Фотоальбом АЛТАЙ. Алтайский край и Республика Алтай
Paths of Gorny Altai
The main objectives of the “Paths of Gorny Altai” expedition hold by JSC “Siberia-Polymetals” and LLC UMMC-Holding are healthy lifestyle promotion, demonstration of tourist capacities in different regions of Russia and collecting material for the “Gorny Altai” and “The country of UMMC” artistic photo albums.
THE BOILING KATUN RIVER
At the first stage of the expedition the members of the main group (N.Rundkvist, P. Zakharov, E.Pasoshnikov, A.Moskalev) have rafted down the Katun river which is the longest river of Gorny Alrai. The Katun River is 688 km long, the area of its drainage basin is 60,900 km?. The Ob River is formed by the confluence of the Katun river and the Biya river and is the longest river in Russia (the length from the conflux is 3 650 km, the length from the source of the Irtysh to the mouth of the Ob is 5,410 m), and the second-longest river in Asia (the first-longest one is the Yangtze River: 6 285 km). The Katun River is treated by Altai people reverently and with a great respect: they call it “Kadin” which means “lady”, “mistress”. It originates in the crystal glaciers on the slopes of the highest peak Belukha Mountain, weaves its way through the canyons, then it flows across the whole Altai system and out to the endless plain.
The upper reach of the Katun River flows down the distant and sparsely populated area, but few kilometers downstream near the Kujus Village the coastal population density grows steadily and the area down the Ust-Sema Village is the most populated. There are numerous buildings, holiday camps and various guest houses in the pine forest near the village. The right bank is as well equipped as some seashore in the neighborhoods of Turkish Antalya. Every building here has two facades and looks wonderful both from the river and from the highway which runs across the bank. There are a lot of brand new pedestrian and highway bridges here; the snow-white hotel complex “Korona Altaya” in the wood is pretty amazing. Altai is blossoming out!
One of the biggest challenge were the Teldekpen rapids or as they call it “Pni” (Stumbs). They are located in the 10 meters high rocky narrowing, and the width of the Katun river here is not more than 20-30 meters.
Huge masses of water, squeezed in the long rock corridors, generate chaotic flows and substantial vertical turbulences. And you have no time here to admire the beauty of the rocks and the greatness of mountain landscapes around you. You need to scull continuously not to get into the huge whirlpool or under the wave. Right above the rapids there is a pendant highway bridge, where you can stay for a long time, watching the fascinating unpredictability of the water flows, which generates tricky whirlpools here and there.
Rafting is one of the most amazing kinds of sport. You hardly can practice rafting. Where will you be able to find a boiling stream flow with 5 meters width at least in the heart of concrete jungles of megapolis? And what is important as well is that the most challenging rapids are located in the very upper parts of the river, where the stream flows do not give you any chance to catch your breath or to look round.
Nevertheless I really enjoyed the rafting probably for the first time in my life: I loved nature’s water roller coasters and foaming waves, and even the force of the river pouring down on my head. And this is due to the excellent equipment: catamarans and up-to-date wet suits. At first I didn’t like that I had to stand on all fours being harnessed with kind of special straps. The construction seemed to me so insecure, that I preferred to held on to the frame with one hand and even didn't try to raw at all.
«Uncle Kolia, be brave! You'll get used to that!», cried Artiom cheerfully through the splattering splashes of water.
Not far from the mouth of the Chemal river there is a Chemal hydro-electric power station, which was built as a part of showpiece collective farm in 1935. The power plant equipment was made by famous Leningradsky Metallichesky Zavod and is still functioning properly, supplying the village with electricity daily (1200 kilowatt per day). Next to the power station dam there is a Chemal amusement park with numerous entertainment attractions and rides, booths with souvenirs and various things to buy.
Nearby there is a rocky island Patmos, named in honor of the famous Greek Patmos island in the Aegean Sea. In 1915 the temple of St. John the Evangelist was erected on the top of the island, but in several years it was destroyed. At the turn of XXI century the Temple was rebuilt. The rebirth of the Temple is miraculous in some way: the restoration process of the ancient wooden icon of the Mother of God takes place right in front of your eyes.
