This expedition was planned for a long time, but we had no funds for its carrying out. No, we did not let the grass grow under our feet; we actively tried to find means. As a result, we were lucky because we have received a grant from the World Wide Fund for Nature on the subject: «The preservation strategy of the snow ram in the Amur region». Nobody was sure that snow ram found in the area of the Stanovoy Range because the last reliable information about observations of snow ram has been published by Dorogostaysky and Nasonov in 1914. And Grigory Fedoseyev mentions about meetings with a snow ram on the Stanovoy Range, but this information should be scientifically confirmed.
At the end of May, 2001 six people, who are ready to go to look for a snow ram on the Stanovoy Range, have met in Blagoveshchesk. Leonid Sopin is professor of the Irkutsk State Agricultural Academy, the leading expert on morphology of the wild rams. Pavel Fomenko is an employee of the Far East office of WWF, the hero of the planet of 2000 by the results of the «Time» magazine. Oleg Shemyakin is the head of «Baikal -Safari» travel agency, biologist - hunter, professional hunting organizer. Leonid Britvin is the graduate student of the Irkutsk State Agricultural Academy, the biologist-hunter. Svetlana Titova is the head of the Amur office of the Social-and-ecological union, teacher of the Blagoveshchensk State Agricultural University. Alexander Senchik is the graduate student of the Blagoveshchensk State Agricultural University.
We had to wait for a departure four days. An airline, which has three Mi-8 boards, had two helicopters which were faulty and the schedule of flights was very busy. We spent long days of expectation by wandering about Amur Boulevard and considering the ancient part of the city. The Chinese constructions grew by leaps and bounds as in the fairy. We were told that tomorrow we will be able to take off for the fifth days of the expectation. Day has passed in pleasant cares: purchases of provisions and some equipment. My friend and an institute classmate - Valery Kozhukhov has provided me by the car "UAZ" and it has considerably facilitated our efforts.
We have arrived to the helipad two hours before a departure in the next morning and we have spent out that time in intense expectation. We was thinking that it was a change that arrival to the Stanovoy Range is provided by helicopter can be cancelled. However, nobody talked about it in order to all plans can be realized. So we were considerably nervous at the beginning of an expedition.
I often had many flies by helicopter to different regions of our immense country. It is reliable equipment. The fly was to the Zeya city where it was planned to get acquainted in more detail with Fedoseyev's materials and we also took aboard the journalist and then we were already to go to the Stanovoy Range.
Pavel Afanasyev met us In Zeya city. He is journalist of the newspaper «Zeyskiye Vesti». We have got into his car and went to the city. We have spent time in visits of the museums, including the museum of one of the best writers-naturalists - Georgy Fedoseyev. It was interesting. We were looking to archival photos, and I have found a photo of the Fedoseyev with the conductor Ulutikanom and two males of the snow rams. It was interesting that a picture has been taken in the place where our expedition plans to go. We also found a picture of the Georgy Fedoseyev with good trophy bear. May be Georgy Fedoseyev wrote a novel "Evil Spirit of Yambuy» after he met a bear. It was also interesting for us pictures of the Fedoseyev with huge pikes and
taimen which he caught in the place where there is the Zeya Reservoir.
We waited for a helicopter departure since early morning of the next day and it was happened. Our way was to the Zeya Reservoir where there is settlement «Gornyу». After we took a course to the north-east and flew to the Zeya upper. While our flight was doing, weather began to spoil. Visibility began to worse, but pilots have surely disembarked us in the point which we have chosen on the map. The helicopter has taken a detour and it has flown away with a big roar. The suitable place for the camp has appeared all in half a kilometer from the place of disembarkation.
We have managed to carry away things, to put tents and to prepare firewood for the night. I have noted that all sandy area had many traces of elks, reindeers and bears. The last tent has been already putted already in the darkness. It was pleasant that there were neither mosquitoes nor midges. For example, there are many mosquitoes which are simply intolerable in August.
We made a plan of our routes. We have made fire and spent time by singing new and old taiga songs with the guitar accompaniment. There was a beginning of June, but night temperature has fallen below zero. This circumstance influences on our night's sleep.
Participants of group have gone in different ways in the morning. I have appeared in group with youth and Pavel Afanasyev who was there about 15 years ago. We went up the river. The nature of these places is so beautiful and picturesque. Neither fires and cut-down trees nor winter quarters and other people were around us.
Pavel as the hero of the movie "Gentlemen of Fortune" repeated: "I remember this place, I don't remember that place". Therefore, we have understood that pilots did not disembark us in right place. I started to understand on the ground and try to understand a kilometer card which we have got in Blagoveshchensk. After that, we have climbed up the abrupt pass and crept on all fours. Sometimes we failed to the waist. I have found traces of rams and old dung. It was really funny that people are capable to rejoice to ram dung. We were finally sure that we were not near to Zeya River because we haven't found lakes which according to the card had to be there behind the pass. Having a thirty-five-kilometer route, we have returned to the camp in complete darkness.Pavel Fomenko with professor Sopin went nearby to examine the next rocks by looking thought binoculars, to carry away the remained things on a glacier, and to equip the camp. We talked about incident and remembered pilots during our dinner.
