The story goes that during Soviet times mountain-loving Russians headed off to the Pamirs, Kyrgyzstan, or other Central Asian mountains. Only with the collapse of the Soviet Union did Siberia’s Ergaki National Park start to get popular. Even today the area is hardly visited by non-Russians — we didn’t come across a single foreigner during our week there. It’s amazing to me that such a beautiful place is still such a secret. As I mentioned in my last post, it was only thanks to Alex that Özgür and I ended up in Ergaki National Park.
Also it was only by pure coincidence that the one week we had left for Ergaki after the Altai Mountains was the same week that Alex was in the park guiding his last group of the season. One day at yet another beautiful view Alex asked, “Bryan, if this were in the US, don’t you think you’d see photos of it all over the world like the Grand Canyon?”
Indeed he could be right.
Our trip went something like this. We took two half days, including climbing Khudozhnikov Pass, to get to a base camp at the foot of the Parabola Peaks, perhaps the most iconic view in the park.
We ended up spending four nights at that camp, and there were still more day hikes to do from there. I could have easily stayed three more days. One day we went with Alex and his group, up the slabs to the parabola’s saddle, and then up the left of the two pinnacles, Fat Brother.
It was so warm that day that we went swimming — my only swimming in Siberia — in this lake, Gornykh Dukhov:
On a very windy day I walked passed more beautiful lakes:
and scrambled to the top of Zub Drakona (Dragon’s Tooth), the pointy tower at the upper right of this photo:
Here are some views from the top:
This is the aptly named Malachite Lake:
My favorite spot in Ergaki may have been the peaceful hour I spent by myself at Chorna Lake (perhaps spelled Chiornoie?). However, due to (temporary) camera difficulties, I have no photos. You’ll just have to go there yourself. Here is the last photo I was able to get following the stream up to the lake:
To finish our hike we crossed one more pass (maybe called Ptitsa?) to get to Svietloie Lake where we spent the last two nights of our Siberian backpacking adventures.
For my last full day in Ergkai National Park I easily found another great day hike, a loop that included Mramornyi Pass.
Later, however, Alex chastised me for not walking up the Vidovka Ridge that day. “It’s one the best walks in Ergaki,” he insisted. Looks like I found a reason to go back! Also, the northern part of the park is supposed to be excellent, and we didn’t get there at all.
Of all the places I’ve been Ergaki perhaps most resembles a US National Park. It has easy road access: less than four hours (by bus) from Abakan via an excellent paved highway (it’s the main highway that connects Tuva with the rest of Russia); the park has a good collection of easy to follow trails with frequent stunning views; and Ergaki feels like it’s set up for an enjoyable user experience with some accessible mini-adventures if that’s what you’re after. I highly recommend a visit.