Mount Belukha in Altai, description and climbing

Climbing the Belukha Mountain 2022-2023

The conquest of Altai’s highest mountain, Belukha (4,509 meters), in 2014 gained a century of history. During this time, climbers have made and described more than a dozen routes of varying difficulty categories from 2B (not difficult) to 5A (for well-prepared).

Tourists should know that according to the agreement between Russia and Kazakhstan of January 18, 2005 “On the Russian-Kazakh state border” the Belukha peak is the point where the state border is established. The frontier zone passes within the limits of Ust-Kansky, Ust-Koksinsky, Kosh-Agachsky areas (according to the Order of FSB from June 16, 2006), on entrances to it the warning signs are established. Because of the special regime, it is allowed to enter the border zone only with a special pass. And climbing Belukha Mountain on routes 3A and 3B through the Big Berel saddle pass is prohibited.

In spite of the fact that Belukha is 1000 m lower than Elbrus, some specialists consider Belukha climbing in 2022 and 2023 to be more dangerous and technically difficult. The difficulty is caused by the slopes covered with eternal snow, glacier cracks, rock-falls, snow-ice sections with a serious steepness from 35 to 60 degrees. The closer to the summit, the harsher the weather conditions become: frequent piercing wind, average temperature in summer -15 degrees, winter -30 degrees, recorded minimum -48 degrees. Therefore, the best period for a hike on the mountain – from June to August. It is impossible to get to the summit itself because of the border zone, the routes fall at the foot.

Belukha is the highest peak of the Altai. Photo: Konstantin MIKHAILOV,

The climate at the foot of the Belukha Mountain is more comfortable, on average +22 degrees during the day and +14 degrees at night in summer. The scenery is more colorful: coniferous forests, clear lakes, violent rivers and waterfalls against the background of snow caps. Trekking tours around the area are developed.

Those who are morally ready for the trials, however, require prior physical and technical training. If there is no opportunity to master technical skills, the guides-instructors will help with this during the hike. Average duration of the routes in the Altai mountains is 12-14 days.

Routes of Belukha ascent.

The path of the first conquerors of the Troonovs.

The Katunsky glacier is on the southern slope of Belukha. Photo: Sergey FOMIN,

The classical route from the south across the Gebler Glacier (otherwise known as the Katun Glacier) was popular for a long time due to the fact that it was a simpler ascent by category of complexity – 2B. The route was accessible to tourists with minimal preparation. The most difficult obstacle on the way is the icefall on the Gebler glacier, which has changed a lot in recent years, due to which the difficulty of the route has increased. It is now rare among hiking tours.

The route “Bottle” (12 days)

You will have to overcome the route on a high, almost steep wall. Photo:

Difficulty – 4B and 5A. Suitable only for professional climbers. The ascent is carried out on the Akkem wall, the steepness of which reaches up to 60 degrees. The wall is a huge field of snow and ice, squeezed on both sides of the rocks in the form of bottle necks. Climbing route starts from Tomsk camps.

Belukha massif traverse (13-17 days)

The route makes it possible to climb three peaks: the peak of the XXth October Anniversary (Crown of Altai, 4167 meters), Western Belukha (4435 meters), Eastern Belukha (4509 meters). The difficulty category of the route is 4B and 5A, and good climbing experience is required.

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Trekking part usually starts from Three birches glade through Akkemskoe lake to the ridge of Korona Altai (you can go to Tomsk camps).

The difficult route is suitable for experienced climbers. Photo:

Technical stage starts with climbing to the top of Korona Altai, then traverse along the western plateau and ascent to the top of Western Belukha. After conquering of Eastern Belukha – descents through Belukha pass and Delone pass to the Tomsk camps.

The drawing of the alpinist path looks like a horseshoe, so there is another name of the route – “Katunskaya Horseshoe”.

Preparation of Belukha ascent.

You must always remember that climbing high mountains – is a serious test for the body. You must not postpone physical preparation as you buy equipment. The principle works here: the earlier you start training, the more you will enjoy the nature around you and less exhausting passages in the trek. Systematic physical activity is necessary from two to six months. This is due to the fact that important qualities (endurance, strength, coordination, flexibility) are not developed in one month.

You should not go to conquer the mountains without prior preparation. Photo: Ivan OLEKSYUK, “KP”-Barnaul

In 1-2 weeks before the ascent the intensity of training must be gradually reduced and completely stopped just before departure.

