A trip around Stolby National Nature Reserve
What is the best way to spend a weekend?
Everybody knows that the best way to rest before a coming week is to set off the city and be surrounded by nature in the truest sense of the word. The Krasnoyarsk citizens never hesitate about the choice, they go to Stolby, the famous Nature Reserve, indeed the best place to relax.
The reserve is well-known far and wide, both inside and outside Russia. Its proximity to the city makes it easily accessible. A cheap bus ride takes you to the place where to start a walk to the reserve, either along the Laletino River (Laletino Road, the most popular way), or from Bazaiha village, or from the Cable car.
The Krasnoyarsk National Nature Reserve "Stolby" is located in the Kuysum mountains in the foothills of the East Sayans. It covers an area about 200 square miles of thick taiga forest with pine, cedar, spruce, larch, birch, and aspen, traversed by numerous small rivers and brooks. It is especially known as a site of more than hundred syenitic rocks (rocky pillars: "stolb" is the Russian for "pillar") rising amid the forest. Tourists are allowed only to the special territory about 5 square miles known as the Recreation Area (the access to the so called Wild Stolby and the rocks along the Kaltat river valley is prohibited).
The habitual Stolby goers know every rock and path in the reserve and, having a good sense of direction, feel there at home without any maps in the day or night time, in summer or in winter. However, less experienced guests may profit from a recent map of 1993 compiled by the Krasnoyarsk Geodetic Survey and the Administration of the Reserve, with the help of the Stolbists Society. The map covers both the recreation and the reserved areas and is better than the previous sketches for tourists, though there are still some imperfections. Personally I take this map along whenever I go to Stolby, not because I am afraid of being lost but because I just like referencing to the map and checking the height (the map shows altitude contour lines at every 10 metres and some peaks. The heights cited below are taken from there). Below the map of Stolby is referred to simply as 'the Map'.
So I suggest a wonderful weekend trip, about ten miles long, to the Stolby Reserve. You'll have a chance to take fresh medicinal air (trees, and conifers in particular, are good for health, especially, for lungs and blood pressure), and besides take a look at the city enveloped in the smog we have to breathe in when down there.
What outfit you need to go down to Stolby depends on the purpose of your trip.
If you don't mean climbing but are going to just walk around, you may wear the clothes you usually wear in the country. It's wise to put something for a snack into your backpack for one or two times (unless you're planning a picnic). Some people prefer to carry food separately in a small basket or in a plastic bag instead of putting it into the backpack. You also can get some food in a small kiosk at the ranger's at the entrance to the reserve, a couple of miles far from the Tourist Center bus station, or in another kiosk right at the approach to the rocks, about four miles farther up the hill. Plus there are two shops on your way from the bus number 39 (destination to Bazaikha village) to the bottom station of the Cable Car, one near the bus stop and the other near the car park. To cut a long story short, there is a choice to take food from home or to buy something on the way.
Do you need extra clothes or shoes just in case? It's wise in winter to have spare mittens, hats, or socks. If you feel like taking another pair of boots, do it. Actually, you can take anything you'll be able to carry. But make sure not to take any "noisy" things such as musical instruments, radios, etc., or animals (dogs and cats). If a ranger surprises you with a guitar or an accordion he will fine you even if every passer by swears you never uttered a sound. Vehicles (cars, motorbikes, bicycles) are not allowed to the reserve. In no way you can go through the ranger's cordon by car: you'll have a choice either to leave your car there safe for $2 a day (recreational fee) or to leave it on the road to Divnogorsk, free of charge but without any guarantee to find it on your way back. Another way is to get a special pass in the Reserve Office (not so cheap: $35 a trip) and drive through the forest road, but not on weekend. If you come to get through riding a motorbike, a ranger - at the cordon or wherever - will lecture you politely on nature protection and then, as politely, charge you a fine, no cheaper than a car pass for a far less fine trip! Skis are not treated as a vehicle yet; the traffic police treats a skier is a fast (or a too fast) foot passenger, so you are free to ski along any roads and paths of the reserve.
For climbing, you do not need any special mountaineer equipment unless you mean to practice high-class climbing, but it's useful to have special mountain boots, or, better, any rubber-sole (not nylon!) shoes and a rope. The home climbers usually wear galoshes. Mind that the rocks are slippery in winter and in rainy weather. Be aware also that the way down is always more difficult and dangerous than the way up.
