Where to Go at Altay Mountains: Beluha Mountain

Author: Dimitry Paranyushkin (on 21 Aug 2009)

Beluha mountain is the most popular tourist spot at Altay and is surrounded by many legends. We recommend it if you have at least 7 days at Altay.

What is Beluha Mountain.
Belukha is the highest peak of Siberia, which parted by "saddle" into Western Belukha (4440 m) and Eastern Belukha (4506 m).
There are many legends about Beluha mountain. According to some

Beluha mountain - Belukha range Altay mountains
Photo courtesy Altair tour

legends about "whitewater" or "belovodie" country, Beluha is the cradle of civilisations. Local people believe that Belukha is where the new civilisation will start. According to an Asian legend the mountain Belukha is the future Shamballa.
There are about 170 glaciers around Beluha mountain, which give rise to many mountain rivers, and Katun river starts here. The area on the way to the mountain is very beautiful also. It takes about 3 days walking or 2 days by horse to get there from the nearest place where the auto-road ends. On the way one can see Akkem lake, taiga forests, steppes, polar birch trees and impressive snowy mountain peaks. It is a beloved place both for tourists and advanced alpinists, for whom Beluha is a way to challenge their abilities.

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How to Get There.
The best way to get to Beluha is to go by car along Chuysky Trakt. About 150 km after Gorno-Altaysk, after Seminsky pereval there will be a turn (to the right) to Ust-Kan and Ust-Koks settlements. The road goes only as far as Tungur village, which is 250 km from the turn. From Tungur Beluha is 45 km far and there's a walking route via Akkem lake. In Tungur there's a simple tourbase. A few kilometers from Tungur there's an alpinist base ("Akkem") run by St. Petersburg based company LenAlpTours, where you can stay, buy some food, prepare for the walk and hire mountain guides. The trip with a mini-bus from Barnaul should cost about 12000 R ($400) for 6 people there and back.
There are local buses to Tungur from Gorno-Altays as well, but it may be hard to get the tickets and the service is unsteady.

What to See at Beluha Mountain.
The most interesting is, of course, Beluha itself. However, it is very hard for a beginner to climb Beluha peak, so most travelers routes lead to the foot of Beluha mountain.
Actually, the path from Tungur village to Beluha foot is a very unforgettable journey. It is about 50 km long, and lasts about 3 days walking and 2 days by horse. On the way you can see the whole range of Altay nature: from Alpine hills and mountain rivers to real Siberian taiga and polar birch trees. Closer to Beluha the heights climb up and you are surrounded by snowy peaks. There are also many lakes on the way, the most famous one include Kucherla lake and Akkem lake.
Kucherla river, that starts at Kucherla lake is situated at the height of 1790 meters, the length is 5220 m. and the color of water of which is a milk-green. There are umbers and trout in the river. On the way you can see the Tegerek waterfall (40 m high).
There's an alpinist tourbase at Ak-kem, where you can stay before coming back to Tungur.


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