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Altay trekking: Ak-Kem

Region: Russia, Southern Siberia, the Altai Mountains
Activity: trekking

The mountainous part of the Altai region is one of Russia’s most picturesque areas. Altai nature stands out by its primordial purity unspoiled by man. The rigorous peaks soaring into the skies with their white caps of eternal snows, the virgin taiga clad in a green attire of lush vegetation, the pellucid rapid rivers, the azure lakes with crystal clear water, the bright, uncommonly large flowers of alpine meadows, the steppes and even semi-deserts-all those are the wondrous and unique, mountainous country of Altai.
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. Ak-Kem Lake is smaller then Kucherlinskoye Lake, but its waters reflect the peak and glacier of Mount Belukha. These places are a real the most beautiful spots for trekking. The mystical quietude and the local beauty gave rise to numerous legends of the Altai people. The base camp on Ak-Kem and the availability of various complexity routes make the area inviting to people with different training levels. A number of archeological artefacts, including rock paintings and Paleolithical site on our route, makes this trip not only trekking adventure but cognitive trip as well.


Day 1 — Arrival to Barnaul airport early in the morning. Meeting with guide and transfer to Tungur (750 km, duration of the transfer — 9-10 hours).  Group makes stops for rest and having lunch in Srostki.
Arrival to tourist center «Vysotnik» in the evening. Accommodation in Double, Triple, Quadruple rooms. Russian baths. Dinner.

Day 2 — breakfast. The trekking program starts from the tourist center «Vysotnik» (850 meters) through the pass Kuzuyak(1513 meters) to the river Ak-Kem and the Oroktoy stream (1100 meters). The itinerary goes through the Kucherla village — the last inhabited locality to Belukha mountain ( population — about 100 people, all inhabitants are Altaians ). Ascent to the pass Kuzuyak — the first stamina test. After ascending the pass group descends to the river Ak-Kem. Overnight in tents. Food is prepared on fire. (Duration of trekking — 5-6 hours).

Day 3 — Trekking along the Kucherla river. The path goes up through the mountainous taiga and gradually changes into Alpine meadows with a breathtaking panorama of the snow-covered alps. Overnight on the bank of Kucherla river ( duration of trekking — 6-7 hours, food is prepared on fire ).

Day 4 — Trekking  to  LakeKucherlinskoe ( 1760 meters) — the «walking under clouds». Travelers will see the amazing Alpine meadows, the splendid panorama of Katunskiy ridge and intricate-shaped rocks. Overnight on the bank of the KuscherlinskyyLake. (duration of trekking 3 hours).

Day 5. Day of rest on the bank of KucherlinskoeLake.

Day 6 — Trekking «KucherlinskoeLake — the Tekelyu river» ( 1800 meters). A small ascent to Alpine plateau, which is partially waterlogged (geographical zone is similar to mountainous tundra). Afterwards- a steep descent to the river Tekelyu pass the grandiose precipice Skynchak. Overnight on the bank of the Tekelyu river. (duration of trekking – 4-5 hours). For the interested persons — excursion to the biggest Altai waterfall — Tekelyu(water overfalls — 40 meters)

Day 7 — Trekking «The Tekelyu river — the Kara Turek` pass»(3060 meters) — Lake Ak-Kem — mountainous shelter «Ak-Kem»(1950 meters). The word «Tekelyu» from Altaian to English means «a place where «teke» (mountainous goats) live. They are to be often found in the Sarybel` pass district. One should be very attentive and careful. The ascent to the Sarybel` pass is quite hard for the horses-travelers , but for the travelers it is not so hard. Today`s trekking lays through sough plateau Sarybel`, where travelers enjoy the splendid view of Belukha and Ak-Kem Lake, will try the pure water from mountainous river. The last and exciting part of the trekking — wade the mountainous stream of the Ak-Kem river or crossing it along an unsteady bridge. Delicious dinner and Russian bath. Overnight in tented base camp. (duration — 4 hours).

Day 8 – Day hike to the Yarlu gorge ( with light luggage). Return to the base camp. The area around Ak-KemLake is considered to be filled with unusual cosmic energy. One can meet here hermits and people, stating that they saw UFO or UFO traces. There is a small «town», built of stones by the people, who came to meditate to the foot of Belukha mountain, which is the sacred place for all Altayans.

Day 9: Radial coming out at the upper reaches of Kara-Oyuk river onto ‘The lake of Mountain Spirits’. Return to base camp.

Day 10: Radial coming out onto ‘The Seven Lakes Valley’ (small lakes of different colors). Ascent of MountBronya, 3,200 m. Tramp around the glacier. Return to the base camp. Sauna.

Day 11: Trek from  base camp to the place “ Three birches” Overnight in tents.

Day 12: Continue trek to Tungur crossing the pass Kusuiak ( 1500 m).Overnight in tourist center “Vysotnik”

Day 13:  Depart by charter bus to Barnaul. Hotel in Barnaul.

Day 14: Depart Barnaul.

Included:  transportation to Tungur and back, hotel accommodation in Barnaul ( DBL),  meals ( day 2 till lunch day 12), horses for luggage during the trek to Lake Ak-Kem and back to Tungur, tents, pads, sleeping bags, kitchen staff, guides.


Not included: Travel to and from Barnaul, visa fees, Altay region permit and foreigners registration fee, meals not mentioned above, alcoholic beverages, personal expenses.

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