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.
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)
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.
Compare the same place in summer and in winter...
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.
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).
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.
And again, compare the same place in winter time
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.
The Taganai Stone River is the world largest deposit of aventurine.
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
National Park Taganai in the Southern Urals, Chelyabinsk region is a popular place with hikers from all over the Urals. It’s easy to access, the tracks are not difficult and the highest point is 1178 m. above sea level, so you don’t have to be a professional climber to ascend the mountains of the Southern Ural ridge.
Taganai means a’ holder of the moon’ in the Bashkir language and there’s a romantic Moon river (the river Ai) flowing near the park. Total area of the park is about 568 square kilometres (219 sq mi), it stretches for 52 km (32 mi) from north to south and about 10–15 km (6.2–9.3 mi) from east to west.
I joined a weekend tour to Taganai organized by my colleague Ilia Gerasimov in December 2014. We left Yekaterinburg on Saturday at 7am and arrived in the park by noon. The distance from Yekaterinburg is about 270km, from Chelyabinsk 150km. The cars were parked at the entrance to the park, now we had to carry our rucksacks and sleeping bags to the nearest tourist shelter which was 10km away.
On the way we stopped at the foot of Perya Mt. That mountain was difficult to ascend in winter because the path leading to the top is very slippery. It took us over one hour to get up there. However, getting down is easier, faster and more fun in winter time as you simply slide down on your bottom – 10 minutes and we were back on the track where we’d left our luggage.
Our tourist shelter that should be booked beforehand was a simple room for 10 people in a wooden house with 5 wide berths, an oven in the middle for heating and cooking and a big table. We cooked pasta and after a very late dinner (because it takes hours to boil water on the oven) went to sleep. The next day there was another mountain to climb.
Otkliknoy greben is 1155m high but it turned out to be hard to climb mainly because we didn’t find the trail under the sick snow and had to make our own path. The weather was splendid on that weekend -10C, sunny and no wind at all.
From there we could see the highest peak of the National Park Kruglitsa Mt. But for climbing the peak one should plan a 3-day trip in Taganai.
My friends say that in summer time Taganai is also beautiful, so we are planning to go there again although sliding down on the bottom won’t be an option anymore.
Getting there from Yekaterinburg by car: go to the south down Chelyabinsk road and then turn to M5 highway towards Zlatoust. Use the main road in the town of Zlatoust in the direction of Magnitka village. As you leave Zlatoust there is a road sign Lesnichstvo (Forest area) and the road turns right to the park entrance.
Dear friends and travellers,
on Saturday January 24th 2014 we are off for a one day trip to visit huskies, Siberian deer and ostriches in Northern Urals!
Visit a family of huski dogs and Siberian deer. Try dog sledding and climb Mt. Belaya to see a beautiful landscape of Northern Urals
Itinerary: Jan 24
8.00 Meeting at Dynamo Metro Station, Yekaterinburg
We are taking a comfortable bus or a mini-van to get to the village of Visim
11.00 Visiting a deer farm near the village of Visim (195km of Yekaterinburg). You will be able to feed Siberian deer and Yakut horses. There are also three African ostriches in the farm. Learn from the farm workers how the ostriches live through Russian winters.
Take some white bread, cabbage or other vegetables to feed the animals!
13.00 Belaya Mount ski resort. You will be able to get to the top of Mt. Belaya (705m) for a beautiful view of Northern Urals.
14.00 Dog sledding in the village of Chernoistochinsk.
17.30 Arrival to the city back to Dynamo Metro (arrival time is approximate)
Price per person:
Book the tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/weekend-tour
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
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.
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.
Dog sledging is something that you expect to have in Alaska or in Yakutia but Ural winters are snowy enough to offer this type of entertainment for travelers.
