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Western Altai of Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan Altai hiking.

“The world`s history is constant, like the laws of nature, and simple, like the souls of men. The same conditions continually produce the same results”

Friedrich von Schiller.

From Almaty tours to Kazakh Altai.

The mountains of Western Altai are located between the rivers Uboy (in the northeast) and Bukhtarma (in the southeast). The southwestern border runs along the Irtysh River, which separates the Kalbinsky Range from the Western Altai on the territory of the administration of the city of Ridder, Altai and Glubokovsky districts of the East Kazakhstan region.
Western Altai is a region known for its richest mineral resources not only in Kazakhstan, but throughout the country; it is no coincidence that this part of Altai is called Rudny. This part of Altai is characterized by two types of landscapes: hilly-steppe in the west and mountain forest in the east.
The transition of the hilly steppe to the mountains is not clearly traced: from the lower reaches of the Uba and Ust-Kamenogorsk, the area gradually rises to the east and merges with the mountain landscape. The tops of the ridges are for the most part smoothed, accompanied by a series of near-watershed, wide and undulating counters inclined towards the foot.
The alpine belt is characterized by extensive rocky placers (kurums - stone placers, fragments of rocks, boulders), deep narrow cracks, depressions, cirques, clogged with snow all year round. The largest depression, 25 kilometers long and about 20 kilometers wide, is Leninogorskaya. Here is the town of Ridder (former Leninogorsk) - a city of miners and metallurgists
Orography of Western Altai in Kazakhstan.
Western Altai is a system of mountain ranges, different in length of their axes and orientation. In the east of the part of the region bordering the Altai Territory of the Russian Federation, the Kogronsky, Tigiretsky, Kholzun ridges stretch, merging with the Listvyaga ridge.
Their height is 2200 - 2500 meters above sea level and decreases towards the southwest. From these ridges in a south-western direction, the ridges fan out: Ubinsky with a height of 1800 to 2200 meters above sea level, Ivanovsky up to a height of 2800 meters above sea level and Ulba with a height of 1800 to 2200 meters above sea level).
These ridges serve as natural watersheds between the largest rivers Uboy, Ulba and Bukhtarma. The northernmost ridge - Ubinsky, is a series of "soldered" peaks: Tatarka 1635 meters above sea level, Bolshaya Golukha 1816 meters above sea level, Sinyushonok 1820 meters above sea level and Sinyukha 1962 meters above sea level.
At different times of the year, the mountain peaks are almost always shrouded in haze, which makes them seem either blue or purple, and the clouds and snowfields have a shade of blue. In the central part of Western Altai, one of the most beautiful and highest ridges, Ivanovsky, passes, the eastern part of which is divided into a number of proteins with maximum heights: Vysheivanovsky squirrel (Voroshilov peak) 2778 meters above sea level, Mount Lineysky squirrel 2598.4 meters above sea level sea, Mount Loose protein 2321 meters above sea level, Ivanovsky squirrel 2123 meters above sea level, Left Gromotukha mountain 2117 meters above sea level, Serzhinsky 2012 meters above sea level.
On the right bank of the Gromotukha River stands Mount Krestovaya, 2200 meters above sea level. To the east of this peak are the darkening sharp peaks of the Three Brothers rocks, 2397 meters high above sea level.
Even to the east (in the middle part of the squirrel), the pointed rocky Vysheivanovsky peak goes into the sky - this is the highest mountain in Western Altai, 2877 meters high above sea level. To the south of Ivanovsky is the Ulba Range.
Its highest point is the Verkhne-Ulbinskaya peak, 2368 meters above sea level, dotted with continuous placers of stones, whitewashed with snowfields and crowned with rocky remnants. One of the highest ridges of the Rudny Altai is the Kholzun ridge, which extends in the border part of Kazakhstan and the Altai Territory.
Its highest point is the Lineyskiy squirrel, 2647 meters above sea level. This mighty ridge is covered with extensive stone placers, crowned with rocky peaks, impenetrable taiga, eternal snows and small alpine lakes emphasize its beauty and severity, some kind of detachment, if I may say so.
The Lineysky Squirrel Ridge, which is a natural watershed between Black and White Slaughter, is original. It differs from other ridges in the nature of the occurrence of bedrocks: on helmet-shaped rocky peaks, flat slabs form lat-shaped sloping covers.
