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Touring with kayaks

Lonely and wild rivers in the region of Lake Baikal

by Sebastian Gründler www.sebastiangruendler.de

For adventuresome wild water canoe fans, Sibiria and the region of Lake Baikal have considerably lots of things to offer as most of the small rivers are completely natural and unspoiled. Though that also means that they are often hardly accessible and far away from any civilization. The best time to go The northern part of Lake Baikal is icefree from the beginning of June. Therefore, the best time for the rivers in the northern region is from middle of June until the beginning of August, concerning river Tompuda, only from the beginning of the main snowsmelt (in the middle of July). The rivers in the Sayan Mountains strongly depend on the rainfall, they should flow best in July and August. Because of the continentally influenced climate temperatures can climb up to 40 degrees (less in the mountains), while during the night close to the entrances freeze can appear.

Literature and maps “Rivers of an unknown land” by Wladimir Garvrilow (Laingsburg, 2004), can be commanded at www.borealpress.com , including detailled descriptions of river Kitoi and diverse other rivers on the territory of former USSR, written in English. There are no special maps except for the Irkut river for acquatics. Hence, you will have to rely on Russian general maps (scale often only 1:200 000), vide shop.baikalplan.de In very remote regions only the Tactical Pilotage Charts (TCP) , benchmark 1:500000 may help, for example available at the expedition supplier “Därr” in Munich (TCP E-8A, TCP E-7B, TCP E-7C), Be careful with streets and bridges, there existence is not always for sure.

Tools Besides the standard security equippment for canoeists I advise to take along a satelite telephone, GPS and a well-assorted first aid kit. Both, camp fires and pepper spray are meant to fend bears off. Fortunately, we never had the opportunity to verify this theory. Ortlieb-Dry-Bags and Pelicase kept the equippment dry. Very good service did the bags of the dry food (Simpert-Reiter) which are shrink-wrapped in aluminium foil. Even without any additional waterproof they can be sticked into any blank of the boats. To clear the drinking water we used Katadyn water filters. As limited expedition kayak our choice of the Eskimo kayak “Speedo” was quite perfect. But if your tour will take more than 8 days you probably will need more volume. The most important criteria for the choice of tents (Hilleberg), camping mats (Therma-A-Rest) and the clothes (Nike ACG) was their weight. The conveniance food can be spiced up by taking along a reduced angling equipment. Especially on the remote Tompuda river fish was almost an every day meal.

We travelled and (at least partly) discovered the following rivers:

Northern Baikal Region

Tompuda 5-day-hike or helicopter is needed to reach the entrance. The river is situated on the eastern bank of Lake Baikal, about 50 km south of Chakussi and is about 150 km long. At the end of the plateau, close to the source, you will find an about 5-7 km long canyon with cliffy parts in it. At hight watermarkt carry the boats on the left side of the river. Depending on the water level: WW V-VI. The canyon is followed by open wild water which is getting less and less deep the closer the river gets to Lake Baikal (WW IV-I) Topa: Topa is a confluence of the river Tompuda (meets Tompuda from the left side). Upstream carry the boats, orographically on the right side, about 5 kilometres and 500 metres elevation gain. The transport of the boats is extremely exhausting. A steep torrent, interrrupted by short rock spurs. It´s always possible to carry the boats around them, WW: IV-VI. At middle watermark it could be worth while to explore the upper rock spurs at the end of which we started. Sogdonjaja: A confluence of the river Tompuda (meets Tompuda from the left side), upstream carry the boats orographically on the right side, about 5 km and 300 m elevation gain, much more economical route than at the river Topa. The entrance is located at the beginning of the steep part, then continuously wild walter of third or fourth grade.

East Sayan Mountains:

Kitoi: Car shuttle from Irkutsk to the entrance takes about 7 hours: about 240 km long. after about 60 km follows a two km long part with rock spurs, depending on the water level between: V and X, except of one place: IV. It´s possible to carry the boarts around these places. After another 40 km you will reach the Motkin Cheeks Canyon. Oonly at low water level the entrance eventually passable passable, otherwise, get out on the left side close to a little confluence and carry the boats around.Extremely vehement water flowing through partly rock spurred area on the next 6 km (up to WW 5), then much more easier until the exit at the end of the canyon. During the rest of the route till Razdol´je wild water appears only occasionally. Ekhe Gol: A confluence of the river Kitoi (meets Kitoi from the left side, about one km after the beginning of MCC, there´s a waterfall about 800 m above the embouchure. Exploring the upper part could be worth while. Urik Car shuttle from Irkutsk to the entrance takes about 8 hours. About 150 km, in the north flowing parallell to the river Kitoi. Entrance only if assured water level in the left main brook, can be recognized on the TPC cards. First narrow up to a gorge, during following 10 km increasing difficulties, WW: IV-V. View the gorges from the left side. At low water level the gorge portion in the middle of the river is passable for kayaks. Thereafter open and easy, handicaps caused by trees. Now follow two kilometres of admirable wild water (WW: IV-V), no noteworthy difficulties up to a waterfall of abour 8 m. Until leaving the Sayan mountains hardly any difficulties besides a short part of low rock spurs, up to WW: III These informations are given in all consience. Of course they are can not be guaranteed.


In Severobaikalsk the easiest way is to contact Rashit Yahin (Tel.: 0073013921560, e-mail: rashit.yahin@usa.net, www.gobaikal.com)). A helicopter flying from the airport in Nithneangarsk (10 km away) to the headwaters (not only of Tompuda) has to be paied in advance (in 2004 about 1000 Euro per flying hour. Also the return flight of the crew has to be paied.) Fishing boats for the return: costs depend on the distance. In Irkutsk the easiest way is to contact Andrej Sagusin and Tamara Diatlova (Tel.: 0073952333491, baikaltrekking@yahoo.com, www.baikaltrekking.com) Helicopter shuttle is also possible (f.ex. Sneznaya, Khara-Murin) For several worth while rivers in the Sayan Mountains car shuttle is no problem. (Kitoi, Urik).


Everybody who simply wants to do some easy canoeing on the Lake Baikal, please notice that the Baikal is not an unperilous body of water even if it sometimes may seem so, regarded from the banks. Furthermore, it is difficult to rent kayaks on local site. As far as we know about it this is only possible at Rashid Yahin´s in Sewerobaikalsk and at Henk Birnbaum´s in Bolschoi Goloustnoje. For more tips see the following article: Canoe equipment at the Lake Baikal


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