July 14 - August 4, 2011 rev.2/25/11
Convened under the auspices of the
UNESCO Leadership Chair
at Siberian Academy for Public Administration

2/25/2011 CHANGE NOTICE: Well, a LOT has happened since November that shifts this trek. Immediately AFTER the trek, a second wave of people will be coming to Altai for the purpose of opening a major energy gate. Thus far, all of the trekkers are staying for the Second Wave, so rather than ending back an Novosibirsk, we will stay in Altai and travel to the sacred Ukok Plateau instead (although, there are various points from which we can get people back to Novosibirsk). Please see the revised itinerary below. Information about the Second Wave (August 7-26) can be found at http://altaifellowship.wordpress.com.

If you would like a sampling of what to expect, please see the report from the 2006 International Altai Expedition.

11/16/2010 CHANGE NOTICE: The people who have signed up thus far have requested that we skip the horses. This will save $800 per person, reducing the cost to $2895. Carrying our own gear will enable us to trek via the Akkem River Valley, an easier and more spiritually interesting route. This change also enables an extension of the registration deadline to April 1, 2011. However, if you are planning to go, early sign-up will be appreciated by Carol, and will also save you money on airfare.

Peace-Mapping “Summit”Environmental Clean-Up ProjectItineraryCosts and DeadlinesFoodPacking ListReading ListMapsHintsFlash slide showsContact UsUPDATES & QuestionsRegistration Form

  • You are invited to join a group of global citizens in the Altai Mountains, in the center of Asia—renowned as the source of global shamanism, and recognized for its spiritual energy and harmony.

  • Meet with local Altai leaders at our "Peace-Mapping" Summit to discuss how we personally, as part of the global community, can support the stewardship of Altai and the whole Earth.

  • Challenge yourself with a well-supported trek in one of the most pristine wildernesses on the planet—designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

  • Connect and celebrate life in the pure joy of being in a supportive, conscious group. Clarify and magnify your personal intentions through the powerful light/life vortex at Mt. Beluha.

  • Contribute to the environmental stability of the region through a our sponsorship of a clean-up to remove non-biodegradable garbage left by trekkers and climbers.

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Peace-Mapping “Summit”

In collaboration with local Altai leaders, we will use a powerful new, archetypally-based peace-mapping model to create strategies for human sustainability with an international group. This model comes directly out of the spiritual energy of Altai, through two complementary components:

In the context of the individual and collective experiences in a high mountain environment, the Peace-Mapping Summit will address the four-part question that emerges from this model:

What are our “critical paths” to recognition and personal adaptation of principles of Peace, as outlined in the Tablets of Light, to each of the Four Quadrants of the Cosmos?

Individually, in small groups, and as a “summit,” we will develop balanced and comprehensive insights and inspirations, and then map out our personal “critical paths.” Organizationally, we will use the Open Space Technology format.

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Day 1 - Thursday, July 14
We’ll meet you when you get off the plane in Novosibirsk. If you are coming from the US, the flight to Moscow will take about 11 hours from the West Coast, while you move ahead 11 time zones (so, to arrive in Moscow on July 13 and Novosibirsk on the July 14, you need to leave the US on July 12). From Moscow there are numerous late-night flights that arrive in Novosibirsk (3 time zones further) early on the morning of July 14.
We'll transfer you to our cozy apartment where you can settle in, help package supplies for the trek, adjust to the time zone, and get acquainted with the group.

We will also double-check your equipment to make sure that what you have is sufficient for the conditions. (If not, we will try to help you find appropriate gear in Novosibirsk—but this is FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY, because the selection is VERY limited.)

We'll cook a gourmet group dinner together. In the late evening, we'll pack our gear into mini-buses. Then we’ll head south (overnight) to Gorno-Altaisk, the capital of the Altai Republic (about 7 hours driving. Currently, the only reasonable way to get our visas registered is to be in Gorno-Altaisk EARLY Friday morning. Ample healthy snacks on the buses.

