The tour takes us to the west and east parts of the Katunsky ridge: to the canyons of Kucherla and Ak-Kem rivers. Mountain passes provide extensive panoramas of the Katunsky Ridge and ice-covered Belukha Mountain. The Kucherla river is one of the most lovely mountain rivers of the Katunsky ridge and has milky blue water. One of the sides of the Kucherla gorge is forest-steppe with larch and stone ridges, while cedars and firs cover the opposite side. Higher along the route, there are cedar pine forests and alpine meadows. Another famous lake we will visit is the Akkem lake. It is not very big, but its waters reflect the peak and glaciers of Mount Belukha. These places are a real Mekka for mountaineers and artists.
Our tour follows the well-known ring of Kucherla and Ak-Kem Rivers, but comparing with other standard tours, it includes more radial excursions in the area next to Belukha Mountain. During these days travelers without luggage will visit blossoming river valleys, multicolored lakes and enormous glaciers and will immerse in the world of wild nature. To make the trek easier, the pack horses will carry the camp equipment and major food supply. The tour requires the middle physical fitness and basic backpacking experience.
In addition to visiting a unique corner of the world, you will also learn about the ancient culture of the Old-Believers (they are ethnic Russians who split off from the Russian Orthodox Church in XVII century and sought to live a self-sustaining life, in the most remote place they could find). You will visit the ethnographic museum in the Verhnii Ujmon village and also places connected with the expeditions of N.K. Roerikh, a famous Russian artist, traveler, archaeologist and writer.
Highlights of the trip:
* Trekking, acquaintance with the nature of Mountain Altai from the foothills to the high mountains
* Enjoyment of remarkable places – mountain rivers, waterfalls, lakes in the rocky circuses of mountains, gorges, ridges, glaciers, highland cedar and fir forests, forest-steppe with larch, stone fields and alpine meadows
* Life in the wilderness, animal observation, fishing (grayling) is possible
* Observing mountain passerine birds, colonies of Altai pikas and marmots, endemic flora of the Altai.
Day 1: Arrive in Barnaul early in the morning (local time).
Bus transfer to Gorno-Altaysk (9.00 a.m. – 2.00 p.m.). Lunch.
Excursion to the museum of local lore and to the art gallery. Start your 500-km bus trip across the Mountain Altai. Overnight in the village of Ust-Kan in wooden cabins with outside facilities.
Day 2: Continue 500-km trip by bus to the Tyungur village on the Katun’ river.
The road crosses all the main landscapes of Altai (except highlands) including three panoramic mountain passes which are more than 1000 m above the sea level. Arrive in the village of Tyungur, overnight in stationary tents or wooden huts with rustic facilities in the tourist camping “Vysotnik”. *In Altaian language, Tyungur means “shaman’s tambourine”. This village, founded in 1903, is populated by Russians and Altaians.
Day 3: Transfer on 12 km up Kucherla River.
The trail runs through the blossoming meadows and light forests along the river bank over the impetuous river up to the turn to the weather-station Kara-Tyurek. Ascent to the weather-station that is located at the altitude of 2650 meters. Fantastic view on mountain ranges unfolds from this point. Hiking distance today – 15 km. The altitude difference is 1500 meters.
Day 4: From the weather-station the trail follows the mountain range up to Kara-Tyurek (“Black Heart”) mountain pass and goes down to Ak-kem Lake.
The path ascends grassy slope and crosses larch forest, then luxuriant blossoming alpine meadows and swampy areas abounding in medicinal Rose-root Stone-Crop (Rodiola rosea, or “golden root” in Russian). Then the trail goes to the mountain pass across the stony fields. You will see colonies of marmots and mountain birds. From the highest point of the mountain pass, we enjoy breathtaking mountain panoramas: beautiful view to Belukha, which is towering just in front of us, as well as to the Lake of Spirits, Yarlu valley, Blue Mountains and Kucherly river valley. Travelers will spend the whole day walking through the mountain country on the altitudes of 2500 – 3000 meters. Hiking distance today is 20 km, the altitude difference – 500 meters. To make the passage to Ak-Kem Lake easier, the pack horses will carry the camp equipment and food supply for the first two days. Overnight in the tented camp.
Day 5: Day for relaxation on the shore of Ak-Kem Lake under the shadow of vertical Ak-Kem Wall covered with glittering glaciers. Banya (Russian steam bath).
Day 6: Radial excursion to the picturesque Yarlu Gorge that is touched with multicolored rock formations and blossoming meadows.
Visit to a legendary Oracle-Stone that is said to foresee the future. The Altai Elders used to sit on it and ask the question. The first answer to appear in the mind was true. Hiking distance – 12 km.
Day 7: Travelers ascend to the hanging Valley of Seven Lakes along the steep path.
To the left, we view the peak Bronya (3291 m) and majestic Akoyuk peak (3670 m), which seems white because of the powerful hanging Akoyuk glacier. Akoyuk Mountain closes the Valley of Seven Lakes from the south. Ascending along the path across alpine meadows in luxuriant bloom, we will discover several lakes of various water colors laying on different levels. Ringing waterfalls make the picture especially impressive. On the way back, we descend to the bottom of the Akoyuk mountain, where, very close to the glacier, lays one of the most beautiful lakes of this valley. Our lope route will take 10-12 hours, 12 km and max altitude 2600 m.
Day 8: Hike to the Akkem glacier along the eastern shore of the Akkem lake (1, 5 hrs).
From the glacier, we enjoy the majestic view to Belukha Peak. To the west from Belukha, we see the peaks Bronya (3291 m), Akoyuk (3670 m), Roerikh (3492 m), Urusvati, and 20th Anniversary of October (4178 m). The last object of our excursion is the powerful cascade of glaciers. The whole trip takes about 10 hrs, 10 km, and altitude about 2600 m above sea level).
Day 9: Day for relaxation.
Day 10: Radial excursion to the Lake of Mountain Spirits.
This enigmatic lake with dark emerald water is hidden among high craggy cliffs on the left side of Kara-Ayuk Mountain. Hiking distance – 14 km.
Day 11: Passage from Ak-Kem Lake to the camping place next to the famous Tekelyu waterfall (there are 6 waterfalls in total, and the last is 60 meters high).
There are salting places, and you will have a chance to observe Siberian ibexes (“Teke” in Altaian means “ibex”). It is possible to see Altaian snow cocks or to hear their cries. Hiking distance today – 15 km.
Day 12: Passage down Ak-Kem River to the picturesque camping place “Three birches”. Hiking distance – 20 km.
Day 13: Passage from “Three birches” to Tungur village.
The trail goes over the easy mountain pass Kuzuyak (1513 above the sea level) covered by cedar pines and firs. On the way, we will see the local medicinal plant Alpic Thistle ($Rhaponticum carthamoides%, locally known as “Siberian stag’s route”). By foot – 15 km.
Day 14: Relaxation. Bus trip to Barnaul (12 hrs).
Day 15: Transfer to the airport, departure to Moscow at 8.30 a.m.
Included: accommodation in guest houses and camping sites according to the program, full-board including the meal during the transfer (tasty home-made meals), transfer Barnaul – Tungur – Barnaul, rental pack horses for transporting the food supply and camp equipment, rental tents, banya, guiding and interpretation services, cooking services, excursions and entrance tickets to the museums according to the program, visa support.
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