Extreme White Water Rafting in Russia
Let’s talk white water rafting.
It may not be an activity to consider at this time of year if you are based in the northern hemisphere and certainly not in the Altay mountains in Russia where at the moment you are more likely to find a frozen river and ice and snow – but, and there is always a but, it might be something to consider for that extreme holiday you were planning for the summer – so read on.
The name Altay (or Altai) comes from the Mongolian word ‘altan’ which means golden and this landscape which lies over four countries – Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China – is truly a golden place to go. It is vast – broad and boundless with views that stretch as far as the eye can see – steppes, forests, deserts and snowcapped mountains and between the months of June and September its rivers offer some of the most challenging rafting to be found anywhere in the world.
The Katun’ is one of the best known rivers in Russia and Siberia since the Katun’ was the first river explored by foreign whitewater rafting enthusiasts. This is one of the most commonly run rivers in the Altai so there are many stories about this run.
The river runs 688 km from its source on the Mount Belukha (14,770 feet) glaciers and cuts through mountains, taiga, and meadows of high grass and flowers. The Katun’ rafting run is a high water journey similar to the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.
Your ‘put-in’ is at Yaloman village on the Chuyskiy Trakt (highway connecting Russia and Mongolia). The river shows its power even before the major rapids: it is very fast and waves cover the entire width of this huge river. You can’t relax: any of these mountain-like waves can cause an unwanted swim or even flip a 16 foot raft. There are no Colorado style pools on Katun’. You will travel 4-5 miles per hour even without rapids.
There are few breath taking rapids on the Lower Katun’: Il’gumenskiy and Shabash are the most exciting. You definitely want to try and avoid some of waves in these rapids. The last rapids you will run are the Teldekpen’ rapids which are locked in black rocky corridor and have enormous whirlpools.
Another well traveled river is the Chuya with spectacular views of every type of terrain the region has to offer. You will see the North Chuya Range covered with ice and snow, wide hollows between the mountains, canyons, and the dense taiga forest. The weather is usually good during the river rafting season, with air temperatures around 25 degrees centigrade (83 F), and water temperatures around 11 to 14 degrees centigrade. Rain is relatively rare here. Most of the water comes from glaciers and because of this, the water level is highest in the early part of July.
There are many great rapids on the Chuya. The first of them is Begemot (Hippo), a powerful Class 5 rapid beginning with a huge drop under the bridge and having a couple huge, powerful holes. After many Class 3-4 rapids you reach a few more Class 4 and 5 rapids including The Turbine and Tourist Club Horizon rapids.
Below these rapids the Chuya is still a very fast and exciting river. You will have fun on Class 3 rapids all the way to the confluence with the Katun’.
These journeys will take 10 to 12 days and you will cover a distance of between 100 and 200 miles depending on which river you select. Cost – reckon you need to budget up to $2,500 before any flights.
Oh and for those idle moments – well you should not forget to pack your fishing rod!