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5Jul/170

Hiking in Konzhak Mt in Northern Urals

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In June of 2017km I climbed the highest peak of Sverdlovsk Region Konzhak Stone (1569m) for the third time.

This time we were with the Uraloved club - club of amateur hikers from Yekaterinburg. Uraloved was organizing a 4 day tour to the Northern Urals. It was a perfect schedule because a standard 3-day Konzhak trip implies that you climb it in one day. It means 42km or 12 hours of trekking and the following day you can’t feel your legs. The other two days you spend on driving to Konzhak and back (450km one way, takes about 6 hours from Yekaterinburg). The area of Konzhak stone has many other interesting mounts to climb so we had plenty of time to see everything around.

Road to Konzhak

Road to Konzhak

The trail to Konzhak Mt is very picturesque and it’s famous for the annual Konzhak Mountain Marathon held on the first Saturday of July. In 2017 the winner of the marathon, Yevgeniy Markov (31 years old) finished the trail (42km) with the time 3.00.16. Well, we weren’t in a hurry and had heavy rucksacks, so we did first 14km in 5 hours on the first day.

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At first the trail goes through a magnificent almost magic-like Taiga forest with huge cedar trees, crooked spruces and a carpet of thick green moss. Because we arrived on Friday, there wasn’t a single soul in the forest. Taiga was silent only making squeaking sounds of the old trees in the wind every now and then.

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The 14th km of the trail is called the valley of painters, probably because it has a nice view of the Ural Mountains. That’s where tourists pitch their tents. On weekends the valley is overcrowded and those who come late have to put tents in the middle of swamps. Since we came on the working day, we could afford choosing the most convenient and driest spot for our camp. The great thing about Konzhak is that it never gets dark in summer time here. At midnight we could still chatting at the campfire enjoying the views around us.

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The second day was dedicated to the peak of Konzhak and Yov’s Plateau. In June the top of the mount is still partly covered with snow which was actually great. Instead of jumping up and down the huge stones making sure that your feet doesn’t slide in the holes between them and the stones are moving to make it even much worse, in June we could easily walk on snow. We didn’t stay long at the top because the wind there is always beastly strong and the raindrops hit your face like thousands of sharp icy daggers.

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Descending was very easy we could just slide down the snow.

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Yov’s plateau was still swampy in earlier June. Later in summer time the plateau is covered with colorful flowers.

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On our third day we went to climb Serebryanka Mt (1305m). It’s the second place of attraction in the area. This peak is easier to climb that’s why you meet more tourists there and families with children.

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Unfortunately, in the recent past there was a mine made in that area and the road for heavy trucks was build that goes past Serebryanka Mt. and Yov’s Plateau. A lot of lazy tourists from Yekaterinburg and Perm come the plateau by offroad jeeps. We even met a tourist bus that brought 30 people from Perm for a weekend. From the road it takes about 20 minutes to get to the top of Serebryanka. But for us it felt that we are walking alone a busy road in the middle of town. It wasn’t quite what we wanted to see after driving 450km north getting away from the civilization…

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The wind on Serebryanka Mt is not so harsh and we could stay there longer taking a lot of great photos.

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As you can see in the pictures we were really lucky with the weather. It’s not always like this and very often people hike in fog there. Of course, we were ready for the worst, took a lot of winter clothes, raincoats, so the last thing I could think of was a sun protective lotion. Eventually, trekking for four days in the Northern Urals I returned to Yekaterinburg with a burnt face so everyone thought I spent a weekend in Sochi or somewhere else in the South.

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Needless to say, on the fourth day nobody in our group wanted to go back to the city. We promised to each other to come back to Konzhak. May be in August - September next time when the forest is full of berries and mushrooms.

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11Jun/160

2 days of hiking in Taganai, Southern Urals

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In 2015 I made a post about hiking in Taganai National Park in winter http://askural.com/2015/02/national-park-taganai/

A year later a young couple from the United States Pravit and Rebecca sent a request do arrange a two-day tour to Taganai in summer time. Luckily, our local guide Ilia who knows Taganai as good as his home town, was available for the dates of the tour and I was able to join to take more photos of the Southern Urals.

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You can book this tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/taganai

Ilia provided our guests with all the equipment, tents, sleeping bags and rucksacks. He even brought woolen socks for everyone which was very smart because the night was chilly to say the least (-1 C). Propely equipped we started our walk 8km till the first peak Mt. Perya (1034)

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In summer time Taganai looks as beautiful as in winter. We were lucky because both days were sunny. We could see the town of Zlatoust in Chelyabinsk Region and even a southern ridge of the Urals.

You can see Zlatoust in the back, the nearest town to Taganai

You can see Zlatoust in the back, the nearest town to Taganai

Compare the same place in summer and in winter...