Day 2 - Friday, July 15
We'll arrive early and settle into a small family hotel, where the group can relax while the visas are registered. Maybe you'll want to explore Gorno-Altaisk. We may also need to continue our packing, to make sure our rucksacks are as light as possible. Throat-singing concert in the evening.
Family-style meals at the hotel.

Day 3 - Saturday, July 16
We'll rise early, eat breakfast at the hotel, pack our gear into the minibuses, and drive to a tourist base in the village of Tyungur, which is the trail-head for our trek (estimated 12 hours drive time, if we are delayed at the border check-point, it can be a very long day.).

Lunch and dinner at traditional Siberian roadhouses. Ample healthy snacks on the buses.

Sacred Mt. Belukha is a glaciated, 14,500’ peak, the highest in the vast Altai range that spans the borders of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. Lake Akkem, the destination of this expedition, sits in a lovely valley at the foot of Mt. Belukha, on the north side of the mountain at about 7000’ altitude. (See map.)

Two rivers with a tall ridge between them flow down the north side of Mt. Beluha—Kucherla and Akkem—and empty into the Katun River. Tyungur is located at the mouth of the Kucherla River. Tyungur means “shaman’s drum,” and the village is located at about 4000’ altitude, on the Katun River, which originates on the west side of Mt. Beluha and winds in an S-shape through Altai.

Day 4 - Sunday, July 17
Breakfast at tourist base. All meals while trekking are provided.
Today, we will raft easily down the Katun River to the mouth of the Akkem River. Set up camp and cook dinner.

Day 5 - Monday, July 18
We will be trekking for the next four days, traveling about 8 miles per day on moderately difficult trails. You’ll carry a rucksack that weighs between 50 and 80 pounds, so prior conditioning is strongly recommended.

We’ll start a short, easy hike along the east side of the Akkem River to the bridge, where we'll cross and hike across a huge meadow full of wild strawberries. We'll camp at a place called "three birches."

Day 6 - Tuesday, July 19
Today, we'll be hiking through birch and pine taiga forest, rich with raspberries, wild strawberries, red currants and mushrooms.

The weather will probably be excellent at this time of year—into the 70s in the daytime, with bright blue skies and at night, the Milky Way will be brilliant. However, it can be very rainy, and snow is possible, so we must be prepared for such weather.

Days 7 and 8 - Wednesday and Thursday, July 20-21
We’ll spend two glorious days hiking along the Akkem River, with long leisurely lunches on the warm sand at the river's edge. Late on Wednesday, we'll have our first view of Mt. Belukha. We'll camp Wednesday night with a view of the Tekelyu waterfall. On Thursday afternoon, we'll arrive at Lake Akkem, where we will camp for the next four days.

Days 9 through 12 - Friday-Monday, July 22-25
These wonderful days will be spent camping at Lake Akkem, at the base of Mt. Belukha.

However physically strong and enthusiastic you are, you may find that the resonant environmentally-induced healing energy in this place makes you inclined to meditate or sit still in this beautiful alpine basin, surrounded by glaciated mountain peaks and breathtakingly beautiful hanging alpine valleys.

  • Take quiet walks along the lake, picking a cornucopia of berries, herbs, and mushrooms in the nearby pine, birch, and larch forests, or snapping dazzling photographs.
  • Take a classical Russian banya (like a sauna), which traditionally includes cooling off between rounds by dipping in the ice-cold water, and stimulating the skin by whipping yourself with birch-branches.
  • Visit the rock shrines constructed by pilgrims at the head of the lake.
  • Have fascinating conversations—not only with members of our group, but also with other campers around the lake, almost all of whom are spiritual pilgrims, and many of whom speak English. These people will be very interested in you, because foreigners are rare here.
Day hikes

You may up hike into the surrounding alpine valleys with an English-speaking guide. These valleys are sacred, each more beautiful than the next; and the source of many legends of magical gateways to Shambhala.