In general there are a lot of islands within the Katun River, which is its peculiarity; not sandbanks, but exactly the stone islands. The most well-known are the islands near the Elekmonar village, which are the pyramid-shaped rocks in the middle of the stream. Different authors call them Dragoon Teeth or the Ridge of the Dinosaur.
A thunderstorm is one of the biggest troubles for rafting. The rain doesn’t bother you while you are in a wet suit, but lightnings striking to the wide steam canal right in front of you along with thunder are rather worrying. You’d better to wait till it’s over on the bank, hoping for the best. But thunderstorm has a wonderful feature: it always comes to the end, a rainbow appears, and rain-washed emerald green leaves are exhaling the fresh coolness.
Kamyshlinsky Waterfall is a natural site that is really worth of visiting. It is located on the Kamyshla River, the left tributary of the Katun River, 250 meters from the mouth. The water from the fast stream falls down from the precipice and is made from two ringing falls with total height of 12 meters. There is a lot of visitors who came to walk around here from nearby health resorts and holiday camps and from municipal camps which can also be found here. The bank doesn’t belong to anybody, but here you can find tables, chairs, port-o-lets and litter bins. Gravel paths go here from the road and the bank.
After some rather easy rapids and riffles there are two spots worth of mentioning: the Kapitanskaja Bochka (Captain’s Barrel) riffle with 2-3 meters flow and the Manzherok rapids, where the fast foamy flows fight their way between five huge stones. The water breaks against the stones generating fearful whirlpools. You should raw away from here, staring around is not recommended.
Farewell dinner: potatoes mixed with macaroni and stewed meat, salad made from fresh cabbage, cucumbers, onion and corn. Tea and vanilla waffles. Sharing impressions and new plans with each other. The next stage of expedition will start on the 4th of June in Rubtsovsk city. The travelers will cycle through the whole Altai and will visit Ukok Plateau, the remote and really hard-to-get secret place of Altai.
CYCLING THROUGH ALTAI
The second stage of the expedition “Paths of Gorny Altai” began in Rubtsovsk, or more exactly 25 kilometers away from it in billowy prairies with forest outliers where the industrial site of JSC “Siberia-Polymetals” is located.
Warm introduction to the top management of the Holding and numerous regional mass media representatives was followed by festive meeting, when the vigorous General Manager Gennadij Stavsky shot from a starter pistol, and the stage began.
The expedition team consists of four cyclists (Alexander Baranov, Anton Belousov, Anton Borodkin, Anatoly Kondratiev) and Niva car which was the sag wagon with driver and photographer (Nikolai Rundkvist and Peter Zakharov). The stage route: Rubtsovsk - Ozero Kolyvanskoye – Kurya Krasnoshekovo – Charyshskoye – Soloneshnoye – Denisova Cave - The Keleisky Passage (1313meters) - Ust-Kan - the Yabogansky Pass (1492 meters) – Tuekta village - O-ngudai village - The Chike-Taman Pass (1295meters) – Aktash village – Kosh-Agach village - The Bogomojus Pass ( 2860 meters) - The Karsulu Pass (2450 meters) – The Tiopli Kluch Pass (2870 meters) – Djumalinskye springs. The total distance of expedition is 1 050 km, its duration is 20 days.
From the place of start we made our way towards to Zmeinogorsk. The wide prairie is followed by ridges and foothills. The first place that is worth of attention appears soon: Ozero Kolyvanskoye, the lake near the northern slope of the Kolyvansky Ridge. The shores of the lake have precipices in some areas or granite rocks, going to the sky-blue glassy water. There are a lot of interesting results of rotting here and there in the neighboring mountains. They consist of flat stones which are put one on another and remind of Kamennyje Palatki in Yekaterinburg.