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Another great thing was that because of negative temperature at night there were no mosquitoes, none of them for two days! Those who live in the Urals or in the similar climate zone will understand what a luxury it is.

In the evening we got to the tourist shelter.

Ilia is cooking dinner

Ilia is cooking dinner

Tourists can rent a room in the ranger’s house but our American guests chose camping in tents. Recently, a Russian banya has been built at the tourist shelter, so we asked the ranger to prepare it for us.  I didn’t take pictures in the steam bath though because it was dark, steamy and just you know, we forgot to take towels with!

The next morning we climbed Mt. Otkliknoy Greben (1155m).

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There’s something like a terrace at the top of it. So we stayed there for an hour to relax and to enjoy complete silence – no other people, no noise, no even birds singing or wind blowing. It was a perfect retreat.

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And again, compare the same place in winter time

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In case you wondered how much snow we have in winter. Enough, as you can see

In case you wondered how much snow we have in winter. Enough, as you can see

On the way back we stopped at the unique stone river. The river is 6km long, 300-500m wide. 9-tonn rocks are piled in 4 layers at the depth of 6m. The Taganai Stone River is the world largest deposit of aventurine.

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The Taganai Stone River is the world largest deposit of aventurine.

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Considering the distance from Yekaterinburg (takes about 5hrs by car to get to Taganai), a one day tour to Taganai is too hectic but possible too.

Book a two or three day hiking tour to Taganai here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/taganai

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10Sep/140

Kachkanar Mt. How to become a Buddhist in the Urals?

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Did you know that the Ural region has a Buddhist Center, the only one in Russia outside the Republics of Buryatia and Kalmykia? Shad Tchup Ling Buddhist monastery is located on Kachkanar Mount. The latter is a worthy place of attraction itself. Being the highest mountain in the Middle Urals (887.6m) with stunning views and peculiar rocks at the top, Kachkanar Mt has even got its own website:  www.kachkanar.org

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To get to that in many senses incredible place you need to drive 260km north of Yekaterinburg to the town of Kachkanar and from there about 50km more to the village Kosya. Here on the Is river people mined gold and platinum in the 19th century. A stone on the side of the road reminds you about it and also about the fact that you are crossing two borders here: the border of Europa and Asia and the border of the Middle and Northern Urals.

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You don’t have to be a skillful mountain climber to get to the Buddhist Monastery at the top. It took our group of amateur hikers 2 hours to climb Kachkanar by the shortest and the steepest trail. By the way, our local guide Ivan Mikhailovich was 80 years old! Another longer and wider road (about 9km) can be very muddy after rains as it’s often used by off-road jeep drivers. So we were sweating but at least our feet were dry and clean.

Kosya village

Kosya village

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It was very windy and cold at the top. That is why I was shocked to see ducks and a cow grazing amid the rocks. But you will be shocked even more when thinking how on Earth the monks managed to lift all the stuff up here to build their monastery with a white stupa!

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The monastery is still in the process of construction but the monks always find time to leave their duties in order to show tourists around and to answer their questions. On Saturday as we got there the monastery was crowded with hikers, as usual on weekends. The monks offered us a spare room and tea and also the kitchen as we had a plan to cook pasta in there. It’s always a good idea to bring food or necessary building materials for the monks.

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Every Buddhist in Russia should have a banya!

Every Buddhist in Russia should have a banya!

Shad Tchup Ling Buddhist monastery was founded by a veteran of Afganistan War Lama Sanye Tenzin Dokchit aka Mikhail Sannikov. After the war he studied Buddhism in Buryatia and Mongolia. In 1995 he started building a monastery on Kachaknar Mt., the place that had been chosen by his teacher. Technically, it can’t be called a monastery as there are no monks, except for the Lama, who have received a proper education. But the place can surely be called a rehab as most of the young men who come to Lama are trying to get rid of drug and alcohol addiction. Many run away after a month or two but they usually return back. Probably because there’s something unbearably beautiful in the severe landscape of the Northern Urals. Have a look yourself…

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Camel rock

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However, there’s a possibility that Kachkanar Mt and the monastery will no longer be here. The mountain is a rich bed of iron ore and the Ore Mining Enterprise of Kachkanar is planning to turn it into a deep quarry. The company belongs to EVRAZ holding headquartered in London and led by Russian tycoon Abramovitch. The activists keep on writing letters to President Putin but chances are the owner of FC Chelsea will win the battle against one solitary Lama.

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25Apr/140

Rafting on the Chusovaya river

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With many mountain rivers the Ural region is ideal for rafting. The best rafting time is May and beginning of June when the rivers are full thanks to the melting snow. Staying in Yekaterinburg it’s possible to go for a short rafting trip on the Serga river, the Rezh and the Chusovaya. The latter is the most popular with tourists. The river is 592 km long and it flows in Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk and Perm Regions crossing the Urals from East to West.