  • Hike up to the Akkem Glacier, and perhaps to the very foot of Mt. Belukha. This is where the fabled magical energy of Altai is most intense. Cross the raging Akkem River on a wire suspension bridge (great photo op), and scramble over the house-sized boulders in the glacial moraine. Breathe the ionized air where the glacial River Akkem shoots out from under the river of ice.
  • A very steep trail opens relatively quickly onto the glorious Akayuk Valley, which holds seven jewel-like mountain lakes and a wealth of wild-flowers and medicinal herbs. The rare and precious succulent “goldenroot” grows in profusion here. The roots of this plant smell like roses when disturbed, and from them, a powerful tonic is brewed. For millennia, Chinese emperors sent emissaries to this valley for this plant.

July 25th is the “Day Out of Time” according to the 13-Moon Mayan Calendar as promulgated by Jose Arguelles. Thirteen months of 28 days make 364 days. This, the 365th day, is given over to reconciliation, forgiveness, healing, and, most importantly, celebration! Some members of our group may plan celebratory ceremonies during the day, followed by singing and celebrating as long into the night as you wish.

Day 13 - Tuesday, July 26
Today we'll bid farewell to Lake Akkem and hike back down the hill to camp by the Tekelyu waterfall. Our packs will be lighter, we will be stronger, and we'll be going mostly downhill. However, the Akkem Valley is well known as a spiritual birth canal, so our focus may well be on other dimensions.

July 26th is “New Year’s Day” for the Mayan 13-Moon calendar—a fitting day to begin our "birthing."

Days 14-16 - Wednesday-Friday, July 27-29
Our return trip will allow us to gradually ready our bodies and minds for a return to civilization while we are still in the sacred Altai energy space. This will be a time for introspection and integration.

We will retrace our steps back to the "three birches," and then we will cross Kuzuyak Pass out of the Akkem Valley and into the Kucherla Valley, stopping just before the summit to feast on wild strawberries. At the bottom of the hill, we'll cross a vast meadow before dropping down to cross the Kucherla River and enter Kucherla Village. The two miles between Kucherla Village and Tyungur Village are the home stretch. When we arrive in Tyungur, we'll get a taxi to take us to Ust Koksa, a town about an hour away, where we can have showers, beds, and do laundry in a small family hotel.
Family-style dinner on Friday at the hotel in Ust Koksa

Days 17-18 - Saturday and Sunday, July 30-31
We will be very ready for two full days of relaxing in Ust Koksa, while we prepare for travel to the Ukok Plateau.

The hotel is on the bank of the Koksa River a stone's throw from where it flows into the Katun River. A foot bridge crosses the Koksa to an idyllic park between the two rivers. There's even a swimming hole for the brave. An excursion to the Roerich Museum is possible.

Also, the hotel proprietor is a musician who will be delighted to entertain us with Russian folksongs. Ninety of Carol Hiltner's visionary paintings are also on exhibit here.
Family-style meals at the hotel

Day 19 - Monday, August 1
Depart early from Ust Koksa by mini-bus. Stop for the night at hotel near Gorno-Altaisk. (8 hours driving time)
Breakfast at hotel, lunch on the road, Family-style dinner at the hotel.

Day 20 - Tuesday, August 2
Those finishing the expedition at this time will depart from hotel for leisurely bus ride back to Novosibirsk. Overnight at hotel, and transfer to airport the next day.
Family-style breakfast at hotel. Lunch on the road. Dinner at hotel in Novosibirsk.

Those continuing on to the sacred Ukok Plateau will leave early for Kosh Agach (8 hours drive), where we will stay in a small family hotel overnight. On the way, we will stop at an ancient site of countless petroglyphs.
Family-style breakfast at hotel. Lunch on the road. Dinner at hotel in Kosh Agach.

Day 21 - Wednesday, August 3
We will meet up with Maya Erlenbaeva from the Ukok Nature Park to take us onto the plateau by all-terrain vehicle. It is my understanding that we will have some ceremony to perform that is related to the "gate-opening" during the Second Wave, but other group members have more clarity about that than I do. August 4th will be the final official day of the Expedition. From here on, we will be sharing activity planning and costs.

