Siberia Altai 2010

Expedition to Altai “The Book of Legends”

The Sickline Team managed some of the moste beautiful rivers of the Altai Mountains in Siberia close to the Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan and the Kazakhstan border. There the boys spent 4 weeks in July and August. The goal was to paddle all the hard rivers in this given time frame. The highlight was the well-known Bashkaus Canyon. Igor Bazilevsky and his team attempted the first descent of the Bashkaus in 1975. Sadly he and 5 members of his team drowned on this expedition. The following year a memorial was mounted after the first rapid class V, a non-return rapid in a box canyon. Nicknamed the “Book of Legends” it is a fitting place for a tribute only accessible to those willing to navigate the 60kms of whitewater class V in one of the most isolated places on the planet.

The water level was comfortable on the upper end. Tomass Marnics spent already 6 seasons in the Altai Mountains: “This time the water was massive everywhere! I would say the highest level I have ever seen in this region”. Filmmaker Olaf Obsommer was working together with Jared Meehan documenting this adventure.

adidas Sickline Expedition to Altai 2010 diary:

First river on our list was the Chuya River, Mazhoy Gorge – 20km class IV-V, 1 day

Phillip Baues about the Chuya River:
Searching for the River God? I think on our first day kayaking in the Altai Mountains we had been pretty close… Surrounded by the beautiful scenery of the Altai Mountains the Chuya River welcomes you with an innocent warm-up paddling for about 10 minutes before the river begins to show its real character. Super nice rapids with big volumes, huge waves and some extremely big holes were waiting for us.

We were happy to have someone guiding us, which made it possible to bomb through the first 16km without scouting. In the rare occasion of catching the eddy all you could see were the boys smiling like kids in a candy shop! Yeah!

But with quite a full-on water level more and more of us showed rather serious faces as we were approaching the lower part of Mazhoy Gorge. What was big before, became HUGE as the river tightens up right after a hikers bridge (Oroy bridge). With this juicy flow we the run felt more like a rollercoaster ride then normal kayaking… Feeling small and vulnerable on this monster river we were stoked to reach the take-out with some sweet buns and drinks waiting for us. But you all know the old men saying: “Second run – double fun!” Let’s get it on again…

If the Chuya River was just the warm-up for our Russian adventures I’m pretty excited to see what’s still coming… and maybe even a little bit scared…

After 3 days kayaking on the Chuya River, the adidas Sickline Team moved to another place to run the Karagem and Argut Rivers and do the first multi-day trip in Altai.

Karagem River – 40km class IV-V, 1 day

Timo Koster about the Karagem River:
Karagem was the first river of our multi-day trip in Siberia 2010. For me it was the first multi-day trip in my life and so I was pretty excited and a bit nervous. This river showed its character quickly. It was quite steep with a lot of water. On the other side there were parts of nearly flat water and so it was possible to enjoy the epic and beautiful landscape of the Altai Mountains. The whitewater in Siberia seems to be always a little bit scary, the Karagem was no exception. But when you are laying in your sleeping bag everything is forgotten and you are full satisfied and happy!

New for me was paddling a boat fully loaded with food and stuff for the night. It’s not that easy to handle it like an empty one. I really thought that I don’t want to have a river with more flow then Karagem but then we came to the confluence of the Argut River and I knew that this will be more full-on then everything I paddled before. Argut was massive, but in fact that’s another story…

Argut River – 80-90km class IV-V, 2 days

Thilo Schmitt about the Argut River:
After reaching the confluence of the Karagem with the Argut we paddled for about 1 hour flat water. From this place the waves got higher and the gradient became steeper, so that we got the first impressions of what was waiting for us on the Argut River. After 7 hours on the Karagem and Argut we finally arrived at the camp. Everybody was exhausted. After scouting the first big rapid just 500m downstream of our camp we ate our obligatory asian pasta and everyone had a nervous night.

Day 1
We got up early to finish the Argut River on the same day. About 60km of big volume whitewater were waiting for us. We bombed through the first big rapids with really high waves and continued with the giant slalom around massive holes lead by Tomass. After one hour we stopped at the biggest rapid (Sapozhnikov waterfall) which was just a steep mess with too much water on it. After some minutes of scouting we decided to run the rapid on the left side. On the bottom of the rapid we found a dead body covered with rocks. The person probably died 2-3 days ago on that river during a cataraft trip. Tomass called the local police office and we had to continue. In the next 3 hours we paddled some really big waves around giant holes without any stops. Tomass, Sam and Stefun bombed down another big one which was the last big rapid on that river and the beginning of the neverending paddling to our second camp on the Argut.