In summer (from May to August) the forest is ticky. Ticks wait to attack tourists from ambush, get into their most unexpected places and feel at home there. So make sure to wear the clothes that would prevent ticks from any attempt to have fun on your body and turn them back to other less protected tourists.
Well begun is half done
The most exciting choice is to first get uphill by the cable car, from the lower to the upper station, walk through taiga as far as the rocks in the Central Area, to walk there around, and get back downhill to the Tourist Center along the Laletino Road. This trip starts at the observation point at 530 m above the sea level and about a hundred metres off the upper cable car station where we rise by the cable car from the lower station. The most convenient way to get to the lower station is to take the city bus #39 from Predmostnaya Square or # 8a and get off at the stop called Kanatnaya Doroga (Cable Car). Then you have to walk for half a mile along the asphalt road, then across a tottering walking bridge over the Bazaikha, continue down Sibirskaya Street, turn left and go up a staircase.
The cable car works from Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the last departure from the lower station is at 4 p.m. At the lower station there's a cafe and a ski rental. A one way ticket is about $2.
The cable car goes over the so-called Bobrovy Log (Beaver Valley). In winter, many people go downhill using mountain ski or cross-country ski, or just slide down on what is normally used for sitting, i.e., on their "fifth limb". The winding ski route is a bit longer than the cable way going straight up the hill. According to the signboard on top, the cable route is 1876 metres long but I think it is actually about 1600 metres; the elevation is about 350 metres. There are two intermediate stations for skiers: One about 850-900 metres up from the lower station and the other 80 metres below the upper station.
Both the upper station and the observation point are within the reserve. We may stop there for a while to get a perspective of the area and to observe the rocky pillars scattered over the forested hills. We see a group of small rocks straight ahead on the opposite ridge side (Sparrows*, with the biggest rocks called Toad and Chuck), the Takmak Ridge crowned by the famous Takmak rock on the left, the Yermak rock a bit further, between the Takmak Ridge and Sparrows, and Chinese Wall between Yermak and Sparrows. The nearest rock on the right is called Small Golden Eagle, and it is already outside the recreation zone. The peak far off in the southwest, over two miles away as the crow flies, in the valley between two hills, is called the Feathers. Other more or less famous rocks are hidden yet.
The first four hundred metres run gradually downslope along the ridge crest, until the path forks. Either of the two forks is good but the left one is a bit shorter (this one is normally in use in winter when the other is under the snow) and the two join about 300 metres far from the place called Bench. There used to be a wooden bench, it was destroyed over time but the name remained. Soon we approach the main way, the Kashtak Path.
Walking along Kashtak
The path follows the Kashtak Ridge - this is most likely where its name comes from, or from the Kashtak brook flowing into the Bazaikha River (we won't see it).
The right fork meets the Kashtak Path at the so-called Deer Glade and then the path turns left into an aspen wood. This place is often referred to as the Enchanted Wood. Both the Deer Glade and the Enchanted Wood are shown on the Map. Almost every mark place along the Kashtak path has its own name, be it a stone or a little hill - Love Lane, Merry Crest, Monk, etc.
Why is the wood Enchanted? They say, be it the truth or a fable, that it remained surprisingly still while a great storm was once raging all around - so still not to blow out a match flare.
Since the aspen wood, the path follows the limit of the recreation area right on your left, for about two miles as far as the Mana Turn. Watch out then! a step off makes you a trespasser.
The path gently slopes up for the first hundred metres in the aspen wood. This part of the path is often rather swampy in rainy summers. The end of the aspen wood is marked by a turn off to the left towards Small Golden Eagle. Please, be aware that the rock is outside the limits of the recreation area.
We turn to the right and continue uphill toward the crest of the Kashtak Ridge. Aspens gradually give way to birches and pines. The greatest portion of the way goes up except for a couple slopes on the way to the Stolby Prospect.
The Stolby Prospect is a small flat and two small rocks nearby, very easy to climb, named Left and Right Prospects. The prospect really offers a splendid view of the Stolby Central Area. The nearest 15-20 m high rock below, on our left, is called Monk. "Young Communist" is its another "official" name, as monks were unwanted by the former Soviet regime. We will pass it by very soon. The famous Feathers and Old Man are straight ahead on the right. Two massive rocks behind Old Man are First and Second Pillars. A piece of the snaky Laletino Road is seen far off on the right of First Pillar, on the slope partly covered with forest. The Map says we are at 620 metres above the sea level, or a hundred metres above the upper cable car station and about 500 metres above the city. We have walked up less than two miles and still have a long way to go.