This winter I discovered two places where you can meet Huskies and feel yourself like Nenets (indigenous people of Northern Arctic Russia)
Ethnic center Akvilon is located in Chelyabinsk Region (Southern Urals). The center is aimed to show the life of northern people: a guide who is dressed like a snow maid will show you a chum (igloo), you will have a cup of tea with a local shaman and talk to a Yakutian Father Frost. However, those people are far from being indigenous – most of them work and teach history at the University of Chelyabinsk.
Having met all those characters we finally got to the field for dog sledging. But because there were about 40 people in our group we could only sledge one time which lasted about 2 minutes.
One big advantage of Akvilon – they have a lot of dogs and apart from huskies that are for sledging, you will spend some time playing with the cutiest creatures –Samoyed Laikas.
Samoyeds are very friendly and playful dogs. They are named so after the Nenets people who were also called Samoyeds by the Russians. The word means ‘selfeaters’ in Russian but there is the second meaning: ‘self riders’. When the Russians saw the sledging Nenets at a distance, they couldn’t see their white dogs in the snow so they thought that the Nenets were moving on their own.
Akvilon is 30 km of Chelyabinsk which makes about 230 km of Yekaterinburg. So it’s certainly not worth going just for two minutes of dog sledging unless you have some other things to do in the region. Chelyabinsk is not the most interesting Russian city to explore either. Although, thanks to the meteorite that dropped near the city in February 2012 it may attract some curious individuals. The citizens of Chelyabinsk are planning to erect a monument to the meteorite in the near future.
Price: 540rub per person for dog sledging; 890rub for the whole program at the center.
Dog sledging in the village of Chernoistochinsk (near Nizhni Tagil)
Irina, the owner of five huskies had been waiting for two years until her dogs grew up and got trained well enough to sled. In the winter of 2012-13 she started organizing dog sledging in her native village. Next winter (2013-14) one more puppy should be big enough to pull sleds.
Book the tour to the huskies and the deer farm in Visim http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/dog-sledding
You can sled this husky family for one hour and pay more to prolong it if there are no tourists coming after you. As we came in a group of 30 people, we booked two hours and paid the same price as those who book one hour: 200 rub per person. If you book and individual tour, you can sled in the forest which makes it more fun compared to the small circle in the center of the village that we were offered.
Chernoistocbinsk is 160 km north of Yekaterinburg. Apart from dog sledging you can also visit a nearby deer farm: to feed Kaspian deer, Yakutian horses and African ostriches that live in one place. It is also on the way to Belaya Mount (711m) – a mountain ski resort with a beautiful view of Northern Urals.
Most of the winter weekends are already booked by local travel agencies. It's a good idea to book it way in advance or join a special group tour
Book the tour to the huskies and the deer farm in Visim http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/dog-sledding
In August 2012 I had a chance to visit a famously mysterious place called Arkaim. The archeological site of an ancient city of Arkaim (17th century b.c.) is in Southern Urals 432 km of Chelyabinsk near the northern border of Kazakhstan.
The place was discovered in 1987 by the scientists from Chelyabinsk. Presumably the people who lived in Arkaim in 17 century b.c. belonged to Iranian or an unknown branch of Indo-Iranian culture. Their settlement for approximately 1500-2500 people was protected by two circular walls. The ancient town covered 20 000 sq meters. The people lived there for 300 years then the settlement was burned and abandoned by its dwellers for unknown reasons.
All this you can learn in a local museum. However, today Arkaim is known as a ‘place of power’ is believed to be enigmatic and it attracts hundreds of pilgrims and esoteric organizations. Some people call it Swastika city or Mandala city. Others compare it with Stonehenge. Those who visited it (including my friends in Yekaterinburg) claim that they felt positive vibes and even healing effects. Obviously I had to go there to see and hopefully to feel something extraordinary!
A camping for pilgrims is located near the archeological site but not quite close to it. The guides say that there’s not much to see there in terms archeology though whilst the nearby mountains are much more interesting for they are the true places of power. In fact, the camping looks very much like a hippy village. Honestly, If you miss the 1970s, you should pay a visit to Arkaim. The flower children of Russia on tops of the hills, talk to ancient stones and sell souvenirs (probably drugs too) from India and China.