However, to meet the Second Wave, we need to be back in Tyungur on the evening of August 10th. Rather than spend two days in cars again, currently signed-up participants have agreed that we should take a short-cut, which will involve 2-3 days of trekking along the Katun River. Thus, we need to leave the Ukok Plateau on Sunday, August 7, and begin trekking on Monday, August 8.

The Second Wave will spend a week at Kucherla Lake with the intention of opening a gate to Shambhala. Information about that can be found at http://altaifellowship.wordpress.com. It is being organized by another person, with one exception: Part of that group will leave for Moscow from Tyungur on August 20th and will spend August 23-25 in Moscow.

However, I, Carol, will be staying in Altai with another part of the group for another few days, and will convene at least one "Peace-Mapping" Summit at which we will share about what happened during our "gate opening" and consider future steps. We will return to Novosibirsk on August 24th or 25th and fly home on August 26th.

The purpose of a Peace-Mapping Summit is to use the resonant Altai energy to clarify and strengthen our intentions. We will invite local Altai leaders, activists, students, and artists to join us.

The Summit will be operated according to amazingly effective Open Space Technology protocols. After introductions and logistical instructions, the group will self-determine specific topics for small-group brainstorming to chart individual and collective "critical paths" toward peace. Then we will fluidly form and re-form in these small, self-directed interest-groups. Proceedings will be documented as part of the process of each group, compiled, and distributed immediately on CD or, later, by e-mail We’ll gather in a closing circle around dinnertime.

PLEASE NOTE: We will spare no effort to make this relatively difficult trip as smooth as possible. In the interest of keeping it affordable and manageable, we will be staying as a group in modest accommodations, which can mean sleeping on the couches and floor, sharing the bathroom, etc. Trekking is in complete wilderness: we'll stay in mountain tents and cook our food on a campfire or cookstoves. The itinerary is subject to change without notice at the discretion of the tour operators, for reasons including weather, transportation schedules, permitting issues, new opportunities, etc. When this web page is changed, the revision date at the top of the page is updated. (Italicized items are not included in tour price.)

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While trekking, we will eat really wonderful, healthy food—whole grains and legumes, fruits and vegetables, cheeses, nuts, chicken and fish. Wild herbs and salad greens can be picked along the trail. Meal preparation is a community-building part of the group experience. Bring along your own instant “comfort food” for emergencies.

Please bring your own special drinks, protein bars, specialized snacks, and vitamins from the US. Russian chocolate is excellent and readily available. Russian ice cream is legendary for its richness.

If you have a specialized food needs, you'll need to bring your specialty foods with you from the U.S. When you register, ask Carol for specific advice.

Meals and options that are not included in the tour price are italicized in the itinerary (above).

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Cost and Deadlines

21 Days: $2895, from Novosibirsk. May change due to currency value fluctuations or other factors.
Visa support and flight from US can be an estimated $2500 in addition, but much less if you buy your air ticket early.
All registrations must be completed and paid in full no later than April 1, 2011.

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Environmental Clean-Up Project

Local stewards identified the current most critical need to be garbage disposal, as the number of trekkers in the area continues to escalate. We will spend an afternoon picking up garbage around the lake.

This simple idea will require a huge amount of work by the locals—governmental permission and cooperation, preparation and disposal of the transported garbage, purchase of materials, and construction and installation of outhouses, and garbage collection receptacles—and a modest amount of money.

If this idea seems valuable to you, please make a contribution of any amount. If you have any contacts with environmental foundations, or would like to help with funding, please contact Carol immediately.

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Packing List

This is the MANDATORY list. For your own safety and comfort, EVERYTHING on this list is mandatory, except starred (*) items. I don’t know how to emphasize this enough. We are going into high mountain wilderness, where conditions can be extreme, and there will be no back-up. If you arrive in Novosibirsk without critically important equipment, we will attempt to help you purchase it there, but it may delay you in Novosibirsk and add cost to your trip. Or it may not be available, in which case you may not be able to continue with the group.