Near the border of Altai Krai and the Altai Republic there is Denisova Cave. It was named after herdsman who was the owner of the neighboring holdings; according to the other version the cave was inhabited by an old believer Dionisij (Denis), who lived there his entire life; so the cave was named after him. Not far from the entry there is a grotto with a one meter through hole in its top. The daylight comes through the hole during the summer period, in winter the hole serves as a chimney; and all this was made by nature. The archeological digging showed that people used the comfortable cave as a place to live even before a hermit Dionisij came here. The cave proved useful to us as well: we waited there till the unexpected cold rain was over.
Through the dusty Keleisky and Yabogansky Passes we came to the Chuya Highway, the main Altai traffic artery. In ancient times there was a caravan path, which was mentioned in high antiquity Chinese chronicles. In 1901 they started to widen the path to turn it into the road qualified for wheel transport. In the 1930s the road was graveled, the bridges were built instead of car ferries. The majority of the builders were prisoners who worked in harsh conditions and with old fashioned tools: picks, crowbars, spades and wheelbarrows. Industrialization and collectivization didn’t develop the industry of road construction. Nowadays the highway is asphalt-paved and very modern.
While driving the Chuya Highway you can easily receive evidence that Altai is one of the most beautiful regions of Russia, probably the most beautiful one. Ural can be compared to a raisin bun where raisins are the unique natural landmarks, while Altai is a bag full of dried fruits: there are plenty of landmarks here. Probably it will seem to someone too sweet.
The Caucasus used to rival the Altai, but then its Southern part became the part of other country, an numerous national conflicts put travelers off going there. When we were preparing for the UMMC North Ossetia expedition in 2007 we were being sent off as if we were going to war. We were astonished by the hospitality and cordiality of the Caucasus people. And in Gorny Altai the native inhabitant came to us with a gun during our first overnight stay. He told us that the shore belonged to him and that we had to give him 500 rubles. While we were recovering from this Altai rudeness he took some our things which he liked and went away.
Ukok Plateau is one of the most mystic places located in the southernmost part of Altai at the borders of Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia. The Plateau is a kind of pedestal which towers at the elevation of 2200-2500 meters above sea level. On the massive pedestal there are mountain ridges 500-600 meters high. From the southern part the Plateau is closed by snow-covered Tavan Bogd mountains with its peak Huiten Peak (4374m), the second highest peak after Belukha Mountain (4506m). Before 1989 the name of the peak was Nairamdal, which means “friendship”, which symbolized the relationships between fraternal nations of USSR, Mongolia and China. The modern name can be translated from Mongolian as a Cold Mountain, which is rather apolitical.
The Plateau is really hard to get to. The dirt road leads there from the Kosh-Agach village. First we planned to go there by off-highway vehicles. But the owners of the vehicles I counted on so much had dug up the information in the depths of internet with the description of the horrors of the Ukok Plateau. These horrors have made them not so enthusiastic. “Are you crazy? We will destroy our cars there!” they repeated again and again. They reminded me of boys from my childhood who kept away their sticks while playing hockey. So, we decided to go there by bicycles. And from the very beginning it was an extreme journey. A bridge cross the Dzhazator river probably was washed away by the high water, though quite possibly that it never existed. Courageous Sasha Baranov crossed the ice-cold river and managed to strain steel rope for crossing. Unfortunately the rope turned out to be too short, and we had it only up to the narrowest part of the river with the strongest current. Nevertheless the crossing went off without a hitch.
On some maps there the road from Mongolia to Kazakhstan is plotted along the southern board of Russia. This route was used before to drive the cattle from Mongolia to packing houses of Kazakhstan. Nowadays this road doesn’t exist, as well as entry points. I hope I’m not divulging the national security information, but there are no frontier posts there. Or rather there are some, but we haven’t met any border guards.
We haven’t met anybody at famous sacred Djumalinskye springs not far from the Topli Kluch Pass. Bicyclists, dead with cold, gladly climbed into the warm radon water and spend a lot of time luxuriating in font-stones filled with divine subterranean flows. In the morning we couln’t continue the bathing. We were surprised when we found out that the temperature of the water hardly reaches the 20 degrees.