Day 2
We finished all our food and started early in the morning to finish the trip in 2 hours. Was good to have a cold beer after such a great river! Thanks Tomass for guiding us and the rest for paddling together on this huge river! The next river in our list was Chulishman

Chulishman River – 50km class IV-V, 2 days

Tomass Marnics about the Chulishman River:
Day 1
I spent 6 seasons in the Altai Mountains and many times paddled all the classic runs here with different water levels. This time the water was massive everywhere! I would say the highest level I have ever seen in this region. Chulishman wasn’t an exception. We arrived in Yazula village and it was more than clear that the Chulishman has an extremely high flow. This was way too high for the upper canyon and we decided to start from the bottom of the Yazula gorge. It was pretty late and we had just about one hour to get away from the village. The plan for the next day was to run through the Shavlinsky gorge and to camp right before the biggest rapid on the river named Kasha(Porridge). The water was so big, that is was easy to cover about 40km in 5-6 hours with filming. In the end of the day it started raining and a new creek came down from the othe side of the river with tons of rocks and dirty water.

Day 2
After breakfast Sam, Jared, Thilo and myself decided to run the Kasha (Porridge) rapid, which is a 2km long massive water with pretty steep gradient. The other boys could see us running the big shit. It was really big, but if you stay on the line then it was quite safe and not really difficult. One hour later we passed the Kurkure River – right tributary of Chulishman and some minutes later we started alcohol injections with crazy sauna in the evening. We wanted to get ready for the waterfall mission on the Kurkure River and our plan was totally right! Great success!

Kurkure river – 150m class V, 1 day

Sam Sutton about the Kurkure river:
With a desert like landscape we carried our kayaks in the baking hot sun up to the Kurkure river in search of some waterfalls. As you approach the river you are greeted by a picturess 35m waterfall. We hiked up around the waterfall where we saw a perfect 10m waterfall with an exciting lead in.

My first impressions of the gorge – it was extremely committing the only possible exit was after the 10m drop and even then it was going to take a lot of team work and rope work. Feeling tired and lethargic we decided to run as two groups. After an exciting entry we started the continuous lead in. As I boofed off the final entry drop I could see the lip of the 10m drop, as I took the final stroke at the lit I felt the perfect feeling of the freefall for less than a second. I was excited to watch the other boys fall off the waterfall. The craziest part of the river was the hike out. It required the other group to help us to pull the kayaks up a almost vertical cliff. Standing on the cliff I was glad to have all the team working as one to make sure it was done as safe as possible. Next group Phillip, Timo, Tomass and Stephane hit the awesome section of whitewater. On the final fall Stephane paddled off, as he hit the pool he lost his paddle. Unable to hand roll he swam. With the lip of the 35m drop only few meters away, it pull the whole team on high alert. Luckily the team again worked as one and within moments we had Staphane and all his equipment safely on shore. Awesome river, amazing section!

Next one was legendary lower gorge of the Bashkaus!

Bashkaus river (lower gorge) – 60km class V, 2 days

Jared Meehan about Bashkaus river:
I figure we all love our sports for similar reasons, for me it’s a vehicle to get in touch with nature in it’s purest form. Somehow this takes me back to the origins of man kind. It’s about the exploration – whether it be exploring the limits of our sport or a new land. This instinctual factor is written in the genetic fabric of many athletes of sports who push boundaries, constantly in search of something new….. It’s not for everyone but it was for Igor Bazilevsky. He and his team were men of this mould, they attempted the first decent of the Bashkaus in 1975. Sadly he And 5 members of his team drowned on this expedition. the following year a memorial was instated after the first class 5 rapid, a non-return rapid in a box canyon. Nicknamed the book of legends it is a fitting place for a tribute only accessible to those willing to navigate the 60kms of class 5 whitewater in one of the most isolated places on the planet. Any person who decends the river may pay tribute to these pioneers by writting their name in the book. Since 1975 at least 30 people have lost their lives on the Bashkaus.

I would liken our team to that of Bazilevsky’s in that we were ten people willing to push the boundaries in search of something new, we stepped outside our comfort zones and risked something to experience and explore.
Before this trip we were a group of individuals from different cultures, personalities speaking different languages. After this expedition we are a tight nit team who work together to achieve a common goal. Like Bazilevsky we all had that same section of DNA which pushes the human race into new avenues for exploration. I dare not say we became legends of the Bashkaus, for that title is reserved for those who lost their lives opening the gates for others to follow. We are however proud to be inscribed in the history of the amazing Bashkaus river. It was some of the most consistently difficult whitewater I have paddled. Having known some history of the river it does have a nostalgic feel in the canyon. I found my self thinking of the friends I have lost on rivers, who were no doubt paddling alongside us in some way or another. I can only hope the exploits of these legends will encourage others to explore, adventure, build friendships and experience.

