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Trekking to Kuznetsk Alatau 2009

Russia, Kuznetsk Alatau, 8 Days, 120 km

We did a hiking tour in late June - early July to Kuznetsk Alatau Mountains. It's a mountain range stretched between Kemerovo Region and Khakassia in Southern Siberia, Russia. One of the most fascinating and interesting places there is Golden Valley with cedar forests, blossoming meadows and nice lakes surrounded by steep mountains. That's why Golden Valley was our main destination in this journey.

Early in the morning we came by train to Luzhba Station and then we crossed the Tom River by boat. There were lots of young hikers going to take part in an annual tourist competition.

Then we went 8 km by bus up to the mountains and started hiking. It was rainy and the trails were wet so we hiked carefully. The vegetation of Kuznetsk Alatau is pretty luxuriant because of a high amount of precipitation. You can see tall grasses and red lily flowers standing out sharply against the background. We also travelled in conifer forests a lot. 

    It was already summer at the foot of the mountains but while going up spring was coming. Globeflowers were bloomed at meadows and near brooklets. I caught a glimpse of some flowered bird cherry trees which generally blossom in May and it was really impressive. We didn't feel cold while hiking up to Shorsky Pass in spite of rain. The Pass is very low and covered by woods. Though for the first time in our journey we saw kurumnik (a stone river) and climbed down slippery boulders with a great care. The trail goes down to the Maly Kazyr river and goes up to Karatosh Pass. Our first night was on the bank of a raging stream and we couldn't talk sitting by the campfire because of the sound of water. Darkness came fast with cold in the evening. A long and busy day came to an end but other adventures were waiting for us. 

    The following day we continued hiking up to the river head of the Maly Kazyr observing luxuriant meadows and unmelted snow on mountain slopes. Sometimes we got over brooklets by wading or just by jumping on stones. The trail was not straight, it went up and down regularly on the right bank of the Kazyr. In the evening we got to the bottom of the ridge and started climbing up Karatosh Pass – a natural border of Golden Valley. Our camp was set up on the upper border of the forest and we could watch the valley of the Kazyr River sitting by the fire. 

    The next day in the morning we climbed up Karatosh Pass under a shining sun. The birds were singing in bushes, the water was babbling under stones and at midday we got to the top of the pass. It was amazing to see the lakes with ice floes at the foot of the mountain on another side of the ridge and immense space of Kuznetsk Alatau area. We climbed the mountain located near Karatosh Pass and saw a couple of partridges in the grass while hiking up. After climbing we headed north across the snowfield. We stayed overnight on the ridge with a great view of the evening sky. 

    In the morning we traversed a steep ridge and started going down to Golden Valley over a remote pass. There were large snowfields on slopes around us and we got to a picturesque cirque with a frozen lake in the middle. in the middle. The sun was hot and it was interesting to feel ice under our feet. The upper part of Golden Valley offers a rough country with low bushes. But in the lower part you can see cedar forests and larches; sometimes we came across tall bushes difficult to traverse. Owing to early season there was a lot of snow in the valley and trails were filled with water. 

    While hiking down the valley along the shore of one lake surrounded by snow, I noticed a bear walking on another side. We sat down and started watching him. The bear was going back and forth and was looking for some food under stones. After a while bear got upon the snowfield and started rolling down the slope, then he climbed up and repeat play. It was interesting to watch him but we had to go down. This part of Golden Valley is attended in early July very little, so we hiked without trails through bushes and snowfields. Then we got to the forest and set up our camp with a great viewof a rocky face of Golden Valley. We could see the first flowers growing out of snowfield. When we were walking around the camp, we suddenly saw two deer in the distance. 

    In the morning I was sitting on the stone and I was watching the rocks lighted up by sun beams. It was wonderful to be there without any noise and bustle. 

The day was devoted to rock climbing on boulders not far from our camp. As there were a lot of rock climbers in our group so we enjoyed some boulder routes and sunbathed a lot. On the same day we went on a hike to Kharatas lake located at the bottom of Kozy Vrata Pass. In the evening we decided to cook kissel and cooled it in snow. The “nature fridge” was 15 meters from our camp! In the afternoon man visited our camp. He said his name is Alexey from Novokuznetsk. Alexey told us lots of interesting stories about hiking and showed a few pictures of reindeer which he took on Karatash Pass. 

    The following day we woke up early because we were going to the main point of Kuznetsk Alatau Ridge - Verhny Zub Peak (2178m). After a meal we started hiking along the trail. Sometimes the trail dissapeared in water or under snowfields but eventually we got to Lake Kharatas and started climbing Kozy Vrata Pass. We climbed another steep slope and stopped among flowers to have a rest and to recover our breath when I saw a bear for the second time. It was standing on the slope in the distance watching the valley below. We went away slowly and carefully and then got to Kozy Vrata Pass. From this pass you can go straight to Khakassia Republic. We climbed up Verhny Zub. The top of the mountain is wide with a great view of mountains. This was our most remote point and we had to return. The trail ran along streams and waterfalls fed by melted snow. We returned to our camp with a mass of impressions. 

    Next day weather started changing and we climbed out of Golden Valley in cloud. In a while there was thick fog everywhere. It was impossible to see anything at a distance of 10 meters! We went across the ridge with a compass and descended carefully back to the Maly Kazyr River. 

    Then was long way to the beginning. We had an unforgettable experience. It was really worth a visit!

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