The third alpinist stage of the expedition was to start in 16th of July in the small Altai Tungur village and would include the ascent of the highest Altai peak, Belukha Mountain.
THE BELUKHA MOUNTAIN THAT BECAME GRAY
The third stage of the expedition “Paths of Gorny Altai” began in Tyungur village Ust-Koksinsky District of the Altai Republic and was actually the ascent of the highest peak of Altai, Belukha Mountain. The expedition team consisted of Peter Zaharov, Anatoly Donskih, Alezander Shestakov, Yekaterina Chupina, Marina Ledreff , Elena Kondakova and the author.
By the way Belukha is the highest peak of the whole Siberia as well. It was named Belukha because of the snow which according to literary sources covers the massif for the whole year round. The mountain has several names, including some Altai ones: Uch-Sumer (“Three-headed) and Kadyn-Bazhi (he peak of Katun), the Kazakh one: Myztau Shiny. From the side of Russian there are two pyramid shaped peaks: Eastern Peak (4438m) and Western Peak (4506m) with slopes which fall plumb down to the north to the Akkem Glacier and more gently to the south towards the Katun Glacier. The depression between peaks, so called Belukha Col (4040m) plunges to the north forming the Akkem Wall, the favorite spot for the Mountaineering.
Of course the local people believe the mountain to be the sacred place and the lair of vigorous powers. There was a popular belief that icy labyrinths of the mountain are inhabited by the evil spirit which would punish anybody who would dare to come near the mountain slopes with avalanches and rockslides. And each one who would dare to climb Belukha would lose vision. The last belief has some logical explanation. The earliest explorers didn’t use the dark glasses, and indeed went blind because of the dazzling whiteness. The ones who aware of it, Belukha is the hub of the universe, the spot equidistant from four oceans, the channel for connection with space, the source of superhuman energy.
From the Tyungur village the members of expedition started their way towards the Akkem River valley. And it is high time to tell you about current crazy Altai weather. The journalists just tell that it is extremely hot, and the old-timers do not remember something like that had ever happened (actually they hardly remember anything). But everything is not so easy. The fact is that glaciers melt intensively in the mountains, and mountain raging rivers become even more raging and swallow everything on their way. The Akkem river has overflowed its banks and washed away the riverside path. We had to beat a new path down the sheer talus. There was no opportunity to make it quickly and qualitatively, so one of the horses, which were bringing loads to the Akkem stand, fell from the precipice and disappeared in the furious glacier stream. After that the authorities tried even to close the valley, but it is hardly possible taking into the consideration the huge tourist traffic. Before we started to go, tour operators of Tyungur repeated that we were to have a rope to pass “the deathful track section”. The latter was made, probably, for the sake of appearance (we warned you, they said, took care of people), because it’s not so clear, how the rope can help you to move along the path on the long talus.
The heat affected Belukha as well, and affected so much that its name has lost its sense. Belukha means “white”, but almost all the white snow melted, revealing the dirty gray edges of the glacier, and the mountain became gray. The flesh which was snow disappeared and we saws the skeleton of the mountain with its cracks, rantclufts and bergschrunds, which made the climbing even more difficult.
We have chosen the classic route for the ascent: from the Akkem lake through the Delone and Berel pass. The previous experience was taken into account. The part of the group has already climbed on the mountain in 2001. Then the base camp was too far from the goal, near the foot of the Delone pass, and it was impossible to climb the mountain within one day. The travelers then reached the level of 4100-4200 meters above sea, but it was getting dark and they had to come back to the camp.
This time we went from the Akkem lake along the path, then breathing heavily through the moving stones and the glacier reached the Tomskiye sites (3000m). It was decided to climb the mountain within 3 days. On the first day we went out to go up at four o’clock in the morning with flashes. Through the Akkem pass we went to the Delone pass, then down to the Mensu glacier and set up an assault camp on the Berel Col (3250m). Next day we managed to reach the peak and to come back to the base camp.
It is necessary to make a special notion of the French member of our expedition, madam Ledreff, who had covered some distance and wanted to go back, but suddenly was found by us above the icefall and successfully reached the highest peak of Altai.