An ordinary day in Arkaim is as follows:
6 a.m. climbing one of the mountains (they are hills actually) to see the sunrise.
7 a.m. doing morning exercises with a local trainer who also sells herbal medicine made of Arkaim herbs, of course.
9 a.m. – till the sunset: climbing the nearby mountains\hills of different significance: mountain of love, of wealth, of making wishes etc. The mountain of atonement is the most popular one as people crowds were walking there in circles (that’s what you are supposed to do to say sorry for your deeds). Surprisingly enough the mountain of love was the least popular that day. But then I understood why – it’s the highest and the steepest one.
Alternatively one can stay in the camp to listen to lectures given by various esoteric gurus, go swimming in a small river or riding horses in the endless steppes.
The night time goes more or less traditional in Arkaim: it involves drinking and eating shashlik in a local café. Alternatively one can go meditating on top of a hill.
My personal opinion is that Akaim is an amazing place for someone who arrived from Yekaterinburg surrounded by dense woods. The steppe looks beautiful and exotic, especially when you meet local Asiatic people selling fresh milk and herbal tea from samovar. The climate is fantastic (while it was miserable +16 in Middle Urals, it was +35 in Arkaim). As for the power I didn’t feel anything weird but it felt like a good day off. And the hippies, well they are quiet and harmless anyway, just like their American counterparts. So the place is worth visiting even though it’s 634km of Yekaterinburg.
Kungur is a popular tourist destination all year long but it attracts even more people from 30th June to 7th July when the city hosts a festival of air balloons. Last year my friends and I attended the last day of the festival. I was very impressed by the Mediterranean-like life of this old Ural town.
Lonely Planet guide book on Russia says: ‘Between the blandness of Perm and the blandness of Yekaterinburg, Kungur is like ice cream in a biscuit’. Well, we were certainly longing for an ice cream as we entered the city on a hot July day. Kungur looked like one of those Russian resorts on the Black Sea. People were swimming in the Sylva River in the center of Kungur, sunbathing on the benches of the main street and walking lazily back and forth in shorts and flip-flops with beach towels on their shoulders.
The Sylva River is a real pearl of Kungur. It’s very pure and slow enough for easy rafting. We rented a motor-boat and noticed that for the locals a boat or a raft is the main mean of transport and also the way of spending a weekend. Picnics onboard are as ubiquitous here as in Amsterdam.
Others, who weren’t lucky to be born in Kungur, come with their tents and spend weekends outside Kungur a few km down the city. By the way, you too should go 5 km out of town to visit the famous Kungur Ice Cave!
The passages stretch for over 6 km and only a small part has been explored so far. 1.5 km will be enough for you to explore. The grottos are "adorned" with columns of stalagmites and icicles of stalactites up to two meters in height. The best time to visit the cave is beginning of spring. That’s the time when icicles are especially big. We didn’t go inside because on that hot day I completely forgot about taking warm clothes and comfortable trainers. So these photos are from the Internet:
The cave is open daily 9am-4pm. Group excursions start every two hours and cost 600Rub. You can have an individual excursion for 1000Rub. An excursion lasts 1hr 20min.
Kungur was founded in 1663. The town is proud of its museum of tea, and old churches. To get a bird view of the city, you should climb the bell tower of this church:
As it got dark, the public in the center changed dramatically and we realized that Kungur is a very working-class town. In other words, to see the balloon show at night one had to be drunk on not to be there at all.
Accommodation: Kungur has two decent hotels which are always totally booked during the first week of July. Iren hotel is on Lenina st 30 in the center. Stalagmit Complex is outside the town but it’s just next to the entrance to the ice cave. However, many Russians prefer to stay in their tents on the banks of the Sylva.
