fbpx

Gulags and Nomads in the Kodar Mountains - Winter


Difficulty

Comfort
12 days
Age 12+
December - April

Tour Overview

This is an extremely exclusive expedition trip to areas that have almost never been visited by foreigners.

The first part involves snowmobiling then skiing up into the spectacularly remote Kodar mountains to one of Russia’s best-preserved gulag concentration camps.

The second part takes guests into the equally remote Udokan mountains to live and migrate with a band of nomadic Evenki reindeer herders in one of Siberia’s most isolated and hard-to-access regions. This will be unlike any tour most people have ever been on before and will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most extreme and exciting trips of most people’s lives.

Highlights

  • Living and migrating with nomadic Evenki people
  • Photographing their 3000-head reindeer herd
  • Learning to drive a reindeer sledge
  • Snowmobiling, sledging and skiing in the spectacular Kodar and Udokan Mountain Ranges
  • Visiting one of Russia’s best-preserved gulag camps
  • Relaxing in hot springs with 55°C water
  • Experiencing a traditional Russian bath house and shashlyk barbecue
  • Travelling by Russian all-terrain vehicle on frozen river surfaces
  • Ice fishing on frozen alpine lakes

Itinerary

Day 1: Overnight flight departing Moscow Domodedovo - Chita

Overnight flight departing Moscow Domodedovo at 20:25.

Day 2: Arrival in Novaya Chara by train or airplane

Arrival at 08:40 am in Chita. Departure at 10:50 and fly into Novaya Chara at 12:30. Novaya Chara is located on the BAM, railway, which runs parallel to the more famous Trans-Siberian Railway but 750km further north. It was built through previously uninhabited wilderness in case the Chinese ever captured the more southerly Trans-Siberian but was almost abandoned after its completion. These days just one or two trains run each day between mostly abandoned towns and tiny villages hidden in the taiga forest, like Novaya Chara.

On arrival we check in to the hotel and have lunch in a nearby cafe. After lunch we head over to the local base of the Ministry of the Russian Federation for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters (EMERCOM). Here we receive our skis, make adjustments and receive instruction for our upcoming expedition.

Overnight in hotel.

Day 3: Travel by UAZ and snowmobile through the Kodar Mountains

Transfer from the hotel 18km back to the Chara EMERCOM base camp by Russian UAZ vehicle. Transfer from Chara EMERCOM base camp to the Havagda river and on to the head of the Sredniy Sakukan river on snowmobiles with sledges attached to the back of them. Two people can ride on each sledge and one person on the snowmobile behind the driver.  Total distance is 55km, which can take up to 4 hours if snow is particularly deep and soft, as we will be going uphill into the Kodar Mountains.

Our snowmobiles leave us at the head of the Sredniy Sakukan river and we continue on skis for another 5km to the foot of Mramornoe Valley. Here we put up our warm military tents with stoves inside them and overnight.

Day 4: Skiing to Mramornoe Valley and Borskiy gulag camp

Today we do a 7km round trip on skis up into Mramornoe Valley high in the Kodak Mountains. This extremely isolated place, which has almost never been visited by foreign tourists, contains some of Russia’s most spectacular mountain scenery and one of its best preserved gulag concentration camps – Borskiy. Here thousands of prisoners froze and starved to death mining uranium for Stalin during the race to produce the first nuclear bomb. We will see wooden buildings that remain standing from those times, tunnels, mines, watchtowers, barbed wire fences, electricity pylons, tools, a small railway and much more. We will also get views on Mount BAM, named after the railway and the highest peak in the Kodar Mountains.

This will be a tough day as there will be a 700-metre elevation rise to access Mramornoe Valley and Borskiy. If the snow is very soft, there may be a short section where we cannot use the skis. In this case we will send porters ahead to clear a path through the snow for clients to walk uphill. Once up at Borskiy clients can expect extremely cold temperatures and high winds. In the afternoon we head back down to our tents to overnight.

Day 5: Snowmobile and UAZ back to Novaya Chara

We travel 5km from the foot of Mramornoe Valley to the head of the Sredniy Sakukan River on skis then another 55km on snowmobiles to the EMERCOM base camp. From there we transfer 18km back to the hotel in Novaya Chara in Russian UAZ vehicles.

Day 6: Warm up in nearby hot springs with 55°C water

Today we relax in Siberian style after our tours trip to Borskiy. After breakfast we transfer 25km to a nearby hot springs with attached log cabin hotel and cafe out in the wilderness. Here one can bathe in the waters, whose temperature reaches +40C, while the air temperature is -40C, creating an 80C temperature difference between head and body! We can also relax in the traditional Russian bane (bath house) and enjoy a traditional shashlik barbecue.

