted with just one partner in July 2016. In August 2017 there were four of us and earlier this year we had an expedition on snowmobiles with five of us. Now it is the largest expedition with eight of us. They were photo expeditions before, however now we have a team in which there are professional climbers. The buttes have to be cleaned to prepare the routes. There are groups of vertical cliffs 20-30 metres high, but there are a lot of separately standing cliffs. I named it the ‘Granite Cities’ because when you walk around those granite pillars, you really feel like you’re in a city.”

Fischhuber joined Karpukhin’s June 2018 trip with fellow climbers Robert Leistner of Germany and Russian Galya Terenteva, however they didn’t know whether the rocks were climbable until they got there. The team flew in over Moscow to the Sakha Republic’s capital Yakutsk – one of Russia’s most secluded cities as well as the coldest. Next, a flight to Belaya Gora saw them board a boat up the Indigirka river for roughly 200km. Finally, three days of punishing hiking through the tundra brought them to the pillars.

The weird shapes are believed to be sculpted by relentless freezing and thawing of the granite and surrounding more eroded sandstone. In the Yakut language, these warrior lookalikes are known as ‘kisilyakhi’, from the word ‘kisi’ meaning man.
Karpukhin added: “My education gives me a clear understanding of how exactly this natural landscape appeared, yet even this did not stop me feeling as if this wonder was made by mysterious ancient civilisations. This part of Ulakhan-Sis should become a UNESCO World Heritage site, just like Cappadocia (in Turkey).”