Next day graduate students with Svetlana Titova have gone to spring. Pavel Afanasyev with Leonid Sopin had to be in the camp. Pavel Fomenko and I have decided to go to a two or three-day expedition in order to find a snow ram. We have left the camp early in the morning. We did not hurry because of the freight which was rugs, sleeping bags, products, small lamps, tents, the axe, a gun and provisions for four days. It was interesting way. Making the way through continuous thickets of a cedar, we have crossed a spring by jumping on stones. As a result we have rested to the rock and it became clear what can't go further. Therefore, we decided to have lunch and to find a spring which we saw yesterday. It was good that we climbed up to the pass in time when sun has already hidden.
I have noted the next dry area about two kilometers from us. It was necessary to go down on deep snow. Sometimes we were failing with the head. After that, legs were wet and backpacks became very heavy. All these situations affect us to dry our clothes and spend the night under the open sky. It was raining at the night and we slept by taking polyethylene cover.
In the morning we have planned a route to the highest place in order to look the neighborhood through binoculars. Rise was really heavy. We crept on all four extremities about three hours. When we were in the highest place of the mountain, we have removed backpacks and we were setting and looking around through binoculars. I have noticed the first ram in a few minutes.
It I was a four or a five-year-old male. This big horn slowly rose by standing on ledges of rocks. Also, I have seen two females of ram with lambs. We saw that females of ram slowly went and lambs jumped behind them as balls. Moreover, we have noticed three young rams crossing a watershed.
After one and a half hour contemplation I have decided to walk on a spur which we sat. I have seen a female ram with a lamb seen in seventy meters from me. She lay under the rock and too has noticed me, but a lamb jumped behind her. She has made some sound, and the lamb has stopped moving and after that the lamb settled near mother. I have slowly left.
We decided to return to the camp through other pass. There was a lot of snow, so we didn't hurry. We did it, we found snow rams in the Amur region. We also made a registration platform to determine number of rams.
Why did not we see old males of ram? It is possible that males of ram stayed separately from females at this time. It is possible that we can see them and then we can try to get one old male.
We needed to do a DNA tests in order to confirm that local rams are differ from other subspecies and to measure volumes of a body and to receive a skull for morphological researches.
When I finished the pass, I saw a large male ram in kilometer from us. It was necessary to come quietly to him on small rocky crests. We have stopped and saw a ram in detail. It was the large ram at the age of more than ten years (is horns have made a whole turn).
It was risky to shoot from such distance because my carbine « Tiger» was fallen together with the owner, so the optics had not a good setting.
We looked like cats because we were afraid that stone can fall and sound of the fallen stone can frighten a ram. I have found out that the ram has moved closer to us and have suspected something. Therefore, we did not move and did not breathe. The ram has quietly hung the head and has turned to us sideways after five-minute silence. The distance to the purpose didn't exceed 80 meters, but if the optics is broken, I had a change to shoot past. I have decided to shoot by using an aim level. Sound of the shot rushed on the mountains. The ram and many stones have fallen from the rock.
Pavel has congratulated me with a successful shot. I was happy. We went down to the trophy and inspected it. According to the annual rings of the horn, it was determined that ram was 11-12 years old. Having made the basic measurements, we took samples and the skin for a scarecrow. We left Meat in the snow, took only one shoulder blade. I gave Pavel my things, tied the skin to the backpack with the skull. It was very heavy. Slow descent continued to the darkness. We have seen group of females with young rams on the road.
We were in the camp by noon of the next in the evening. They have found geodetic point and confirmed that we were at the First Sivaktylyak. They did not see rams, but they found a lot of traces of their stay in the winter. Professor cooked his house specialty which was a mutton ragout, so we violently rejoiced to success. The guitar sang that evening more loudly and it was much more songs. Moreover, it was not a finish of our expedition. We made two registration platforms, found more ten rams, and have found areas of the dwelling of the large males. After that, we took a day of the rest and caught huge links, and cooked a smoked mutton meat. It was perfect time, so we enjoyed the fine nature of the Stanovoy Range. Eighth day of our expedition was in waiting for the helicopter to fly home. However, helicopter was absent two days. Therefore, we started to think about ways of the alloy on rafts down the river. According to the map, we had to spend more then week in order to be in human settlement. After a lunch, we have decided to arrange a bath. We brought stones in a tent and we decided to light the stove. However, the helicopter has unexpectedly seemed in the mountain.