Where are the Shavli Lakes in Altai?
The trip to the Shavli Lakes is not a trip for a tourist, the trip to the mountains will be a serious trial, but it will be more than compensated by the beauty of the Altai Mountains and the crystal clear lakes.
Shavly lakes in Altai are the chain of rather big reservoirs, having general origin from the big horseshoe-shaped Shavlya glacier, being a part of the North-Chuysky ridge.
Graduated fathers of the families with beer bellies, well-fed wives and a brood of kids go there. And lean students, novice mountaineers and equestrian enthusiasts go there. Small isolated groups of officials, politicians and ordinary Russian billionaires, tired of Nice and Courchevel, go to the lakes. Rumor has it that they like the democratic character of Shavlya Lakes, which presents the beauty and challenges to everyone, regardless of social status.
Mythology and folklore
Like any unique natural monument, the Shavlinskie lakes have their own legend. The legend is long and detailed, which means that the ancient Altai people were interested in the source of Shavla river and understood the process of melting of the glacier well.
The legend is not without a beautiful maiden, an unloved groom, an unhappy lover and a cruel father. The beautiful maiden’s name, of course, was Shavla. She ran away from her father’s house with her beloved to escape her marriage to her battered bridegroom. But the wicked groom caught up with her and demanded she return. Shawla refused. They argued for a long time, and they both did not notice when a heavy hailstorm began to fall. One hailstorm froze Shawla and turned her into a glacier. Shawla has stood there ever since, shedding crystal-clear tears over her bitter maiden fate. The poor lover wept bitterly and beat on the ground. The hollows of the Shavlya Lakes were formed in the places he had hit especially hard. Then the lover returned to Shavlya, embraced it, and turned into the North-Chuisky mountain range petrified with grief for ever.
At the foot of Shavla, at an altitude of over 2,000 meters, the Upper Shavlya Lake, filled with glacial meltwater. From the lake, in turn, flows out the river Shavla. Going down the slope of the ridge at an altitude of 1990 meters, the river forms the Middle Shavlya Lake, and even lower – the Lower Shavlya Lake. The names are unpretentious, but they precisely define the position of bodies of water in relation to each other and to sea level.
In the interstices between Upper, Middle and Lower Shavla river periodically creates other lakes too, thankfully the terrain provides all opportunities for it. When the Shavla glacier overflows the Upper Lake, the river becomes very full. Along the entire river bed there are stony cavities that quickly fill up during the high water period. These temporary lakes have no names, as no one bothered to find names for them because of the transience of their existence.
The nature of the lakes
The Altai nature in general can only be spoken of in superlatives. Giant mountains, giant trees, giant boulders. All this is so huge, pristine and beautiful that one feels like a molecule in macrocosm. One can see that the Altai nature was not created for man, but for some colossi, prehistoric dinosaurs. Probably that’s why Shavlinskie Lakes attract so many tourists. After all, it’s so human to try to conquer the unconquerable.
How to get to Shavli Lakes
Getting to the Shavlin Lakes is a time-consuming affair, with varying degrees of comfort.
You should go to the Altai Mountains from Biysk and direction to Chibit village. The distance is not insignificant – half a thousand kilometers along Chuisky tract. The route is mainly in the categories from excellent to good. There are some difficult sections, but they are easily overcome at any time of year. Having passed Chike-taman pass you can go straight to Chibit. This is the end of the comfortable ride, to the delight of Chibit citizens. They are not required to have any great frills in the provision of tourist services. It is enough to rent a piece of yard for parking cars of tourists and get quite decent profit.
Take note: now the traveler can get from Chibit to Shavlinskie Lakes either with horses or on his own feet. There are no other variants.
There are about 600 permanent residents in Chibit. One way or another, everyone is involved in tourism business, whether it is renting houses, horses, tents or parking lots for cars. There are professional guides among Chibit residents for complicated routes to Shavlinskoye lakes, where tourists are not recommended to go alone.
Chibit, to quote Roger Zelazny, is a kind of “first veil” in the difficult path to the lakes. Honorable fathers of families, matrons with a bunch of kids, and just not the adherents of active recreation surrender right in Chibit. For renegades there is a comfortable eco-complex “Nomad”, where travelers can have a good rest and improve their health by all the rules of ecotourism. At the complex there is a tent section, where travelers live in yurts with a minimum set of amenities and cook food on primitive fires. There are unequipped houses. There’s no need to give up showers, bathhouses, meals in the dining room, morning coffee and Wi-Fi. Everything is available on the territory. For very sybarites “Nomad” provides comfortable building.
Tourists have an opportunity to use a lot of grills in the territory.
For your information! Since Chibit specializes in breeding goats, cattle and pigs, the tourists won’t have any lack of meat. The village has a lot of homesteads, so you can balance the meat consumption with fresh and environmentally friendly vegetables.
Road to Nishni Shavlinskoye Lake
All the routes to Shavlinsky lakes start from Chibit. Here you can make your own group, hire a guide, buy provisions for the long journeys and rent horses.
