News update 3 March 2022: due to the current situation in Ukraine we have decided to not take any more bookings for our upcoming Altai trips.
The Altai trek takes in the mountains which occupy the area where Russia in the north meets with Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China. Part of the region is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In it's description of the importance of the area UNESCO noted that "the region represents the most complete sequence of altitudinal vegetation zones in central Siberia, from steppe, forest-steppe, mixed forest, sub-alpine vegetation to alpine vegetation". Our trek explores the region in vehicles and on foot.
The spurs of the Katunsky Ridge are one of the most scenic places in all of Russia. The juxtaposition of the wild grandeur of the mountains with peaceful and picturesque landscapes is dramatic. The glacier-covered Belukha Mountain (4503m) is a towering feature. This is the highest peak in Siberia and in the rest of Russia outside the Caucasus. There are many mountain lakes with turquoise waters on the Katunsky ridge.
In July and August, the alpine meadows are in luxuriant bloom. In August and September the mating season for deer will be happening. In the Altai you can see Siberian wapiti (red deer), musk deer, brown bear, sable, Siberian weasel, squirrel, chipmunk, Siberian ibex (mountain goat). The elusive snow leopard and the Altai snowcock also make a home of these lands. The huge variety of flowers and flora too makes every day an enjoyable experience of the wilderness.
The tour takes us to the west and east parts of the Katunsky ridge: to the canyon of Kucherla river and to Kucherlinskii lake. 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. A circus of snow-capped peaks (3000 meters) surrounds the Kucherlinskii lake and is reflected in its quiet water.
Another famous lake we will visit is the Akkem lake. It is smaller, but its waters reflect the peak and glacier of Mount Belukha. These places are a real mecca for mountaineers and artists.
In addition to visiting a unique corner of the world, you will also learn about the ancient culture of the Old Believers (they are the ethnic Russians who split off from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1966 and sought to live a self-sustaining life, in the most remote place they could find).
You can also visit the ethnographic museum in the Verhnii Ujmon village and also places connected with the expeditions of N.K. Roerikh, a famous Russian artist, traveller, archaeologist and writer.
Terrain and fitness
The days are moderately demanding with sustained walking with a backpack over an average of 10-15 kms each day. There are often no paths, the route follows natural features and every group has horses which carry the equipment and food. Therefore the route is never too difficult and often it is the horse owner who will know the area well enough to suggest a particular route. The walking is very varied, through forests and across open land, alongside rivers and close to mountains.
The main point to be aware of on this trek is that it is remote. Make sure you are in good health and that you have dental checks before going because you will be far from medical care. If you have a pre-existing condition then please discuss with us in confidence, it may require a visit to your GP to ensure that this trip is for you.
Clothing and equipment
The trek is in a remote mountain region and you will be wild camping almost every day apart from some nights spent in rudimentary shelters, so it will be important to take clothing that will keep you warm, dry, protected from the sun and able to move comfortably, and also be comfortable at night.
- BAGS - duffle bag or rucksack of around 75L which is carried by the mules.
- DAYSACK - comfortable 40 litre sack for use each day
- OUTER LAYER - good quality shell jacket and trousers
- INSULATING LAYERS - variety of fleece layers, shirts, trousers and shorts for daily walking
- BASE LAYER - thin layer for cold days and nights
- EXTREMITIES - variety of walking socks, underwear, gloves, hats for cold and sun.
- BOOTS - Good quality waterproof ankle high boots, and sandals or camp shoes
- SLEEPING - 3 to 4 season sleeping bag and a full length sleeping mat
- EATING/DRINKING - Water bottles and eating utensils, mug and bowl. Do take water purification options.
- WASHING - small wash kit and towel, there will be a chance to wash in rivers and also use local bath houses
- MEDICAL - small first aid kit with basic supplies such as plasters and tablets for headaches, diarrhoea and inflammation.
- Our Russian Guide Alexander 'Sasha' Lebedev is an experienced mountain and wilderness guide. He is the author of many guidebooks including one on the Russian Altai Mountains and another on the Mongolian Altai Mountains. He is a keen photographer and somewhat of an expert on local culture and traditions in the Altai region. His knowledge of the flora and fauna in this (and other) regions is very comprehensive and he speaks good English, and he is an entertaining raconteur and companion on a trip like this. He was the Soviet Rafting Champion as a young man and now lives in Moscow with his wife and six children. He has been working with us since 2001 and has led many groups to the Altai region.
- We have financial bonding and all the relevant tour operator insurances and have been established since 2001.