Getting there: from Perm it takes about 2 hours by bus or suburban train. From Yekaterinburg – about 5 hours by bus from Yuzhniy Avtovokzal ( Bus Station) on 8 Marta st. 145
Click on photos to see more sights of Kungur and the river
Permsky Region in Western Urals is doing its best to promote not only Ural cities but small villages. This spring a small village of Bym (30km to Kungur, 260 km to Yekaterinburg) welcomed tourists to celebrate Easter in a traditional Russian style. The village is planning to host similar fests every year. Their first try was certainly a success.
Very few people among those who arrived from Perm and Yekaterinburg knew folk songs and dances but everyone participated in a cheerful fest.
On that day everyone could go to the bell tower of the church to ring the bells and to enjoy a breathtaking view of the Urals.
The highlight of Bym is Belogorsky Monastery – a beautiful church up on the highest hill.
click here to see more photos:
Every Yekaterinburg citizen knows about a mysterious Dyatlov Pass incident and everyone has his or her own version of what could happen to 9 students in Northern Urals in February 1959. Now it looks like Hollywood got its version as well. Local Mass Media wrote that Renny Harlin, director of films like “Die Hard 2”,“Cliffhanger” and “5 Days of War” about the Russian-Georgian war in 2008 is going to shoot a thrilling movie on Dyatlov Pass. So far he has only revealed that the plot is going to be set in the contemporary world: a young group of American students travel to the Ural Mountains in order to solve the mystery of the Dyatlov Pass incident and get into trouble there.
Meanwhile, Donnie Eichar, a writer and director from L.A. arrived in Yekaterinburg in February 2012 to gather the facts and documents in order to write a book based on facts and possibly to find the truth. Ironically, the Dyatlov Foundation led by Yuri Kuntsevich hopes that an American can do more than the Russians. The foundation has been trying to convince Russian officials to reopen the investigation of the case for years but to no avail. Donnie became the first American who trekked in extreme conditions (minus 30c degree) to top of mountain where hikers tent and bodies were discovered. I was lucky to assist him in interviewing the relatives and witnesses which was an incredible experience. Bit I must say that having heard all the terrifying details, I could barely sleep the following nights. I’ll keep you posted on when the book is published in English and in Russian.
In the mean time the facts that we know are as follows: It is February 1959 and nine experienced hikers, mostly students, break off on an expedition to the Ural Mountains on skis. Their goal: The Mountain “Otorten”, which in the local Mansi language means “Do not go there!” In fact, they will never arrive there. The “Dyatlov Pass incident“, named after the leader of the expedition Igor Dyatlov, is one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of the Soviet Union.
Two weeks after their disappearance, local search teams find five of the corpses close to the mountain Kholat Syakhl, the “Mountain of the Dead”, barefoot and dressed only in their underwear.
Investigations reveal that the hikers must have fled their tent for an unknown reason, tearing it open, leaving in a heavy snowstorm and temperatures of -25 decreasing to -30. The officials explain that they died of hypothermia. The real mystery only begins after the thaw when the remaining four corpses are found. All of them are discovered in utterly strange conditions. Two of the corpses have fractures on the skull, a woman is lacking her tongue and the clothes of two corpses contain a high level of radiation. Further, the corpses show signs of aging like grey hair and a deep orange-colored tan.
The suspicion that the local Mansi, Finno-Ugric people, had killed the hikers for entering their holy lands and mountain, which play a big role in many of their traditional legends, was refuted. No hand-to-hand struggle could be proved. The fractures of the skulls indeed seemed to be caused by a force much stronger than a human being, as if the bodies had exploded from the inside without any harm to the outer organs. Another group of hikers, camping 50 km away from the Mountain of the Dead, later testified that they noticed strange orange spheres at the sky that night. Northern lights, UFOs or the Soviet military? The conspiracy theories vary. Soviet investigators, unable to solve the mysterious circumstances of the deaths, claimed the hikers were killed by an “unknown compelling force”.
For this post I used the photos provided by Nashural.com and the text from the English newspaper Your Yekaterinburg.