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Back in the days the Chusovaya was explored by the factory owners who transported wood, iron ore and copper to Perm. In spring with the first floods heavy loaded ships went down the fast winding river. Many of them crashed to the coastal cliffs. The navigation was dangerous, so in the 19th century some cliffs were blown up with dynamite.

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The cliffs called botsy (fighters) were once dangerous for navigation

Today, rafting on the Chusovaya is quite easy especially in mid summer. My friends and I decided to go rafting for a weekend in July 2012 which was good fun but could hardly be called rafting. That summer was very hot and the Chusovaya was extremely shallow – every 20 min our raft got stuck and we had to push it. But at least it was safe, one couldn’t drown even if you really wanted to.

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Our camp on the river bank

Our camp on the river bank

Navigating a slow river gives you a good opportunity to look around. The main sites of attraction on the Chusovaya are picturesque river banks and the cliffs called boytsy (fighters). Every cliff has a poetic name and is under protection as a natural monument. Sometimes you can stop for visiting caves and grottos on the river bank or to see some old props for the movie filmed here many years ago.

Some props for the film

Some props for the film

P1060228Our place of destination was the village of Chusovoye (120km of Yekaterinburg). The village holds an annual rafting festival. It starts in the middle of July and includes art and folk performances. The closing day was on Sunday but by the time we arrived it had been over. We shouldn’t have slept so long in the camp I guess!

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Chusovoye village

Chusovoye village

Chusovoye village

If you decide to visit the Urals this summer, try a bit of rafting to see more of the wild nature!    

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16Dec/130

Trip to Altai. 10 Day Horse-Back Tour in June 2015

Dear friends,

it's time to plan summer holidays 2015. If you'd like to experience something unusual for a very reasonable price, then join the horse-back tour in the beautiful Altai Mountains.

Experience 10 days of living in the wild, riding horses, eating at the camp fire without the Internet and mobile phones!

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If you are an inexperienced hiker and have never ridden a horse, live a city life and tired of urban environment -  the tour is ideal for you!

This trip has an average fitness level. Children can join from the age of 9.

We are going to one of the most beautiful places of the Altai Mountains – the Iolgo Ridge. You will see all the beauties of the ridge: caves, waterfalls and mountain lakes. We’ll get to the top of Mt. Akkai and Mt. Kylay to have a stunning panoramic view of Altai.

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Dates: The best time to go to Altai is end of June – beginning of July. Therefore the trip is scheduled for June 23th – July 3th. 
However we can still change the dates if the majority of the group decides so.
Other options: June 28d – July 8th or July 3d – July 13th

Price for a 10 day trip without transfers to the tourist shelter in the mountains : 410 euro

For detailed itinerary and information on getting there click here yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/special-tour

I did this trip in Altai last summer and it was one of the best holidays I've ever had. So I've decided that foreigners should discover this place as well!

Our base-camp will be at Arkadia tourist-shelter which is a big wooden house with rooms for 3-6 people and a Russian banya. The owner of the house and the horse farm is a tiny woman Irina from Yekaterinburg. She got to Altai in the 80s, fell in love with it bought the land and horses there it and started to organize horse-back tours in 1991. First they were tours for her friends from Yekaterinburg but now people arrive to the tourist-shelter from all over Russia. However there have been no foreigners yet.

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Arkadia tourist-shelter is located in the remote area. It's a very peaceful place 25km from the nearest village. You can get there only in a big truck or on a horse.

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Horses from Irina's farm

We stayed two days at the tourist-shelter and this is how much time you have to learn riding a horse. Surprisingly, two days were enough for adults and kids to learn it. Altai horses are a special breed: they are very quiet and smart and do all the job themselves, so all you have to do is just to sit in a saddle. Irina has managed to create a very cosy atmosphere at her farm. I felt like staying at my grandma's in the country and was ready to stay there for all 10 days. But it was time to start the trip..

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We only had two rainy days during the trip. The locals said we were very lucky. We were 15 people in our group including a cook and two instructors - the local horse-men and hunters who did almost everything for us: made fire, did all the cooking, helped us to equip the horses etc. All we had to do was to pitch the tents.

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and help a little bit

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Men decided to make us a table out of an old cedar log

So we could have quite a civilized lunch in taiga

So we could have quite a civilized lunch sitting at the table in taiga

The instructors were true Altai characters - they were telling us stories about their encounters with bears. Apparently such encounters happen here frequently. During our trip we only met chipmunks and some lonely hikers though. By the way, in Altai the hikers who walk on foot are called the lower class. Therefore we were the upper class because we were sitting on horses :))

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Thanks to our instructors we had one extra stop for banya in the middle of taiga.

