Hiking & Camping in Siberia, MIR Style
Russian MIR Siberia teams – notably in Ulan Ude and Irkutsk – love the outdoors. And why not? After all, Siberia is the heart of the Russian wilderness. They love sharing with MIR travelers all that is the soul of their Siberia, from its deep history to its deep(est) lake and incredible natural beauty. In honor of World Tourism Day, these partners of MIR’s affiliated field office, Russian MIR Siberia, and their families, hiked and camped along the Great Baikal Trail. Along with Lida Sherstobitova’s writing expertise, Russian MIR Siberia Office Director, Vladimir Kvashnin, shares the group’s experience:
When you live in Siberia as I do – as well as our Russian MIR Siberia staff – you know that our short Siberian summers are the favorite time of year. Here in Irkutsk where I live, locals go on vacation to different countries, or travel to Lake Baikal, or climb mountains. Yet there’s no time to rest for our Russian MIR Siberia team: in summer we work like a swarm of bees meeting and working with MIR travelers who want to explore our fresh, exciting part of the world, Siberia.
That’s why, as the tour season was coming to an end, our Russian MIR Siberia team, along with our families, decided to go on our own tour.
Being the deepest lake in the world – 1,637 meters or 5,370 feet – and having vast expanses of untouched landscapes, Lake Baikal attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists. Lake Baikal attracts locals like us, as well: its mountainous shores offer great opportunities for hiking, trekking, rock-climbing and even backcountry snowboarding.
The Listvyanka-Bolshiye Koty section of the Great Baikal Trail is a 22km/14 mile hike through Siberian forests along the shores of Lake Baikal. Ages of our hiking team members ranged from 6 to 44 years, so we decided to make the hike easier with two plans:
- Plan A: Take a lift on SUVs to the top of the steep slope at the beginning of the trail in Listvyanka.
- Plan B: Camp overnight in tents in the Chernaya Creek valley just 3 km/2 miles before the trail’s end.
Both plans worked.
- 4 big tents
- 13 sleeping bags
- 5 kilograms/10 pounds BBQ meat
- 4 kilograms/8 pounds potatoes, for baking over an open fire
- Other hiking necessities like warm blankets and soft pillows; they were all loaded on a cargo boat.
We rode on the SUVs to the top of the hill closest to Listvyanka and the hike began! Before reaching Lake Baikal’s shore, we went by the serpentine part of the trail down the hill. It takes just 30 minutes, but leaves much to be remembered – especially if you have knee injuries!
Lake Baikal greeted us with bright sunshine and a bit of snow at the same time. Then our hiking trail followed the steep slopes of the shore. Only a short portion of the trail had a sign, “Dangerous Trail.” With the assistance of our guides and staff, this part was safe enough even for the children.
After seven hours of ups and downs, our team arrived in Chernaya Creek valley, where our camping and cooking equipment was already waiting for us.
Bags were unpacked, tents were set up, and the hot tea was boiling. We made a campfire, then cooked up BBQ along with all our potatoes, and enjoyed the rest of the evening sitting around the campfire sharing the emotions and impressions of our hiking experience.
Then came morning – a beautiful Lake Baikal morning, with our tents covered with quaint ornaments of silver frost.
But soon the air warmed up. We had a cup of morning coffee, the best-ever oatmeal and buckwheat breakfast, walked around, played games and even made the Russian version of the MIR sign.
After lunch, our Russian MIR Siberia team members went back to their tents to collect and prepare the equipment for transfer back to Listvyanka. Soon our transfer boat arrived. We took this group picture, hoping to return to Lake Baikal again not only as guides and drivers, but also as travelers as well.
(Top photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin – Group photo of Russian MIR Siberia team and families along Lake Baikal’s rugged shoreline.)
PUBLISHED: November 18, 2014