At the western end of the ridge, there is a unique geo-architectural complex of granite sculptures "Stone Fairy Tale", which surprises with unusual remnants that look like recognizable and fantastic animals and people.
Lakes and reservoirs of Western Altai in Kazakhstan.
Numerous high-altitude ultramarine lakes with delicate shades, noisy rivers running down from the mountains in stony beds, vast swampy high-mountain and mid-mountain valleys create striking contrasts and unique landscape beauty here.
In the middle mountains is located at an altitude of 1612 meters above sea level the most beautiful reservoir Malo-Ulbinskoye. Approaching in the east, the two ridges form the Black Knot with a dominant height of 2600 meters above sea level - an impregnable group of peaks with steep cliffs, at the base of which there are several tarns called Turgusunsky.
Rivers of Western Altai in Kazakhstan.
The abundance of snowfields and precipitation contributes to the development of a rich hydrological network in Western Altai. The rivers flow through the mountains most of the way. Their banks are steep, there are many rifts and rapids.
Riverbeds, branching, form channels and oxbows. The run-up from the mountain peaks from a height of one and a half to two thousand meters makes the power of the water enormous: after the rains, the rivers roll large multi-pood stones along the bottom, like small plastic balls.
The fall of the Uba River, for example, is 483 meters. This river originates at the confluence of the White and Black Uba, flows rapidly, with noise from a high-mountain plateau with a height of 1900 to 2000 meters above sea level), located at the junction of a series of ridges.
The Uba flows in wooded mountains, narrow crevices among rocky ledges. In places, the channel is blocked by protruding stone boulders resembling elephant and crocodile backs. Along its length, the Uba receives a number of noisy taiga rivers running down from the mountains of the Tigiretsky and Ubinsky ranges.
The Ulba is formed at the confluence of a fan-shaped system of rivers: Filippovka, Bystrukha, Gromotukha. It flows in a wide valley, overgrown with mixed pine and poplar forests, and flows into the Irtysh. It was here that at the beginning of the XVIIIth century the fortress of Ust-Kamennaya was founded under Peter I, now the most beautiful modern city of Ust-Kamenogorsk.
From the Malo-Ulba reservoir, located on a plateau-like concave bowl among the mountains of the Ulba Range, the Malaya Ulba River flows out, flowing into the Ulba a little higher than Ust-Kamenogorsk. Big and Small Turgusun originate from the rocky bowls of dammed lakes near the rocks of the Black Knot, the height of the river fall is 1730 meters.
An even more frisky fellow of Turgusun is Khamir, running from Holzun with a drop of 1953 meters. Both rivers flow in wild cracks, then break out of the captivity of the mountains and, victoriously rustling, merge with Bukhtarma. All rivers and small streams, mountain streams are rich in grayling, taimen, and dace.
The flora of the Western Altai is rich and diverse: more than 1000 species of flora are found here.
Vegetation of Western Altai in Kazakhstan.
The western peripheral spurs of the mountains are covered with steppe vegetation. In spring and summer, the slopes of the mountains flash with red-crimson colors from continuous flowering thickets of steppe peonies, blue-blue from ixilirions and sleep-grass, poisonous yellow from Altai leontitsa, Siberian chorispora, Altai tulips, logs become white foam from flowering bird cherry.
Western Altai is characterized by a belt of shrubs forming impenetrable thickets of tree-like caragana, Tatar honeysuckle, rose hips, and bird cherry. The lower border of the forest of the taiga coniferous belt is located at an altitude of 500 meters above sea level. Shrub vegetation merges with aspen and birch forests.
All this creates a peculiar woody and shrubby landscape; in summer, islands of dark green spiky firs stand out against the background of green flowering shrubs. These places are beautiful in autumn too: among the gray bushes there are fir trees, strict, gloomy, as if dressed in dark caftans.
Black forests rise from the same heights, a distinctive feature of Altai. Representing a special combination of fir-aspen-birch plantations with an undergrowth of bird cherry, viburnum, mountain ash, as well as tall grasses - high larkspur, male shield fern and other types of herbaceous plants.