  • Please make sure you comply with your airline’s baggage requirements, or be prepared to pay steep extra fees.
  • Put your name on everything.
  • Don’t bring anything you can’t afford to lose or have ruined. Avoid down, because it doesn’t insulate when wet. Avoid cotton for the same reason.
  • Silk, cashmere, microfiber, or cotton/poly blends work pretty well against your skin. Microfiber and polyester tend to get stinky.
  • Pack everything in zip-lock plastic bags.
  • Mosquitoes and flies will not be a significant problem, but if you are sensitive, consider the Buzz-Off clothes by Ex Officio.
  • Make sure you have thoroughly tested, checked, or broken in any new equipment.
  • Weather will probably be hot in Novosibirsk, cool en route to Altai. In the mountains, it will probably be warm during the day, and down to freezing at night. Rain is likely at some point.
  • If you have questions about gear, e-mail Carol before May 28th. (After that, she will be traveling in preparation for the expedition, and her internet access will be sporadic.)

  1. a large-capacity back-packing rucksack (waist-band is REQUIRED)
  2. roomy day-pack for airplane carry-on and travel days
  3. warm sleeping-bag—down is not good, it’s too likely to get wet; temperature drops to freezing at night
  4. foam or air sleeping pad
  5. 3-season mountain tent if you have one (please let Carol know)
  6. 2 mylar space/emergency blankets ($3-4 at any sporting goods store: they make a remarkable difference how warm you will stay at night. Let Carol know if you can't find them.)
  7. comfortable medium-duty hiking boots or solid walking shoes, waterproofed. If riding, you will need smooth-sole shoes, but ALSO sturdy walking shoes with some traction, for times when the trails are too steep to ride.
  8. camp shoes and/or sturdy hiking sandals
  9. woolen socks—2 pairs (*second pair optional)
  10. socks and underwear
  11. t-shirts or undershirts—2
  12. long-sleeved shirt cotton/poly/nylon, knit or woven—2 (I wear a woven Ex Officio "BuzzOff shirt for hiking, and I sleep in a long-sleeved cotton shirt.)
  13. long pants for hiking (nylon or polyester; not cotton)
  14. comfortable pants for camp
  15. sweater—light wool or polar fleece
  16. sweater—warm wool or polar fleece—OR quilted jacket
  17. fleece vest or second warm sweater
  18. polar fleece or warm wool pants
  19. warm hat
  20. hooded Goretex jacket (non-breathable waterproof nylon is not recommended; an un-reinforced plastic jacket is not sufficient)
  21. waterproof pants (Goretex strongly recommended)
  22. nylon poncho (plastic is useless because it tears; this second layer of waterproofness is necessary to stay dry if it is rainy)
  23. towel, soap (both for self and clothes), shampoo, tooth-brush, tooth-paste, comb, deodorant, etc. (hint 1: do not pack soap near food, because the perfume in the soap permeates plastic and can ruin the food)(hint 2: I use a sarong as my towel)
  24. toilet paper or Kleenex—enough for the entire trip
  25. sunscreen and lipscreen
  26. pocket knife
  27. water bottle
  28. vitamins/medicines/personal first aid kit
  29. personal snacks and special food needs
  30. good, lightweight flashlight with new batteries (LED headlamp in the $35 range is a good investment)
  31. mug and medium bowl of plastic or metal; large spoon
  32. emergency whistle
  33. $100-300 spending money (new bills only, with no marks on them; travelers’ checks are useless; cash machines are available in Gorno-Altaisk, but be sure to let your credit card company know you’ll be traveling in Russia)

Weather will probably be hot in Novosibirsk and cold en route to Altai.
Optional items:

