Hiking & Camping in Siberia, MIR Style

Hiking & Camping in Siberia, MIR Style

Russian MIR Siberia teams – notably in Ulan Ude and Irkutsk – love the outdoorsAnd 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.

Lake Baikal, and camping there, is a big draw not only for travelers but also for Siberian locals <br>Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Lake Baikal – and camping here – is a big draw not only for travelers but also for Siberian locals
Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Sharing SiberiaWe have to say that this work is more than enjoyable; every group, every person is like a whole new world. Together we learn about Siberia and Lake Baikal; we learn about different ways of living and seeing the world; and we share those experiences. Of course, sometimes our Russian MIR Siberia guides, drivers, and office staff wonder what it’s like to be on the other side – like taking a tour around Lake Baikal as our MIR travelers get to do.

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.

To Lake Baikal, of Course!If you live on the shores of the deepest lake in the world – it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the question of where to go is not a question at all. Lake Baikal!

For more than 25 million years, the sun sets again on Lake Baikal Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

For more than 25 million years, the sun has set on Lake Baikal
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

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.  

In Honor of TourismSo, to honor World Tourism Day on September 27th, 2014, I led our Russian MIR Siberia team (most from Irkutsk but some from our Ulan Ude office 120 miles away) on a trekking tour along the .

Russian MIR Siberia gets a taste of its own tours, starting with a healthy hike in the woods – Vlad in the lead <br>Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Russian MIR Siberia gets a taste of its own tours, starting with a healthy hike in the woods – Vlad in the lead
Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

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.

Hiking, Siberian StyleWe left the Russian MIR Siberia office in Irkutsk at 9, and by 10 we were in Listvyanka, on Lake Baikal. Our polar-expedition equipment included:

  • 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.
Siberia's Great Baikal Trail is a hiking lesson in ecology, the environment – and camaraderie <br>Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Siberia’s Great Baikal Trail is a hiking lesson in ecology, the environment – and camaraderie
Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Stepping over trees and fighting Siberian jungles = getting closer to Lake Baikal <br>Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Stepping over trees and fighting Siberian jungles = getting closer to Lake Baikal
Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

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.

Lake Baikal's shoreline is steep, but navigable in many places <br>Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Lake Baikal’s shoreline is steep, but navigable in many places
Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Russian MIR Siberia's children on the hike are loaded with stamina and spirit!<br>Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Russian MIR Siberia’s children on the hike are loaded with stamina and spirit!
Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

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.  

Universal, and timeless: gathering 'round the campfire <br>Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Universal, and timeless: gathering ’round the campfire
Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

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. 

Tents the quality of polar expeditions make Siberian camping comfortable <br>Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Tents the quality of polar expeditions make Siberian camping comfortable
Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

If you know Russian, it's easy to see these human letters spell out "MIR" <br>Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

If you know Russian, it’s easy to see these human letters spell out “MIR”
Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Siberian Soup for the SoulNo visit to Lake Baikal can go without the fresh omul (Baikal salmon) soup. This soup is traditionally cooked on an open fire. The main ingredient is the freshly caught omul fish; potatoes, onions, rice and carrots are also added in. Our Russian MIR Siberia office accountant Oksana Sokolova, a very experienced cook, prepared the huge bucket of this very simple but delicious soup. The soup was so good that we could not leave a drop! 

The legendary <i>omul</i> fish is found only in the waters of Lake Baikal, the world's oldest and deepest lake <br>Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Oksana shows off an omul, found only in the waters of Lake Baikal, the world’s oldest and deepest lake
Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

What's on the hiking menu? In any season, fish soup – using freshly caught <i>omul</i> – is a mainstay <br>Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

What’s on the hiking menu? In any season, fish soup – using freshly caught omul – is a mainstay
Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

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.

Russian MIR Siberia team ends their weekend with sunshine and warm memories of their outdoor adventure <br>Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Russian MIR Siberia team ends their weekend with sunshine and warm memories of their great adventure
Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Travel with MIR to SiberiaDiscover the wonders of Russia’s Siberia when you travel with MIR to this alluring part of the world. You’re likely to meet some of Russian MIR Siberia’s partners in the field as well, like those in this story – all so proud to show and share their Siberian homeland in any season, in all its natural beauty.

(Top photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin – Group photo of Russian MIR Siberia team and families along Lake Baikal’s rugged shoreline.) 

PUBLISHED: November 18, 2014

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