Note that the Feathers are a bit more than a mile far from the Prospect as the crow flies, and the path is over two miles.
Having left the Prospect, the path slopes up but soon runs downslope to continue uphill again after about 200-230 metres. Every now and then we come across small rocks (or rather big rocky blocks), also having their names: Sinner, Sixpence, Monk. A nice little glade near Monk, a hundred metres off the main path, invites to stop and have a rest.
A steep path of 150 metres upslope leads from Monk to the so-called City Prospect and approaches the top of the hill bearing the same name. Then it follows the hill slope, slightly down, for another couple of hundred metres. Then, at the beginning of a steep slope down, the forest opens a view of Takmak and the city far off. Of course, the naked eye can hardly make out anything of the city which is at least seven miles away. Be careful on the slope, it's steep and fairly high, and the path is sometimes narrow and slippery.
Soon we arrive at a slope always exposed to the Sun and thus called Merry Crest. A group of boulders left of the path is tempting for kids to climb. We go downslope again and approach a rock called Horse-pond and a brook below on our right. It's is a good place to have a picnic in the shadow on a hot summer day.
The path takes us on and on. We turn into a dark forest and climb up the hill. This place is known as Love Lane. I am not sure which is the true origin of the name but according to a friend of mine the forest is so dark and shadowy that it inspires romantic thoughts. Maybe ... We follow the 200 m long lane and reach the Mana Turn in another hundred meters.
At the Turn the path forks again: Going straight ahead we'll arrive at the Mana River (it is about fifteen miles away along the Kaltat River, past the Mana Wall rock) but we take the right fork leading to the Stolby Central Area.
The path follows the ridge crest, going up and then gently down for about four hundred metres until Precursor, the first rock of the Central Area on our way. The Map mistakenly shows it as First-born, which is actually 300 m away where the path reaches the highest altitude, 700 metres above the sea level.
From there on we go downhill as far as the end of the Kashtak path which will fork again into a way to Fourth and Third Pillars and on to First Pillar (straight ahead) and a turn to the Feathers (on the right). The fork is likewise mislocated on the Map, because of the mistake with Precursor and First-born.
On to the Feathers and Old Man
The way to First Pillar past Fourth and Third Pillars is a half-mile shorter than through the Feathers and Old Man but it's really worth making a bit longer walk. The Feathers and Old Man are probably the most popular rocks in the reserve, its symbol found on all photographs, pictures, and engravings. Once I saw a bas-relief of Old Man even in Norilsk (a city not far from the Yenisei mouth), at the entrance to a cafe called "Krasnoyarsk Stolby".
The Feathers are 600 metres and Old Man over a half-mile away from the end of the Kashtak Path, up the hill. A relatively low rock on the right of the Feathers is called Lion's Gate. Unlike the Feathers which admit only skilled climbers, Lion's Gate is easy to climb and people never miss a chance to try it and enjoy the splendid view from its top to the rocks we've just passed by (Precursor, Monk, and Prospect), to the Kashtak Ridge, the Laletino River, and the outskirts of Krasnoyarsk with Akademgorodok and Nikolaevka Mount. Lion's Gate is called so as it looks like a gate and at the same time resembles a lying lion. A huge stone stuck in a crevice makes a sort of a doorway, and a fable pretends that the stone is awaiting a sinner and will drop on his head as soon as he gets beneath. Sometimes, veteran climbers pull someone's leg by bringing him or her under the stone and saying: "Hush! Or it falls down!" And imagine that it occasionally works!
Like the Feathers, Old Man rises above the very top of a ridge. As any old man it has a cap on his head and a beard, sometimes interpreted as a shoulder. The beard (or the shoulder) is easy to climb but the way to the cap on top is fairly hard. The beard commands a superb view to the snaky Laletino Road and the Laletino River, to the city, and even to the hills over Divnogorsk (town of the famous Krasnoyarsk Hydro). The rock is about 100 m high, so be careful and keep an eye on the children if you take them along. A path falling steeply downslope on the right of the rock leads to the Laletino Road.
