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Road-tripping with a kayak in Russia

This Summer I have been very lucky enough to explore the whitewater on offer in a place that many kayakers have never even thought about going to, and I definitely was not disappointed!

We travelled many hours to reach the Altai Mountain range (Siberia). ‘Altai’ translates to ‘Gold Mountains’, which is a great way of describing this region as it is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places I have ever been to and there are many hidden treasures!

On 25th June we flew with our kayaks from London to Novosibirsk, where we met the rest of our team. Once the van and trailer were all loaded, we begun the long drive to the Altai Mountain range. The valleys we passed through were incredibly beautiful, with amazing impressive green mountains. We set up camp by our first river, the Katun. A fun big volume run, with a few bigger rapids interspersed. Due to the high water levels, we were also lucky enough to catch some of the less-run tributaries at great levels too.

The next couple of days saw us on the Chuya River. Both the lower and middle sections entertained us with big waves, big holes and some more challenging longer rapids too. The Upper section of the Chuya, also known as the Majoy Gorge, is a challenging section, deep within a spectacular, committing gorge. 

We then packed up camp and continued our journey through more beautiful mountains, meadows and lakes to the Bashkaus River. The upper section of this river was a particular favourite of mine. More pool drop style and within a deep gorge, this section provided some great quality rapids. The high water squeezed and compressed by the narrow walls made for some very boiley water, which meant you had to work hard to stay on line! And once again we finished by setting up camp by the river, with an amazing sunset and a blazing fire.

Back on the road again Dmitry and his trusty VW transported us for many hours over steep dirt tracks, until we eventually reached our next put on. This is where our 3 day self-supported trip would begin. Being self-supported meant that we must take everything we needed for the next 3 days with us in our kayaks, including food and cooking pots, sleeping bags and mats, a group shelter to sleep under, clothes, head torches and of course a pair of Sealskinz waterproof socks! This all needed packing up in waterproof bags and putting it all in to our kayaks, meaning our kayaks were suddenly much heavier and more difficult to paddle. 

The river our 3 day expedition would take place on was the Middle Chulishman, which normally starts with half a day of flat water paddling. However, at these water levels it was the most fun ‘flat’ water paddling we had ever done- big bouncy wave trains and surf wave galore! This was a great way of getting used to the feeling of loaded boats again, as well as a good way to wake up and loosen off after the long drive.

The next 2 days were made up of continuous big volume challenging whitewater, a 5km hike with our loaded boats and some of the best nights with friends around the camp fire. But that’s all another story, which I will write about next time! 

Over the course of our trip we racked up many days of driving, however we were heavily rewarded for this with high quality whitewater and stunning locations. I was pushed physically and mentally with the massive big-volume rivers and feel my personal skills have earnt a great amount by the experience. We wild camped by a different river every night, cooking and preparing meals as a team over an open fire. These nights were just as enjoyable and memorable as the day times spent on the river. There’s something very special about sleeping under the stars, by a flowing river and living with only the essentials. These experiences make friends for life.

I hope I have a spread a little more light on what a fantastic paddling destination Siberia is. The typical time of year to go is July/August, depending on how high you like your rivers! However, even if you are not a kayaker this is still an amazing place to explore.