Higher in the mountains, aspen, birch and bird cherry copses cover slopes of varying steepness. They also occupy wide river valleys, forming lush groves and gradually merging with the dark coniferous taiga. The forest-forming species of the taiga are Siberian fir, spruce, cedar (Siberian pine) and Siberian larch are mixed higher.
Coniferous trees, mosses and various shade-loving herbs predominate on the northern slopes: sedges, oxalis, crow's eye, linnaeus, wintergreen, golden rose, and blueberries from shrubs. In rainy years, there are many mushrooms - lamellar and tubular.
In tracts where fallen trees or avalanche debris lie, bearded lichens grow everywhere on the trunks. The taiga is beautiful and harsh: the air is clean, transparent, the distances are clearly visible. The word "taiga" in the language of the indigenous Altai peoples means "forest on the mountains", as it is in Altai.
Along the edges of the dark coniferous forest on the clearings, birch, aspen, mountain ash, shrubs - Altai honeysuckle, Tatar, wolf's bast are common. Taiga, different forests look especially good in autumn: against the background of black fir, bright colorful multicolored hardwoods appear.
Above 1700 meters above sea level, fir and spruce retreat, and cedars with dense, shaggy crowns of round shape and larch appear more and more often. The cedar forest here forms pure cedar forests, but at the upper border of the forest the tree stand thins out, and the upper forest goes to the border with alpine meadows at an altitude of 1900 to 2000 meters above sea level.
Often here you can find dumpy, in 3 - 4 girth, trunks of a bizarre shape. In influxes, frost holes and hollows. Light forest trees are buried in luxurious subalpine meadows. Of the herbaceous tall grasses, hellebore dominates here with wide leaves depicted with arcuate veins.
There are maral root crowned with a lilac cap of a fragrant inflorescence, wrestlers of a bluish and white-cream color. Larkspur is high in blue stars of flowers, a bear's pipe with openwork spherical inflorescences, from cereals - tall reeds and pearl barley.
Numerous bear trails are everywhere. But instead of giant trees, ugly dwarfs begin to appear - dwarf cedars, oppressed larches. At an altitude of 1900 - 2000 meters above sea level, any woody vegetation disappears, giving way to alpine meadows, juicy with greenery, variegated with flowers.
From here, dark, gloomy rocky peaks of the ridges and small lakes are clearly visible. The stones are covered with a fine brush of dense meadow grass, among which orange bells of Altai lights stand out. Blue-white columbs, purple pansies; curly alpine snakeheads, star-flowered alpine asters.
On leveled areas, there are usually islands or huge arrays of round-leaved, or polar, birch. They cover the ridges with a solid green carpet, giving way only to scree and low-grass tundra. Such is the forest here - below the knee or just an inch from the ground.
It is strange and surprising that the flowers of nivyaniks, watersheds, and gentian rose above this forest. All this is due to the severity of climatic conditions. In summer, gray cold rains pour for weeks, sometimes turning into snow.
Frosts are not uncommon at night, from which the dew and flowers seem to turn glassy. In these parts, the so-called riding wind often blows, which can even push a person off the top. This wind removes the soddy layer of soil and rolls it into a tight roll, similar to felt, with shaggy grass roots.
Vast alpine swamps spread even higher, completely covered with turf of green and sphagnum mosses, various types of sedges, and viviparous mountaineer. Alpine swamps are flowing, about 100 species of plants are found here.
The inner mountain bowls of the swamps were formed as a result of the Quaternary glaciation. With the melting of ice, the depressions were cemented with loose sediments, becoming impermeable with difficult surface water runoff. Alpine swamps feed on numerous springs.
In August, the swamps are covered almost entirely with silver-white fluffy balls of cotton grass, scattering dry sparks in the wind. Amazing dwarf willows-Arctic, Ledebour. The crown of such a “tree” is no larger than a palm, only earrings stand out - gray-green or pinkish, which then “explode” with a gentle down.
White stars of partridge grass are scattered all around the tundra. Like the timid flame of a candle, the flowers of bare-stalked and orange poppies burn. Blooming flowers of alpine aster look like blue fluffy stars. Altai endemics grow on rocky peaks - Altai onion and Altai rhubarb.