This banya was built by hunters who spend weeks in the Altai Mountains

This banya was built by hunters who spend weeks in the Altai Mountains

Otherwise, there are numerous springs and mountain rivers at your disposal

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In the evening our instructors told us local legends ( they weren't very talkative men, as a matter of fact, until one guy mentioned that he had a bottle of vodka with him). The creepiest one was about the Castle of the Mountain Spririts about the hikers who disappeared from the tents there. Something similar to the Dyatlov Pass story in the Urals, only the bodies of the hikers in Altai were never found.

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The Castle of the Mountain Spirits.

We were really lucky to climb the rocks of the castle when it was sunny. Once we returned back to the camp, thick fog covered the rocks. It would have been really hard to find the way back. Probably that's what had happened to the hikers.

Overall we spent 8 night in taiga. For 8 days we didn't see other people (except for two hikers), didn't hear any urban noise. We got used to this indigenous life style so everyone was a bit sad that it was over. It was time to return back down to the tourist-shelter...

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But  your ordinary life only begins once the truck brings you to Elekmonar village - that's where your mobile phone works again after 10 days of silence and you realize that you are back in civilization. To be honest, I didn't see anyone who was really happy to realize that. Needless to say, we all promised to come back because it's contagious, you know. I hope Altai remains a wild territory and I'll be able to bring my kids there one day to show them what it's like to live naturally.

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For detailed itinerary and information on getting there click here yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/special-tour

28Feb/120

How to meet a shaman in the Ural forest

Nature park Bazhovskie Mesta is one of the largest in Middle Urals. It is also the nearest to Yekaterinburg (60km) that makes it attractive for tourists. At the end of February the managers of the park invited Yekaterinburg guides including me to check out their new route: a hiking tour with a local shaman down to the woods and to the believes of the ancient Ural tribes.

As we got to the park in an authentic Russian UAZ jeep, we were greeted by a shaman by the fireplace. We expected to share a peace pipe but he offered us herbal tea which was a good idea, considering it’s still winter here. Having put on something like Mansi overcoats we followed the shaman to learn what our ancestors believed in.

We weren't alone in the forest, the prints belong to a marten

The tour lasts about three hours. It can be longer if you wish to go swimming in the lake in summer time. We learnt about bad and good spirits that inhabit forests, thanked the god of the winds for guiding us and found out that Mansi newly-weds had a honeymoon too..in a very transparent shelter.

a 'honeymoon' hut

The tradition of tying colorful ribbons on a tree can also be found in Siberia and Nepal

The tour with a shaman is 6000rubles (200$) for a group of 6-10 people. You can also have it at night! In this case you walk with flaming torches which makes a whole experience very exciting.

At the end I could try on the shaman's outfit

Going back to civilization in UAZ

I’ll definitely go there in summer to try out a night tour. If you are interested too, just let me know 🙂

For more summer activities in the park click here:  http://askural.com/2011/06/sysert-eco-tour-on-horseback/

20Jun/110

Sysert – eco tour on horseback in Bazhovski nature park

This post is for those tourists who asked me about riding a horse in the Urals.

Nature Park Bazhovskie Mesta (Bazhov’s Places) is located near the town of Sysert 60 km south of Yekaterinburg. The park is named after Pavel Bazhov, a writer from Sysert and an author of fairy-tale stories about Russian gems and jewelers based on the Urals folklore.

The forest became a nature park in 2007 almost accidentally. The government of Sysert decided to reorganize 38 hectares of forests into a park. The real purpose of the officials was to use the park partly as legitimate hunting grounds. Luckily for bears, the area was certified as Nature Park by the Regional Government which means it is now ‘especially protected natural territory’.

Chernaya river is inhabited by beavers

There is a lot to protect there. The pine tree forest is full of animals: squirrels, beavers, minks, roebucks, wild boars, elks and famous Russian brown bears. The river Chernaya, Sysertski pond and small lakes in the park are good for swimming and fishing. One of the park’s main attractions is Talkov Kamen (Talc Stone) – an old flooded talc mine. The mine is popular with divers and a glade near the mine is an ideal place for picnics.

Talkov Kamen (talc stone)

there is still talc on the banks of the lake

There are numerous trails for hiking and riding horses. The park offers short and long riding tours (from 1 to 4 days) and provides the necessary equipment and meals. You can also rent a snowmobile in winter. Bicycle rental is to be opened this summer. 4 hour horse riding tour is 2.500 roubles. Book a tour a few days prior to your arrival. From summer 2012 the park offers short and long kayak trips for groupes of 2 to 6 people.

For more details call the office: +7 34374 74870, +79221235850

www.bm-park.ru (in Russian)

Getting there: from Yekaterinburg down Chelyabinski Trakt, turn right to Kashino and Sysert. Drive through Sysert further to the village of Verkhnyaya Sysert. To date, entrance fee 50 roubles, car park is free.