Siberian whitewater skiing: the ice of Argut

Lower elevation valleys of Altai Mountains are free of snow in late winter. In fact they are used as a winter range for sheep, yacks, and camels by the local Telengit herdsmen. They way to ski them is to keep the edges sharp. The tips of ski poles too.

Argut River, photographed here near the confluence with Qair River on Day 14 of our March 1988 ski backpack, is a famed extreme whitewater in summer. But byy the end of winter, there are relatively few sections of open water or really steep ice, and crampons are only required in a few hardest spots.

The canyon bottom of lower Argut lays below the lower timberline in the steppes zone, but there is plenty of driftwood at the riverbanks for a good campfire. In another couple days, we will finally reach the historical Chuyskiy Trakt highway, and the end of this tour.


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