The view from the peak is grand: numerous glaciers, sharp peaks, mountain lakes. But such a magnificent view is suddenly becoming clouded, the squall with hail is occurring from the east, then the sound is becoming louder to the accompaniment of the sounds of rockslides and the sinister rustling of snow-slips. We wait till it’s over between the stones, throwing off our ice axes, crampons and all the equipment. And as soon as the crash stops we start quickly to descent down to the tents, warmth and hot food.
We climbed over the peak, but I personally didn’t feel that I had conquered it. How can you conquer a mountain giant? You can tie at the best, if it let you climb over its peak. And you can lose as well. That is why the EMERCOM helicopter flies to the mountain almost every day to pick up the wounded ones from the slopes. Thank Heaven, only the wounded; there were no more serious incidents while we were there.
On our way back to the civilization we visit numerous landmarks of the highest mountain area: the The Ak-Oyuk Valley, the Ak-tru Valley, the Color Mountains. We stay overnight at the Kara-Turek Pass to shoot the unique Belukha in the sunset and sunrise. There is a huge cairn with sticks and many-colored “kyira” ribbons tied on them. A man, who is preparing for the journey, should make these ribbons before. The ribbon must be made from the new monochrome fabric 0,5 cm wide and not more than 40-50 cm long. Allowed colors are white, yellow and blue. Kyiras, which do not satisfy these requirements, are usually deleted by the local people. And There's no guarantee that ribbons will help the one who tied them. I saw a young Altaian was furiously tearing away varicolored ribbons and bright foil tapes.
We saw the sunrise at the Kara-Turek Pass, shooting it with our cameras. It was beautiful, touching and grand. Wonderful, awfully beautiful, but … nothing more than that! We haven’t seen any famous atmospheric agents like halo effect, Brocken specter or at least St. Elmo's fire. The next hot fine day of the Altai summer began in the mountains.
We are coming down to Kucherla lake. He valley of the small river, with a nice name Tekeliushka, is fabulous. On its way it falls down from 900 meters, forming a continuous range of waterfalls. The roar sound is so loud that you can hardly hear a talker, standing one meter away from you.
Closer to the Katun Valley the mountains give way to the true paradise: the wide sunny meadow with no flies, mites and mosquitoes, but with flowers, butterflies and grasshoppers: the foaming river in the distance, horses, grazing in the field, and snow-white clouds in the sky.
The next fourth on-foot stage of the expedition started on the 19th of August in a small Chibit village and included the passing of the northern Chuisky Range.
THE NORTHERN CHUISKY PLEASURES
The fourth stage included the passing one of the most beautiful mountains ridges of Altai and Russia, Northern Chuisky Range, and ascent on the Ak-tru mountain and the Maashey-Bashi peak. The expedition team consisted of Roman Kataev, Igor Moskovkin, Ivan troshin, Alexander Maksimov, Roman Usenko, Olga Sabenina and Elena Chipurina.
The Ak-tru mountain (4044m) is one of the highest peaks of the Northern Chuisky Range, and in English translation its name means “White House”. The slopes are covered with glaciers, where the left tributary, the Aktru river flows from. In the river valley there is a year-round “Ak-tru” alpinist camp, which was founded in 1938.
To get there you should cross the bridge over the Chuya River beyond the Kyzyltash village, then to go through the Kurayskaya prairie full of stirring grasshoppers in a westerly direction and to reach so called terminal station. One hundred meters far from the station you can get over the Aktru river to its left bank by the slick beams. The height is 1750m only and it’s only 8 km to the camp.
The area is famous for the abundance of glaciers, and attracts ton only tourists and alpinists, but glaciologists as well. Due to these peculiarities the ravine has become the perfect location both for sporting events and research studies. Here the “Ak-tru” alpinist camp was founded by famous glaciologist M.V.Trunov. He was the one who founded the weather station, next to which the camp was opened in 1938. These years the extreme sports enthusiasts with skis and snowboards are coming here.