Sports such as running, swimming, cycling and skiing are good for endurance and respiratory system. More attention should be paid to running training. The main recommendations for running are:

  • gradually increase the distance and time of running, a good achievement will be continuous running for about an hour;
  • run at least 2-3 times a week;
  • alternate between acceleration and slow running, uphill and downhill;
  • running in different weather conditions to adapt to climate change.

Strength training includes push-ups, various jumps, press exercises, gym classes, cross-country walking with a loaded backpack, and climbing stairs. The muscles of the back and legs require special training, as they will take the maximum amount of load during the ascent.

Coordination and balance are very important in the mountains. For their training squats on one leg, exercises on the balance-board and half-board, walking on crossbars and curbs are good for them. It is also worth doing different stretching exercises for all muscle groups.

For technical preparation it is recommended to attend group climbing classes, where you should get the initial skills of owning climbing equipment.

It is important in preparation for the ascent not to accumulate overexertion, to have 1-2 days rest per week, to watch your daily regime and proper nutrition, not to train when you are sick.

Prices of Ascent to Belukha

Climbing Mount Belukha includes a set of services, in 2022 and 2023 the tour usually includes :

  • all-terrain vehicle from Tyungur to the glade of Three Birches;
  • three meals a day on the active part of the route;
  • Accommodation at the hostels and parking lots;
  • group hiking and mountaineering equipment;
  • Transportation equipment on pack animals;
  • Guide-instructor services and training;
  • registration of passes, insurance, satellite communication, first aid kit, sauna, certificate.

What is usually paid separately: airfare, transfer from Gorno-Altaisk/Barnaul/Novosibirsk to the start of the route and back, meals outside the active part of the route, rental of personal equipment.

Traverse of Belukha massif with climbing three peaks (13-17 days) 65000 – 80000 roubles.
Helicopter trip to the foot of the mountain at Tomsk camps from Tyungur village (it’s sort of blitz-climbing without trekking part of the route) 77500 – 80000 roubles.
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The price range is very wide. Before you choose a tour, you should study the conditions of participation. Some organizers provide a discount for early booking and group applications from two or more people.

Prices for climbing Belukha Mountain are given for 2021.

For Beginners

For those who have no climbing experience, the Belukha Mountain will be a serious mental and physical challenge. But many people have a chance to conquer it successfully. You should know that in the mountains may exacerbate the diseases that normally do not bother you. Therefore, you should get a consultation from your therapist about your state of health.

Beginners are advised to begin physical training as early as possible before the expedition, better six months before the expedition and as a member of a group of experienced climbers.

The mountain climbing on Belukha will be a severe test for beginners. Photo: Ivan OLEKSYUK, “KP”-Barnaul

Choose the easiest route and decide in advance with a travel company which has extensive experience in organizing tours to Belukha. Organizers can give you a list of the necessary equipment and personal belongings, as well as advice on preliminary preparation.

If in doubt you are ready to conquer Belukha we strongly recommend you to make easier ascents. In Altai Mountains it can be routes to the summit of Irbistu (7 days) or Janiikta (8 days) and not complicated routes in the Ural Mountains.

For groups

Tour companies offer discounts for organized groups. Photo: Anton MURYGIN,

The ideal ascent to the Belukha Mountain is in a group of familiar people. It is possible to train together and check psychological compatibility. As the duration of the route and travel will make about two weeks, it is better to know in advance the peculiarities of the character of each group member.

For organized groups travel companies do discounts. Also a good saving of money and time will be a joint purchase of personal equipment and food for the period of the transfer.

For professionals

Even professionals should not climb alone. Photo:

Those who are experienced in climbing at altitudes over 4,000 meters may try a more difficult 4B and 5A route, which is the Belukha massif traverse with climbing three peaks. Nevertheless you should not climb Belukha alone. Climbing alone is dangerous for your life.

How to get there

Most tourist routes start from the village of Tyungur or Ust-Koksa in the Altai Republic. Tour organizers usually meet tourists and offer transfers from Gorno-Altaisk, Barnaul, Novosibirsk and sometimes Biysk.

The nearest airport to the start of the route is in Gorno-Altaisk – 380 km to the village Tyungur. The airports of Barnaul and Novosibirsk are at a distance of 600 km and more. All these cities have modern airports with regular flights to Moscow and elsewhere in the country. Website of the airport in Gorno-Altaisk: Website of the airport in Barnaul: Website of the airport in Novosibirsk:

The nearest railway station is in Biisk – 450 km to the village Tyungur. Address: Biisk, 9 Shukshina Square. You can come to the railway station in Barnaul and Novosibirsk. Site of the station in Biysk: Site of the station in Barnaul: Site of the station in Novosibirsk:

Belukha – the highest mountain in Altai

Altai region can safely be called a mountainous country. It is here that the highest ridges of Siberia are located. They are separated by wide rivers, their peaks beckon travelers and severe weather conditions force local animals to adapt and lead a difficult life. The highest mountain in Altai Krai is Belukha, which we will tell you more about.