- We are a company founded on principles of sustainable and ethical tourism, and we have strong principles about mitigating the impact of adventure tourism in all the places we visit
Altai trek itinerary
- Arrive in Gorno Altaysk and stay in local accommodation (day 1)
- Trekking in the Altai mountains (days 2-11)
- Return to Barnaul and depart (days 12-13)
|1||850m||Arrive in Gorno Altaysk. Stay in local accommodation.|
|2||1100m||We start by passing through Kucherla, the last populated area on the way to the mountains. After we leave civilisation behind, we will follow a path through the forest. Today we have to overcome the Kuzuyak pass (1513 m). The pass isn't high but the walking is pretty hard - it is a test of our stamina. We make camp in a nice meadow on the banks of the Oroktoy brook (1100 m). 6-8 hours hiking, 19 km, 600 m altitude change.|
|3||2000m||Ascending along the Orokto brook to the Tukhman River (2000 m), we will see how the panorama changes from taiga (deep Siberian forest) to high alpine meadows. Overnight is at a picturesque place with great panorama of Mt. Belukha - the highest mountain of Siberia - and surrounding peaks. 7-8 hours hiking, 14 km, 900 m altitude change.|
|4||The trail we are following has the same height level and leads us to the picturesque Kulduairy Lake (2000 m). If we are lucky we may catch a glimpse of a native Moral (a kind of deer) or a marmot. 7-8 hours, 20 km. Altitude change 100 m.|
|5||1800m||We have a relatively short trek today: a moderate ascent and then we find ourselves at a plateau with some weirdly shaped rocks and stones. After a short but steep descent we reach our campsite on the banks of the Tekeliu River (1800 m). In the afternoon we have an optional hike upstream along the river to see two waterfalls, 4 km. 3-4 hours hiking, 10 km, altitude change 500 m.|
|6||1950m||Crossing the Tekeliu River and climbing the Sarybel pass. After long ridge traverse and steep descent we are coming to the Yarlu valley. Then we should cross the Akkem River and in a half of an hour we finally reach our permanent high camp (1950 m) where we have dinner and stay for one day. There is a canteen, a sauna and a traditional Altai building called an ail. This camp boasts hypnotic views of the huge snowy massif of Mount Belukha. 7-8 hours, 15 km, altitude change 600 m.|
|7||An excursion day to the Ak-Ojouk valley, which is famous for its seven lakes all of different hues (5-7 hours hiking, altitude change 400 m), or to the Yarlu valley - the high energy place with "stones town" which was created by people visiting Yarlu for a meditation.|
|8||3060||Start the second part of our trekking. We have to work by climbing up the Karatiurek pass (3060 m). The descend from the pass is steep and goes on talus. We camp in the cedar forest. 6-8 hours hiking, 15 km, altitude change 1000 m.|
|9||1760m||After a short ascent to a plateau we are now descending, through the taiga, to the incomparable Kucherla Lake (1760 m). The water of the Akkem and Kucherla Lakes calls "dead" and "alive" accordingly. There is a lot of fish in Kucherla. The camp is at the shore of the lake. 4-6 hours, 13 km, altitude change 300 m.|
|10-11||Gradual descent down the Kucherla River with a night camping en-route. We also make a stop to look at the ancient petroglyphs on a rock. Return to the b. c. "Vysotnik". 4-6 hours in each day. 45 km|
|12||Road transfer back to Gorno Altaysk and local accommodation.|
|13||Flight out of Gorno Altaysk.|
Altai trek cost £1645.00
- Accommodation and meals during the trek, which will be either in tents or in basic shelters. There will also be a cook who helps prepare the meals, mostly on open fires.
- Trekking guide Sasha Lebedev, a well known Russian guide and author on the region
- Group camping equipment such as tents
- Horses to carry the bags
- All permits and registrations for the region.
- Reference letter for obtaining your visa
- International Air Fare to Gorno Altaysk
- Travel insurance
- Cost of Russian visa, normally around £80.00 for UK nationals.
- We have a subsidiary company in Russia with full time Russian emloyees to ensure a smooth trip with expert backup.
- Our Russian Guide Alexander 'Sasha' Lebedev is hugely experienced as a mountain and wilderness guide all over Russia.
- Sasha is also the author of many guidebooks including one on the Russian Altai Mountains and another on the Mongolian Altai Mountains.
- We are a fully registered operator and have financial bonding. We have all the relevant company insurances.
- We are members on Interhealth which gives you access to pre-trip health information and on-site assistance by phone in the event of an emergency.
- We are a company founded and run by people who are passionate about trekking, climbing and exploring in the world's most beautiful wildernesses. We are equally passionate about having the opportunity to share these experiences with others.
Choose a scheduled date or contact us to set up private dates or a bespoke itinerary. The minimum deposit is £100.00 and the balance is due six weeks before travel.