Overnight at the hot springs.

Day 7: Drive on ice roads through Udokan Mountains to nomadic encampment

We drive from the hot springs back to Novaya Chara and from there we drive on the surfaces of frozen rivers south into the Udokan Mountains. First we use the Ingamakit River, then the Nizhniy Ingamakit, then the Pravaya China until we reach the China open-caste mine. From here we drive on the frozen surfaces of the Amudisa Lakes, the Kalar River and the Chitkanda River to reach an encampment of nomadic Evenki reindeer herders. Total distance travelled on frozen river surfaces will be around 200km, so we really will be in one of the most isolated and hard-to-access parts of Siberia.

Overnight at the nomadic encampment.

Day 8: Live with nomadic Evenki reindeer herders

Live with the nomads. There will be no fixed itinerary for these days. Guests will merely observe and take part in the daily lives of the nomads and immerse themselves in this ancient culture. Daily life could include herding their 3,000 reindeer, lassoing reindeer, slaughtering reindeer for meat, cutting trees for firewood, collecting ice or snow for water, making new sledges, etc.

One of the most spectacular events on the planet to photograph is the migration of nomadic reindeer herders from one area to another: they pack all their possessions and people onto hand-made, wooden, reindeer-drawn sledges and travel to a new area, dozens of sledges and thousands of reindeer forming a caravan that can stretch up to several kilometers long. We will try our best to arrange with the nomads in advance so that they migrate during our stay.

Day 9: Live with nomadic Evenki reindeer herders

Live with the nomads and observing their daily lives. Ice fishing if desired for  perch, pike, mountain grayling and a red fish called davatchan that is only found in this tiny, remote corner of Siberia.

Day 10: Live with nomadic Evenki reindeer herders

Live with the nomads and observing their daily lives. Ice fishing if desired for perch, pike, mountain grayling and a red fish called davatchan that is only found in this tiny, remote corner of Siberia.

Day 11: Live with nomadic Evenki reindeer herders

Live with the nomads and observing their daily lives. Ice fishing if desired for perch, pike, mountain grayling and a red fish called davatchan that is only found in this tiny, remote corner of Siberia.

Day 12: Return to Novaya Chara

Travel back to Novaya Chara. Overnight in hotel.

Day 13: Depart by flight to Chita

13:00 flight from Novaya Chara to Chita, arriving at 14:50. Drivers meet the group at the airport and transfer them to a hotel.

Day 14: Flight to Chita to Moscow Domodedovo

Flight from Chita at 09:50am, arriving in Moscow Domodedovo at 10:30am. Service ends here.

As an alternative to flying from Moscow via Chita, the above itinerary can be incorporated into any Trans-Siberian Railway or BAM trip. From Irkutsk on the Trans-Siberian Railway you can either fly to Nizhneangarsk or get the train / bus to Severobaikalsk. From either of these it is just an overnight train ride on the BAM to Novaya Chara. Severobaikalsk also has direct trains from Moscow.

Price

Number of people: {{person}}

Price per person: $ {{parseFloat(price).toFixed(0)}}

Price includes:

  • Hotel accommodation in twin or double rooms in Chita, Novaya Chara and at the hot springs
  • All food and drinks (non-alcoholic) apart from in Chita
  • All transfers in and around Chita and Novaya Chara
  • Rental of skis plus all camping and cooking equipment (military grade tents with stoves, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, first aid kit, etc)
  • Rental of UAZ and Ural all-terrain vehicles with drivers, all petrol and all expenses
  • Rental of snowmobiles with attached sledges, drivers, petrol and all expenses
  • Fees for using EMERCOM base camp
  • Fees for swimming in hot springs, using banya (Russian bath house) and shashlik barbecue
  • Fees to reindeer herders for hosting us
  • Local guides – 1 guide for groups of 1 – 9, 2 guides for groups of 10 – 18
  • English-speaking translators – 1 translator for groups of 1 – 9, 2 translators for groups of 10 – 18
  • Porters
  • Satellite phone for emergency use
  • Invitations for single-entry Russian tourist visas

Price does not include:

  • International flights
  • Guiding or food in Chita
  • Guiding, food, accommodation or transport in Moscow
  • Clothing or boots
  • Personal expenses
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Personal travel insurance or medical insurance
  • Satellite phone for personal or work-related calls
  • Porters for personal bags during ski trek to Borskiy

Payment:

A 35% deposit is required to reserve the dates of your trip. This is a very unusual itinerary and there are only a few guides who can run it, so they get booked up very far in advance. If your dates are not flexible, it is therefore recommended that you reserve dates as early as possible. The balance payment is required two months before the trip start date.

What are you waiting for?