From the North side the Ak-tru mountain looks like an impregnable monolith. We have chosen for the ascent the classic route from the base camp near the Maashey pass footage. We climbed from the Big Aktru glacier (left) to the ridge over the saddle of the nameless pass. Then we climbed higher to the western ridge, passed over one peak and got to the main one, with a metal tower on its top. I was mainly ice and snow under our feet, though there was a section with hardly destroyed rocks.
The Northern Chuisky Range extends 60 km in the west-east direction. Its highest level is in its central part known as Bishiirdu plexus of mountains (“five sharp peaks”). The highest one is Maashey-Bashi peak (4177m). The northern ice wall of the peak over the glacier is almost kilometer and it is, probably, the most interesting mountain to climb for alpinists.
The base camp is on the saddle of the Nadezhda Pass. From this point you can watch in the sunset the picturesque view of the black and rose massif with rocky precipices and icefalls. Just before the peak there are huge snow cornices ready to fall down. You should be really attentive here. Then go snow ice slopes, which turn into rocky exits closer to the peak.
Unfortunately one of the most beautiful landmarks, Maashey Lake, has vanished from the face of the earth this summer. It has been completely demolished by mudslide which resulted from heavy rainfall in the mountains; a stream of mud eroded a moraine that "locked" the Maashey lake. And the water simply went away from the lake bed. Luckily no one was hurt. The Maashey Lake arose about a hundred years ago when the landslide blocked the stream canal and had quite a long life compare to human life. But from the geological viewpoint it existed for a moment only. It was 1,5km long and 400m wide. You can see in internet at least how beautiful it was.
Religious Altaians and some politicians say that all the natural disasters of the past few were caused by the violation of the Princess of Ukok mummy. Let me remind you that for the first time Ukok was acclaimed to be sacred place by Altai intelligentsia in 1993, when novosibirsk archeologists discovered mummy of a young woman in a good state of preservation in the burial mound in the Akalakha River valley. Nowadays this mummy is known as the Princess of Ukok, though she obviously belonged to the middle class. After it was discovered, the mummy was kept in the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Siberian Department of Russian Academy of Sciences, in the science campus. The Princess case arose before each elections, when Altaian candidates in their political programs demanded to bring the national patrimony back to home. And in September 2012 it happened finally: the mummy was brought back to National Anokhina Museum of the Altai Republic in Gorno-Altaisk. The building of the museum was repaired, and he separate outhouse was built for the Princess.
From the Right Fork Karaghem River we come to the mouth of the Shavla River. The ascent of the Abyl-Oyuk Pass along the snowed-up couloirs is physically hard, but rather easy technically. “Hey-ho, hey-ho!..” After hour and a half we are at the saddle already. Here you can put your tent right on the snow and to enjoy sunrise and sunset. The descent turned to be far more difficult than the ascent: first we were going down the destroyed rocky ridge, then the slippery and steep snow bed.
The next landmark is Shavla Lakes. The upper lake is located above the forest bounds, 2164meters above sea. The sloping banks are the chaotic heap of chips measuring from a few centimeters to dozens of meters. The lake is at the footage of the Northern Chuisky Range with its peaks Skazka and Krasavitza (up to 3700m), each of them is sparkling with glaciers and rather difficult to climb on.
The lower lake, which is greater in area, is located at the level of 1983m above sea. There are a lot of comfortable staging posts on its left shore, covered with larch forest. He western shore is steep, rocky and is almost not visited.
The nature of Shavla Lakes is typical for the area. Forests are not usual in the open space area, mostly it is larch, sometimes cedar. In the hollows, protected by the mountains, such as the eastern shore of the lower Shavla Lake, the forest is thick with dense underbrush where you can find bilberries and cowberries. The most common animals are chipmunks, moving to and fro underfoot.
The fifth automobile stage of the expedition was to start in the 6th of September and to include the visiting of Altaian amenities, which were not in the list of the previous stages.