The last river in our Altai trip was Chulcha.

Chulcha river – 7km class V, 1 day

Tomass Marnics about Chulcha river:
Chulcha river is the right tributary of the lower Chulishman. This is a quite popular touristic place, cause 10km upstream from the confluence the is a monster cascade on the river and everyone want to make a photo of this amazing place. There is a very good trail and it was pretty easy to get to the put-in. Chulcha was full of water as the other rivers, and it was maybe the hardest whitewater in our trip. Not many eddy’s, sometimes very steep with the hard lines. Was sweet to paddle some of the big shit with Sammy-Boy! This kiwi is crazy mazafaka and it’s always good to have him behind you, or in front of you! Chulcha was good and technical river and one day I would love to paddle right from the bottom of this huge cascade.

Flo spent some of the best days in his life with 2 russians, who don’t speak any language. For sure, that was a good experience for all of them!

Florian Dillier about driving in Siberia:
The Russian main roads are in a quite good shape(except some cows and rubbish). For our trip we had two old Russian military vans(4X4), so we could go through everywhere, cause sometimes is hard to get to the put-in and take-out, cause the roads are super bad and you need this type of car. As well the car engines are old, but easy to fix.

Our drivers Loha(A-Dog) and Sklar were amazing mechanics!

Final words about the adidas sickline expedition to Altai 2010:

Timo Koster:
In spring Tomass told me and Phillip about what will be going on at this trip and everything he said became true. The rivers were fucking huge and I was scared almost every day on the rivers. After ll I’m happy that I visited the Altai Mountains with this group of little psychos!

To make it short:

  • Multi-days are great!
  • Altai is beautiful place!
  • Russians can’t cook meet!
  • Without Tomass I would be lost in Russia!

Thank you guys!

Stephane Pion:
I think Altai is one of the most exciting areas in the World. It was the first time I saw the landscape like this in the middle of nowhere. It was the first time for me to paddle the multi-day rivers with this awesome team! Good organization, good feeling, many thanks to Tomass! And remember – the good line is on the middle!

Sam Sutton:
I wasn’t sure what to expect in Altai, I was going to a place I had never heard of before. As it turned out it was an awesome trip filled with spectacular scenery, an amazing group, intimidating whitewater and a very unique culture. A trip I will tell my grandchildren about one day!

Thilo Schmitt:
Altai was perfect for paddling but it is also a very poor region in Russia, where life is controlled by vodka and local people have no future. The 4 weeks in Altai were unique because I have never paddled so much multi-day rivers and big water rivers in such a short time. Before the trip I thought the rivers would be easy, but as we had “medium high” or “on the juicy side of high” water level we didn’t do the first descents but maybe high water first descents…

I would thank everyone for this amazing trip! I think I met some new friends!

Phillip Baues:
For me this expedition was a new experience with all those multi-day rivers and kayaking a fully loaded boat in the middle of nowhere. The best thing about this trip is that I could paddle with all the team mates, some of them I never paddled with before. Here in Altai Mountains our whole group came really close and new friends were made. Thank you all!

Olaf Obsommer:

It’s done! Our names are written in the book Bashkaus – such a great River God! We had a perfect flow, all undercuts and siphs were under the water. I can’t remember when I paddled so many white water major mondo full-on nice rivers. Sad that we found 2 dead bodies… Not that we don’t know that humans can die… it’s not a nice picture to see this…

The scenery and the landscape were beautiful. Tons of wonderful camp spots.

We had a perfect team on this trip:

Flo – thanks for being Flo the whole trip. Was fun as always to have you in the team.

Bernie – you make me feel safe on the river. Thanks for paddling the hard lines…

Sam – thanks for paddling down my kayak on the big rapid on the Bashkaus gorge.

Stefun – the frenchie in our team. Not sure if stefun had understand all communication… Nice dude, good mate!

Jared – he is the artist, I’m the hard worker. Perfect team! His personality is great.

Thilo – amazing kayaker, great person, good doctor!

Phillip – Good fun with him. Always helpful.

Timo – Good talking with him.

Tomass – our guide. Great person, very good knowledge about Siberia and guiding on the river. Hi did a perfect job.

1000 thanks to all of you boys! No questions Russia, we are coming back!

Tomass Marnics:
I really like Altai and all this rivers what we paddled! But this trip was amazing! Maybe one of the best in my life. I think we had perfect water level everywhere and it was a good trip for all of us. Thanks boys that you trusted me(anyway you had no choice!!!), I was happy to share the place I love to you guys! Hope you enjoyed all this shit…

Don’t be scared! Follow me, stay in the middle!