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Belukha panorama

Height of the peak

The highest mountain of the local mountains was perceived by the inhabitants of the region as a holy mountain. It remains so to this day. Belukha is also the highest mountain in Siberia, because its height exceeds 4,500 meters. The peculiarity of the mountain is the presence of two peaks. The highest is the eastern, slightly behind the western peak, reaching a mark of 4,435 meters. Both peaks are irregular in shape and precipitous. They are covered with snow, which makes the ascent even more difficult. Belukha is a beautiful mountain, but not everyone can conquer it.

Local tourists love to come to the summits to see the so-called Akkemskaya Wall, going down to the glacier. The Akkem Glacier, also known as the Rodzevich Glacier, is considered an Altai landmark. It is formed from an icefall, and it is considered relatively safe. The cracks are not hidden by snow at all, so you can walk on the glacier without fear, but you should remember that the surface is slippery.

The mountain is called the queen of Altai, it proves with all its appearance that the main thing is not the height, but the natural beauty. A distinctive feature of the highest peak of the Altai region is the snow line, which is characterized by a large extent. Many other mountains can’t boast of such a large-scale snow cover. This is what attracts travelers, who take many pictures of the picturesque area. Altai beauty is invariably associated with snow. In fact, Belukha is so called because it has always been associated with snow cover. It also plays a very important role, because its snows feed the local rivers. Residents of the Altai region call Belukha Muzdu-Tuu, which can be translated as “ice mountain”. The highest point (mountain peak) is a powerful massif. It exceeds the height of neighboring ranges by about 200 meters.

Mount Belukha on the map

Earthquakes on Belukha

Belukha was formed during the Paleogene. Even now there is a movement of tectonic plates. The main rock of the formation was the Cambrian, which was formed during the corresponding period. Numerous faults and thrusts testify to the occurring tectonic activity. The northern slope of the mountain is very dangerous because of the abundance of cliffs. The epicenter of seismic activity in Altai is literally on the mountain itself. The average rating is 7-8 points.

The beauty of Altai landscapes conceals another danger. Micro earthquakes occur all the time, leading to rockslides, avalanches, and rock splits. High ridges echo gorges, cliffs, and moraines. Mudflows constantly occur on the slopes of the Altai. Such a variety of geological processes together with interesting forms of relief attract the attention of many scientists to the Altai region.

Belukha has a huge number of glaciers. It is the most important glacial center of the Altai Mountains to study. The total area of the glacial zone is 150 square kilometers.

Belukha has the following glaciers:

  1. Akkemsky
  2. Sapozhnikov
  3. Maly Berelsky
  4. Katunsky
  5. Big Berelsky
  6. Black
  7. Glacier of Tronovy brothers.

Note that the Sapozhnikov glacier is almost the largest in the whole Altai. A common characteristic of all the glaciers are large forms. They reach a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 10 square kilometers. It is thanks to them hikers need a lot of effort to climb, because each glacier descends from the top to the forest, from where the ascent begins. The ice remains mobile all year round, advancing at least 30 meters. The Troonov Brothers Glacier is the most active; it can move 120 meters a year at its foot. Belukha is a mountain with extremely high avalanche hazard. Thanks to the melting of ice, Altai rivers are formed, joining together and forming picturesque waterfalls. Especially beautiful is the Rassypny waterfall.

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Climate of the Belukha Mountain

The climate in the Altai Mountains differs a lot from that in the Altai Mountains. The relief, the presence of glaciers and the formation of rivers have a considerable influence on it. All this creates special weather factors:

  • humidity;
  • cloudiness;
  • The direction of air flows;
  • temperature regime.

The highest peak of the Altai has a cold climate, characterized by rainy summers and cold prolonged winters. The climate of Belukha also depends on zonality and changes with altitude.

The temperature near the Akkem weather station is just over 8 degrees Celsius. At the top of the mountain, even in summer, the temperature remains at -20 degrees Celsius. The coldest month is January, when the thermometer goes down to -45 degrees. And in the summer months the highest point is still cold (down to -4). Most snow falls at elevations of 3,000 meters. Approximately 50% falls in the highest areas.