The optimal variant of the journey, as I see it, is automobile and pedestrian journey. What does it mean? It means that you get to the landmark you need by car as close as possible, and then you just walk directly to it. The car allows you to waste less time on moving from one place to another, while walking gives you opportunity to overcome any obstacles, that no transport can overcome. This was the main principle of the fifth, final stage of the expedition “Paths of Gorni Altai”.
The automobile stage included the visiting of landmarks, whicj were not visited during the previous stages. Among them there were Ozero Kolyvanskoye and Teletskoye Lakes, which are rather far from each other, remoted Dzhazator and Balykcha villages, Djumalinskye springs, Ak-tru glaciers, Belokurikha resort and many others. The members of the expedition were Nikolay Rundkvist, Peter Zaharov, Vladimir Kazantzev, Andrey Tikhoniuk, Vyacheslav Maloyaroslavtzev, Olga Zadorina, Tamara Zotova and Yekaterina Chupina.
We went from Yekaterinburg to Rubtsovsk through Omsk, Tatarsk, Slavgorod. The is not so good here and there, a dirt road, but almost total lack of oncoming traffic made us believe that we were the only ones in this endless Kulundinskaya prairie. Finally we saw the silhouettes of distant mountains behind the haze on the horizon. Hello, Altai!
The first landmark is the Kolyvanskoye lake at the footage of the Kolyvanskiy Ridge northern slope in the Zmeinogorsky District in Altai Krai. The lake has a fanciful coastline with numerous bays and gulfs. On the shores there are a lot of interesting results of rotting which remind by the way of Kamennyje Palatki in Yekaterinburg. From the south-west side the lake bounds with high mountains, covered with forests. On the top of one of them there is a … building crane. The “Altaian Courchevel” is being built here, the ski resort with alpine skiing tracks and the picturesque view of the Kolyvanskoye Lake from the precipice.
Next day, the 10 of September, we were shocked by the weather conditions on our way to the Belokurikha resort. We woke up at the Kolyvanskoye Lake covered with rime (minus 2 degrees), but by the noon it was so hot (plus 32 degrees) that we didn’t know where to hide from the heat of the Indian summer.
Belokurikha nowadays is one of the fastest developing towns that attracts investments and encourages diversified cooperation; all that is due to the great, rich nature and the right method of approach to the recreation infrastructure organization. To put it in simpler words I can say that it is a very charming town with the atmosphere of endless holiday, which is so common for world-famous resorts: the crowds of relaxing idlers, lovers, cafes, barbecue and music, carriages and importunate souvenir traders. The heat is, by the way, quite suitable this resort paradise.
On our way from the Altaian village to the Cherga village we find the Komarskiy Pass. Long time before there was an old Chuya Highway.The pass serves as a watershed between the Sarasa and Bulukhta Rivers. There is a car park, ruins of a small cafe and clouds of dust at the pass.
The Seminskiy Pass is located at the 583rd km of the Chuya Highway (M-52). The height of the pass varies from 1715 to 1895 meters above sea in different sources. According to our data the height is 1780m. The way up goes through the centuries-old larch forest with rare silver firs. Then some cedars can be found or even dwarf pines. Finally the forest gives way to the flat saddle. Here the stele was erected in 1956 in honor of 200 years anniversary of the Altai republic becoming a part of Russian Federation.
There are a lot of trees at the pass with ribbons on the branches. The ribbons, or so called kyiras, are traditionally tied by the wayfarers to thank the spirits or in honor of the ones who wait them home or on their way. The ribbonned handkerchief will not bring you luck. You should prepare the ribbons beforehand: they must be brand new, 4-5mm wide and 40-50cm long, monochrome, white, blue or yellow. There is a special ritual of tiding these ribbons, and if you wish you can learn it. But is there any use? Let’s leave it to Altaians.
Tourist bases, hotels and entertainment complexes gradually tails after the pass, and the traffic as well. The next pass, Chicke-Taman, is not the highest one (1460m) but undoubtedly the most fabulous. Because of its steepness it seems to be higher. Twisting roads and cliffs give a thrill to the ones who drives here for the first time.
