Mt.Konzhak or Konzhakovsky Kamen (Konzhakovski stone) is the highest mount of the Urals in Sverdlovsk Region and Northern Urals: 1569.7 meters. The mount was named after a local mansi hunter Konzhakov who lived at the foot of it. When climbing Konzhak you walk through a mixed forest, taiga forests, tundra and alpine valleys. Since 1996 people from all over Russia and sometimes from abroad come there to take part in the Konzhak Marathon. Overall the track is 42 km: 21km up the mount and 21km to descend. The marathon is held on the first weekend of July.
The first weekend of November is another popular date when dozens of hikers come to Konzhak for winter climbing. Some take snowboards and skis to start the season. I had never been to Konzhak in summer and this November I got there for the first time with a group of hikers and snowboarders from Yekaterinburg.
We pitched our tents not far from the marathon trail and started next morning at 8 a.m. First 16km were very easy. We were walking in the forest enjoying the fresh air, drinking tasty water from mountain springs and rivers every now and then. But at the height of 900m we got to the Glade of Painters – a windy open area where you realize that the fun is over. That’s where we were told to put on everything warm from the backpacks.
At this stage the track gets very steep and you move through tundra with crooked dwarf cedar trees and birches. I thought it took us ages to get to something that looked like the summit – a stone with a plaque: 300 years of the Ural Metallurgy. It turned out that we had done just one more kilometer from the Glade of the Painters. Strong bitter wind and thick snow have reduced our relatively fast speed to 0.8km\hr. It sounded like a joke that’s why some people left us there. They decided to return back.
The rest of the ascending was nothing but white snow and thick fog. At some point the red flags that marked the marathon track disappeared. With visibility of maximum 10 meters it was hard to tell where to go. Fortunately, one of the guys had a navigator that helped not just us but also another group of hikers that we met at the top. Those hikers had been walking there for 30 min trying to find the summit. Finally, we got there: 21 km and several attempts to give up the damn Konzhak and go back but we made it!
Although I couldn’t tell how beautiful it was at the top of Konzhak I knew the Internet would help. So here we are:
The way back was surprisingly fast as you just slide down in the snow. However, our snowboarders had to carry their boards all the way up and then 4km. down because going down from the summit with little visibility would have been too crazy even for those guys. Overall trip took us 12 hours though we cheated a bit - 12km at the foot of the mount were covered in a minivan. So was it worth it? It certainly was. It’s still hard to believe that on Saturday I left rainy and muddy Yekaterinburg and on Sunday I was in the middle of sever arctic blizzard which didn’t feel cold by the way as we were moving all the time and had hot tea with us.
I can’t imagine how the marathon runners cover the track in 3 -4 hours though. Of course they don’t have to fight with snow conditions but there are other huge obstacles in summer, namely huge rocks on the trail that cause quite a number of injuries every year.
Konzhak marathon is the most difficult and the most populated of all 60 Russian Marathons. The record was set in 2001 – Mikhail Sumochkin from Kazan covered 42km in 2 hours 58 min. Dmitriy Vasilyev from Chaikovsky made it in 5:35 – he is the fastest runner in the category over 70 years old.
More photos and info about the marathon in English: http://marafon.krasnoturinsk.org/
Getting there: Mt. Konzhakovski Kamen is 420km north-west of Yekaterinburg. From Serovsky Trakt (highway) turn right to Karpinsk. From Karpinsk go down the road towards Kytlym village. Nearest towns with hotels and cafes: Krasnoturinsk and Karpinsk.