Flora of the mountain

The vegetation of Belukha is diverse. The forest belt is represented by a large area stretching to 2,000 meters. Conifers are the most widespread. You can also meet deciduous species (birch and mountain ash). Often on the slopes can be found honeysuckle, meadowsweet. The tundra zone, where characteristic shrubs and plants grow, is very developed. You can find rare species on local slopes, usually growing in the alpine climate. Among them are the lapwort, frosted rhodiola, aconite, and Altai onions. Many representatives of flora are included in the list of the rarest plants of Altai Krai.

Fauna of the Altai Mountains

On the high slopes of Belukha different representatives of voles, the brown bear, the Altai mouser, the mountain goat and the snow leopard live there. Many representatives of passerines, wild partridges, which have become trade birds, mountain finch, lentil and golden eagle, the rarest in Altai Territory.

Status of natural monument of Altai territory

Belukha was declared a natural monument in 1996. Later on a nature park appeared there, which was later renamed into a national park. This natural area is under strict protection.

For the first time about the high mountain began to write closer to the beginning of the XIX century. The first to describe it was Petr Shangin, who based his descriptions on the stories of hunters. Among Europeans, the pioneer was Friedrich August, who is now considered a Russian German. It was he who discovered the Katunsky and Berel glaciers. It is interesting that the explorer called Belukha the highest peak of the Russian Altai.

Exploration of the highest mountain in Altai

Since its discovery, the area has rarely been visited by scientists. Research became episodic, only closer to the XIX century began serious scientific work. A significant contribution was made by Vasily Sapozhnikov, who visited Belukha several times before 1911 and described a number of glacial massifs. He also measured the heights of the saddle peaks.

One of the first conquerors of the highest point were Mikhail and Boris Tronovs. They also initiated the development of mountaineering in the region. By 1921 they organized several centers, specializing in expeditions and exploring the area.

Climbing Mount Belukha

Even the first conquerors noticed how difficult it was to climb up. Snow ledges, threatening to collapse, is just one of the obstacles in the way of climbers. The biggest challenge remains the climate. Piercing winds, glaciated rocks, and packed ice (glaze) create serious barriers in the way of hikers.

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And that’s not to mention seismic activity. Nature challenges man, but many are not intimidated by this. Climbers from all over the world come here. The easiest routes start from the south, the more difficult ones gravitate to the Thun Stands and the Mensu Glacier. The most difficult variant of the ascent lies through the Akkem wall.

Mysticism of the mountain.

Many myths, mysteries and legends envelop Belukha. Till now there are those who believe in Shambala, which is the unexplored world where people go after life. Representatives of paganism believe that the goddess Umai lives on the slopes of the mountain. There is also an opinion about the center of the earth, connected with the universe. The locals believe that one shouldn’t come close to the shrine. For a long time they have been worshipping the mountains, worshipping them, asking for help.

The mystical aura of the Altai mountains was noted by the artist Nikolai Roerich, who spoke of Altai as a magnet associated with the Himalayas. He owns a painting reflecting the beauty of the peak.

The goddess Umai, mentioned above, is associated by the Altai people with the mother. She is the foremother of all Turkic peoples, worshipped on the same level as Tengri. The cult of the god Tengri unites believers in Tengriism. That is why the Altai people praise Belukha so much and fear to climb it. It is believed that one must purify oneself of bad thoughts and only then can one dare to go to the mountain.

Once upon a time, the Altai mountains were called the Siversky mountains. This name is associated with the sanctity of these places. There is a very interesting fact: many believe that Belukha is equidistant from the world oceans, which makes it the center of the universe.

This fact excites the minds of many Buddhists, who talk about the power of Yang, associated with light and sky. The force forms an energy stream that spirals downward and comes directly to the mountain. Some Altaians believe Belukha is alive, and its ridges are antennas. They communicate with other worlds, inaccessible to humans. According to the Altai people, all mountains can receive cosmic energy, but it is Belukha that can take energy from the parallel worlds.

Visiting the area does have a beneficial effect on travelers. Many note the tonic effect, improvement of general well-being. Local people speak about recharging the soul, harmonization of body and mind. You can visit the mountain at any time of year. In summer the trees are blossoming here, and in winter the gentle, white snow covers the expanses of the Altai region. Rivers are always picturesque and nature is fascinating.

The nature of the Altai Territory has captivated with its beauty since ancient times. Many writers, journalists, explorers and artists came here to see with their own eyes the marvelous creations of mother-nature. Belukha proves that there are a lot of unexplored things in the world. Climbing the mountain can be very dangerous, but you can always stay on the slopes, where you find yourself as if you were in the Alps. The main thing to remember is that all places here are reserved, so the local nature should be treated with care.

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