Before 1984 the road across the Chicke-Taman pass used to be a single lane road with Yield points, that’s why drivers had to honk all the time to let each other know about their coming. Nowadays this is an excellent asphalt divided highway. But the old one still exists, you still can use it, and it is worth of it, it’s very interesting. The old and new roads conjoin at the saddle.
The famous Djumalinskye springs are located 100km far from the Kosh-Agach village at the level of 2045m, on the right bank of the Djumala River. The area can be characterized as a severe, treeless slopes are covered with tundra vegetation, caps of snow lie on the top of the gentle mountains. The travelers will be pleasantly surprised by the 20 degrees warm springs. According to many people the place is sacred and powerful. It is very calm here, because alcohol, indecent behavior and being overactive are forbidden here. There are three cottages here: Russian baths with radon running water. In each cottage they cure define diseases: in first they cure backbone, in second – stomach, and in the first –head. I hate to tell that, but it seemed to me that all the baths are filled with the water from the same spring.
In order to get to the Ak-tru valley and to visit the Ak-tru glacier and the picturesque Goluboje Lake, you should turn to the left from the Chuya Highway to the Kuraj village, and then to go 7 km up along the Chuya River. There will be a bridge. The dirty road goes through the prairie towards the snow-covered mountains of the northern Chuisky Range, crosses the Tiute River fords and ends at the Perevalka hole. There are several houses and the ail, traditional for Altai hexahedral dwelling made of logs where you can stay over.
The place to found the “Aktru” alpinist camp was chosen by the famous glaciologist M.V.Tronov (1892-1978) in the early thirties. Its uniqueness was that the ice stream of Big Ak-tru glacier came directly to the forest. Even now, in spite of warming and constant retreat of glaciers the comfort of the trees is still there. Glaciologists were making here science investigations, and then the alpinists came and there was enough space for everybody on the welcoming emerald green glades, and they lived in peace and friendship till the 1990-s, when the scientific station was closed and the camp became empty. Only these years the process of the camp reconstruction began, and this place is a perfect start point for the ascents and walking tours.
The Katu-Yaryk pass is really something else! I felt sad recently as something can strike me more and more seldom. And here it is: the narrow serpentine road that leads to the Chulyshman valley has no fences, that could protect you while driving by precipices. The road is 3,5 km long, and 600m is at the same level. If you could remember tangent, you could easily determine the average steepness of the road: 10 degrees. I saw the similar road in Australia, but there they keep it in such a condition on purpose, to satisfy the ones who love extreme. While here the road is the only connection between the mainland with some villages and the southern shore of the Teletskoye Lake. This way down was built in 1987-1989 on initiative of the Ulagansk sovkhoz director, and it was made within three years by only three heroic bulldozer operators.
So, you know about the local Courchevel now. It’s time to know about Altaian Cappadocia, huge stone mushrooms in the Akkurum hole which is every bit as good as the world famous Turkish Cappadocia.
They are amazing: 10 meters high thin stipes which hold huge boulder caps weighing up to 15 tonnes. They were formed as a result of soft rock washing out. The caps fall down from time to time (approximately once in a century), but that there is no reason to be upset, because the new mushrooms appears on the slopes. And there are more than hundreds of them there.
It was said a lot already about the gem of Altai, the Teletskoye Lake. I have almost nothing to add. It is a fjord blocked between high mountains, and it worth of seeing once at least. The waterfalls fall down from the cliffs, graylings move soundlessly in the mouths of the springs. The lake is traditionally believed to be one of the most important landmarks of Altai. It is located it the tectonic basin, made by the ancient glacier. Situated at a height of 436 m above sea level, the lake is 80 km long and 3,2 km wide, and its average depth is 325m. The lake is included in the list of 15 deepest lakes in the world. Russian earliest explorers gave the lake its name 400 years ago: Altaian tribes, which inhabited the shores, named themselves teleuty. The local name is Altyn-Kol or Altyn-Not, which means “Golden Lake”. And the Chinese call the lake in a very simple way: just Altai.