  1. *waist pack for camera, sunglasses, water, etc.
  2. *concealed money/passport/ticket pouch
  3. *long johns
  4. *medium-weight mittens or gloves (snow is possible, frosts are likely)
  5. *shorts or swimsuit
  6. *sunglasses
  7. *watch or small clock
  8. *notebook and pencils
  9. *camera or videocam (plus extra batteries)
  10. *handkerchief
  11. *~20’ 1/8” rope
  12. *clothes-pins (4)
  13. *compass
  14. *earplugs
  15. *lighter
  16. *small mirror
  17. *waterless hand disinfectant
  18. *walking stick
  19. *mosquito repellent/sting-eaz/mosquito-net hat
  20. *small musical instrument
  21. *city/travel clothes
  22. *sweater, shawl, or light jacket for city/travel
  23. *umbrella
  24. *a good book to read and pass on
  25. *a few memento gifts, such as pens, postcards, pins, costume jewelry, CDs, crystals—whatever you'd feel comfortable giving
  26. *business cards
  27. *a small, spiritually significant gift for a gifting ceremony
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Recommended Reading

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Maps (Click to enlarge)


Altai; and Beluha

The Trekking Route

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  • Tick-borne encephalitis is a slight risk in Altai at the time we'll be there. No vaccine is available in the US. The antiviral drug iodantipyrin is effective either preventively or immediately after a tick bite. It's not available in the US, but is available over-the-counter in Russia. We'll help you get it when you get there.
  • Daytime weather may be hot (with rain showers possible), and nights cool while traveling. In the mountains, rain is likely, and snow (at night) is possible.
  • Bottled water can be purchased in Novosibirsk. We'll bring a water filter for trekking.
  • In Russia, travelers’ checks are not generally accepted, but credit cards are, and cash machines are available. Any bills you bring must be new or near new: wrinkled, torn, or marked bills will simply be refused—check them carefully. Opportunities will be few to spend money on items other than food or to replace forgotten trekking gear. Unless you are a big spender, or are spending extra days in Russia (which can be expensive), $300-500 plus a credit card is ample.
  • Leave jewelry, valuables, and breakables at home.
  • Don’t bring your laptop to Altai.
  • Public toilets in Russia can be awful, and generally lack toilet paper. Carry kleenex.
  • Be prepared for some mosquitoes and biting flies. Try out your repellent before you pack it, to make sure that you can tolerate the smell of it. A couple years ago, some independent testing was done of currently available repellents. DEET is most effective for the longest time, but it is really foul. However, just as effective, but for a shorter time is Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent, available from REI. One 4 oz. bottle has lasted me for about 10 years. Also, Ex Officio has developed a line of "Buzz Off" clothing in which permethrin insect repellent is chemically incorporated into the threads of the fabric so it doesn't wash out—pants shirts, bandanas, hats, and socks. Expensive, but very nice!
  • A word to the wise (which all of you, of course, are): Altai is known as a place of high energy and miraculous healings. We are going to the heart of Altai: Mt. Belukha—the “white mountain.” This will be an intense initiatory experience: We will all be in this together, and we can come through it with a huge sense of camaraderie and accomplishment only if we take responsibility for ourselves and face our own shadows, and have unending tolerance, compassion, patience, and respect for ourselves and for each other. One effect of the high energy is that people who are normally high-functioning and competent frequently become disoriented and/or irrational. Another effect is that everyone’s most difficult personal issues (our energy blockages) come to the surface for healing. So, if someone is irritating you, it is an OPPORTUNITY for YOU. However, if anyone’s physical health or mental state becomes a substantial risk to themselves or the group as judged by the leaders, they will be evacuated to a medical facility, and they will be responsible for the cost.
  • A word about logistics: This is a group tour—stay with the group. Even if you go looking for a toilet, make sure someone knows where you are and how long you“ll be. Please do whatever is necessary to be ready for departures at or before the announced times. You are responsible for double-checking that your luggage is on your assigned mini-bus. Please help pack and unpack if you are able-bodied. Organize yourself so that everything fits in your duffel or day-pack.
  • Make at least 3 complete photocopied sets of your visa, front page of passport, and airplane tickets (for expedition organizers, to carry yourself, and to leave with someone at home). Also, bring two extra passport photos.
  • Trip insurance with emergency evacuation coverage is required.

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Contact Us

Questions can be directed to Carol Hiltner at Carol@AltaiBooks.com

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