The way to First Pillar and on to the Pass
On our way to First Pillar we meet a couple of smaller rocks called Grandmother and Granddaughter. After Granddaughter the path goes always downhill. Soon we see a big rock mass silhouetted against the trees on the right. This is First Pillar, 85 m high from foot to top. It is not the highest rock in the reserve (say, Second Pillar is 90 m) but certainly the most magnificent, and the most popular with its numerous ways to the summit for any tastes and any degrees of skill.
We go round First Pillar, leaving the paths to Third and Second Pillars and to the Narym Cordon on the left, and stay for a while at the foot of the rock among several scattered big blocks. The most remarkable one has its name, Baby Elephant. It is only four metres high but its steep smooth sides are used for training by every Tom, Dick and Harry. They either try a running jump at the face or climb up along the left edge; the way back is commonly a slide down using the "fifth limb". I wonder how many pants have been worn out there!
Sixty metres falling steeply downhill or three hundred metres of a slightly shallower slope bring you from Baby Elephant to the Pass at 570 m above the sea level. In winter people slide down the steep slope using any parts of their body and in summer they most walk.
Here we are on the Pass where we can have a rest before taking up the Laletino Road. We can even enjoy a piece of civilisation: a kiosk with food and drinks (in winter they also sell mini-skis to run downhill) and trash bins.
Off to the tourist center!
Eight kilometres done and just over six ahead downhill!
Watch out! We are to take the road where we even chance to meet a car. The hill we are walking down is called Puffer (something hard that makes people puff). And it is really so, but on the way up. As for us, we are lucky to go downhill, having had our chance to puff along Kashtak. Many tourists go past the famous Sly tree stump called so for a mocking inscription "Is your backpack really heavy?" left long ago by some joker - the message that causes the appropriate response from a tourist who has just walked a long way and climbed up a steep hill. The car road winds left and right getting steeper and steeper and is thus called Serpentine.
Puffer is divided into a "fore-Puffer" and the Puffer proper. For those going up from the city it finishes on the Pass and starts near a tree called Y-tree, a dead larch split by a lightening a few years ago into an elaborate letter Y. Below the Y-tree the road is shallower but then gets steeper again after a turn. In winter, with good skis, a ski ride down fore-Puffer (less than half a mile) takes one minute. Further on the road is straight and soon crosses the Vtoraya ("second") Poperechnaya River (it later joins the Lalentino), where you find a picnic area and a toilet.
Many tourists prefer to cut their way shorter along a wide path that turns off the road about 200 metres to the right of the river and takes up the road over a half-mile farther. A half-mile on we cross another river, the Pervaya ('first") Poperechnaya. It floods a little bit, making the road icy in latest winter-earliest spring. Then the road crosses the Lalentino and continues as a tarmac.
We cross the Lalentino River again just before the ranger's cordon where you can find a kiosk with snacks and drinks and buy the Map. Rangers may stop you there if, you, say, make noise, play a guitar, have your radio or a player on loudly or are carrying branches or flowers. They may either lecture you or charge a fine. It is definitely something worth bearing in mind! Right or wrong, I personally think that this conduct is impossible not for fear of fine but for respect to nature.
About 150 metres downhill from the ranger's we cross the limits of the reserve and are to walk over a mile more before we reach the Divnogorsk highway and about 300 metres on to the bus station, wherefrom bus #7, 50, 50a or 72 takes you back downtown. Or you may take a suburb train a bit farther on the left of the gas station. Mind that traffic is allowed on the Laletino Road from the cordon to the Divnogorsk highway, and watch out!
Instead of conclusion
This is the outline of the weekend trip I suggest. Of course, you can take it in the opposite sense, from Tourist Center to Cable Car, or use other paths to reach the Feathers, Old Man, and First Pillar, you can even go on along the Mana path as far as Mana Wall and change the route anyway you like. I wish you a nice trip and good weather!
I will be glad if this guidebook helps you to get around.
Rules for Reserve visitors
Be friends with nature when using its wealth and kindness, and nature will pay you back!
Mind that the forest is our good friend and doctor!
Welcome guests always respect their hosts and their rules:
Comments: those who don't follow these rules will face fines
List of proper names of rocks and places used in the guidebook
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