Occasionally there is a small fat-barked shrub - Siberian Altai. At the top of the Vyshe-Ivanovsky peak, alpine arnica was found, the range of which is located on the Kola Peninsula. In mid-August, a small umbrella plant blooms on the tops of the mountains - hairy schultia, from the smell of which the tight fresh wind becomes honey.
On stony soils, plants of thermopsis, West Siberian and Alpine kopecks, watersheds, Altai violas stand together. Along the streams continuous plantations forms a golden root. On the passes, the ridges are scattered stones, covered with multi-colored lichens, dark green mosses.
Curled up into tubes before the first rain, leafy lichens are everywhere - black, gray.
Fauna of Western Altai in Kazakhstan.
More than 300 species of birds and about 100 species of mammals live in Rudny Altai. In the steppe part along the islands of the Irtysh, you can meet a bird from the Red Book - Demoiselle Crane. Where thickets of wild roses and meadowsweet appear along the logs, black grouse and gray partridges are common.
Steppe and meadow harriers are circling in the air, flocks of jackdaws, semi-wild gray pigeons nest on the coastal rocks of the Irtysh, nests of kestrels and occasionally golden eagles build nests next to them. Swallows fly over the water, nesting in burrows of clay cliffs.
Along the pebbly spurs there are gulls and terns, various shorebirds, along half-grown channels - ducks, moorhens, warblers, warblers, along poplar groves - hundreds of flocks of rooks, orioles, turtle doves. In the steppe, where rocky outcrops protrude, hoopoes, wheatears - bald, common, motley stone thrush, pink starlings and many other birds whose life is connected with rocks are common.
The avifauna of the mountain forest part is interestingly presented. In the small-leaved plantations of the foothill belt, the lesser and greater spotted woodpeckers are most typical, sometimes gray-haired woodpeckers nest here, and mountain thrushes settle near water bodies.
The taiga part is dominated by birds that are ecologically associated with dark coniferous trees: capercaillie, hazel grouse, black and three-toed woodpeckers, various types of tits, warblers, and blackbirds. Breeding birds were found, the ranges of which are located in Eastern Siberia: song cricket, bluetail, remez bunting, uragus, Siberian lentil, schur, blue nightingale, forest and Asian snipe, gray bullfinch, killer whale, Siberian shrike.
Birds that live in the forests of our country are widely represented - mountain snipe, siskin, bullfinch, bunting, black-headed tit, goshawk, sparrowhawk, hobby falcon, peregrine falcon, kite, golden eagle, black stork.
In the bald belt above the upper border of the forest at an altitude of 1900 to 2500 meters above sea level, birds are found that are well adapted to harsh living conditions: the rubythroat nightingale, brown warbler, tap dance, lightning warbler, white partridge.
An amazing oystercatcher, or silly sivka, lives in the tundra, mountain pipit nests, tundra partridge, Himalayan convoluter, Siberian and Himalayan finches, black and white-belted swifts, funnel and alpine jackdaw live in the rocks.
Above the mountain peaks you can often see golden eagles or saker falcons. Of the animals in the steppe zone, the most numerous are long-tailed ground squirrels, steppe pika, wolf, fox, hare, badger, steppe polecat, ermine, weasel are common here, along the rivers - solongoy, in the forest part - brown bear.
It should be noted that the Altai population of the brown bear has a color from light straw to pitch black, there are individuals that are reddish, and sometimes light with dark, as if smeared with tar, paws and muzzle.
After almost a century of absence, he returned to his native land and became an ordinary elk. Roe deer, deer and musk deer are found everywhere. The taiga is inhabited by sable, successfully reacclimatized in the 40s of our century, lynx, wolverine, Siberian weasel, ermine, weasel, along the rivers - otter and American mink.
All these animals are the object of fur trade. In the bald belt, animals are few in number: marmots live on stone placers, foxes prowl in search of white and tundra partridges, often in the scree sable hunts for the Altai pika - an animal that looks like a well-known guinea pig.
Bears feed on the tundra in autumn. Of the rodents, there are chipmunks.
Geographical coordinates of mountains of Western Altai: N50°15'39.82" E84°00'14.61"

The western Altai of Kazakhstan.The western Altai of Kazakhstan.The western Altai of Kazakhstan.The western Altai of Kazakhstan.

"Altai of Kazakhstan", compiled by A.L. Kobozev, Alma-Ata, "Kainar", 1986.

Photos by
Alexander Petrov.