Siberia is not a place many people go on their summer holiday, but it should be. It is an amazing place. We travelled around for two weeks paddling the rivers of the Altai Mountains with Two Blades Adventures. We had a guide Kirill Kosogorov and a driver Alexey who looked after us.
We flew with a Russian airline Aeroflot from London Heathrow to Moscow to Novosibirsk. Our paddles got lost somewhere along the way from Dublin to Novosibirsk and also on the way back! My advice is to bring splits in your main luggage just in case. Luckily our guide Kirill was able to source paddles for us from friends of his. While there we drove around in a van.
Luckily we had organised with Two Blades to rent boats out there so the airline couldn’t lose them. There aren’t a great range of kayaks out there but we all managed to get a boat that fitted.
We wild camped by the rivers – there are some great places to camp in forests and beside the rivers. My favourite campsite was at the get-out to the upper Bashkaus. A quiet flat grassy field with grasshoppers jumping around everywhere.
There are designated campsites around this region. They have basic facilities and wooden cabins with beds if you feel the need to sleep in a bed.
We cooked our food over a fire most of the time. Stew was a popular dish each evening and porridge in the morning. Buying food isn’t an issue as every small village has a small shop or supermarket.
The paddling in this region is amazing. There are so many rivers to choose from. They are good distances from each other so a lot of driving is inevitable in Siberia. We used the guidebook Rivers of an Unknown Land – A Whitewater Guide to the former Soviet Union by Vladimir Gavrilov. This was very helpful and the river grading is accurate.
Ursal (Grade 3–3+) (5 km)
Our first river on our road trip was the Ursal. This was a lovely river to warm up on. It was a lower volume river in comparison to the others we did on the trip. Although in comparison to any Irish river it was big. The rapids were all read and run boulder gardens, with some nice play waves along the run. We ran this river twice we liked it so much.
Chuya (Grade 3) (8 km)
This river is a great fun run. It’s a lower volume read and run river with waves and holes. We called this the fly run. There were swarms of flies just above the water so we did most of the river with our eyes closed or trying to get flies out of our eyes. Goggles would have been helpful! Kirill was surprised by the number of flies too and said he’d never seen them on the river before so we were just unlucky the day we paddled the river.
Bashkaus – Sarantansky Canyon (Grade 3–4+) (8 km)
The famous Bashkaus river has many different sections. We did a less famous section – the Sarantansky canyon. This runs through a beautiful canyon. The rapids are technical and tight. We had to scout a few rapids on this sections but ran all of them. We enjoyed this section so much we came back and did it again towards the end of our trip.
After this, we drove to the Chulyshman River Valley. This was an amazing drive over the Katu-Yaryk Mountain Pass. Our van struggled on the steep descent and we had to give it a few rest stops along the way to let the breaks cool. Our driver Alexey, had to give the breaks a quick service half way down as well. It was worth the drive though. It is a very remote valley with no shops. We stocked up on food and beer before we drove here.
Chulyshman (Grade 4–5-) (25 km)
We paddled the Chulyshman – the most difficult section of river we paddled. It was big volume, with long rapids of boulder gardens with holes and some narrow lines. It was a great section and one of my favourites on the trip.
We then took a day off from paddling to hike up to the Uchar waterfall. You need to get a boat across the river but we just paddled across and tied our boats to a tree. This hike took five hours in total and was well worth it. The waterfall is the largest waterfall of the Altai Republic dropping 160 m. It appeared around 100-150 years ago after a landslide that was only found a few decades ago.
We left this valley and travelled back over the Katu-Yaryk pass. Walking behind the van and leaving very early in the morning so it didn’t overheat on the steep road up.
Chuya (Grade 3–4+) (10 km) (13 km)
We stayed by this river for two days and paddled two more sections of it. The qualifiers and boater-X for the King of Asia are run on this section. It is a big volume run with lots of big holes and big waves. It is a fun fast run. There were a few rapids we had to scout/portage on these sections.
(We did sections part five starting at 159 km and 182 km in the guidebook.)
Katun (Grade 3–4+) (150 km)
Our final river of the trip was the Katun. We ran this river as two-day multi-day trip, camping halfway along the river. It reminded me of the Zambezi – a massive volume river with a mixture of flat water sections and sections of big waves, holes and whirlpools. The river travels through many landscapes. It is a beautiful river and was a great way to finish the trip.
We drove ten hours back to Novosibirsk, very tired but very happy after an amazing adventure in the Siberian Altai Mountains.
Thanks to Egor Voskoboynikov from Two Blades Adventures for organising the trip for us, to Kirill Kosogorov for guiding, minding us on the rivers and showing the amazing place he calls home. Thanks to Alexey our driver for diving for hours on the crazy Siberian roads.