Usually travelers are eager to get to Lake Superior. But such is the nature of man that enthusiasm fades after the first test. There is no wonder, because from Chibit to the Lower lake there is a 35-kilometer path. The figure is not big, but taking into account that the road is constantly going uphill, and backpacks of tourists are heavy, the passage of 35 kilometers takes five days. Everything is much easier for the horseback tourists. They can look down on the pedestrians.
Through the Oroi Pass, forest, bogs, the Yeshtyg-Kel River and the mountain slope, tourists reach the Lower Lake. There are many tent camps near the lake. The weakest stay here. No beauty of Altai Mountains can compensate for broken shoes and blisters on feet. Those who are resting and getting enough energy for going to Srednoe Shavlinskoe lake.
Middle Shawlinskoe Lake
The Middle Lake is the most popular among travelers for many reasons.
- It is truly beautiful. Located at an altitude of 1986 meters above sea level, the lake is in the center of a magnificent panoramic view. Surrounding the lake are mountains with romantic names like “Beauty,” “Fairy Tale,” and “Dream.” The best view of these mountains is from the Middle Lake.
- The color of the water is bright turquoise. It is a color that promotes contemplation. Zen Buddhists love to sit by the mid-lake waters and think about the eternal.
- Many tourists reach the Middle Lake. Mizzero goes to the Upper Lake, especially since you can’t get to it on horseback. You have to go only on foot. Since public opinion is always created by the majority, it is no wonder that the Middle Lake was declared the most beautiful on the whole route. Enthusiasts who have reached Upper Lake dispute this opinion, but their voice is not heard.
One can stay on Middle Lake for a long time. Some live there for weeks. The area is rich with streams with crystal clear drinking water, berry bushes that are fun and delicious to eat, and there is an abundance of fish (including grayling) in the lake. You can also gather mushrooms, pine cones and take pictures of chipmunks. So there is everything for feeling like the last man on the Earth.
Upper Shavlya Lake
To paraphrase N.V. Gogol, a rare tourist will get to the Upper Lake. After all, the lake is at an altitude of over two kilometers above sea level, and it’s not an easy climb. Even if you get there, it is difficult to get close to its waters. The shores of Lake Superior are chaos that can only be produced by a battle of titans. There are huge fragments of rock everywhere, up to five meters in diameter. And above all this heap – covered with ice mountain peaks and a glacier of legendary beauty Shavly, which embraces petrified beloved – North-Chuysky Ridge. There are no campsites here, the forest is rare and the waters are muddy with glacial blotches. Do not stay long at the Upper Ridge. Then you have a short rest, take some pictures, and go down to the cozy Middle Mountain, the inhabitants of which you can now look down on.
Tourist routes to Shavly lakes cannot be called recreation in the full sense of this word. It is a hard work, which intensity increases with every passed meter. And each of the lakes is always a victory. Over yourself, over laziness, over nature. And pride. Because it’s so human to overcome hardships in the search of beauty.
Hike to Shavlya lakes.
Our way started from the Chibit settlement. We planned two days trip one way, one day on the lower lake with excursion to the upper lakes and two days back. Everything was great! We were awake and cheerful… for the first 5 kilometers. The next 15 km, up to the pass, was only uphill and almost no descents.
Since I was the guide (the person who downloaded the map to my phone), I turned on the tracker to keep track of my route, descent and elevation gain. Interesting! So, the main climb, on this day, was exactly in these 15 kilometers and was almost 1300 meters. It’s not like 30 kilometers in Tetyushi (who knows, he understands;))). Someone began to doubt their strength to reach the end, however, no one gave up. I, as the most addicted to sports, kayfoval!) To train was not possible, and here though something, though any load. Passing the pass, we have an indelible desire to reach in one day, because the road has ceased to go up and the next 10 km walked on the plain downwards. But we were wrong again! At 6 p.m. we met other camels like us and asked how long they had been walking… I wish they had never asked! 8 hours! “Carl! 8 hours!” Now the setup was to walk as much as possible to get the rest of the way in half the next day. The first day we walked 26 km with an elevation gain of 1900 m and a descent of 1150 m.
Day 2. Enthusiasm waned, the desire to go was not great, the fatigue from the previous day was telling. But I was ok, my body had time to recover during the night!) Behind every “turn” there were views of the mountains with snowy caps that gave me energy and strength! On this day we hiked exactly 10 km less with a set of 1100 and a drop of 1000. Not all of us appreciated the lake and the view when we arrived. But I was sincerely glad that my friends had made it! Since I was not used to it, fatigue even began to fill me, my body had not experienced this yet. We had a talk with the “locals” and it turned out that it took us only a day and a half to get there. Here, they say, they walk on horseback in two days. We’re kind of hoofless…
The next morning I planned to go up to the two upper Shavlinskiye lakes and get closer to the glacier. I didn’t suggest that idea to the others in the evening. But! In the morning nothing had changed. They told me: “You go, Zhenya… alone” I was partly glad that I went alone. First, the road, as it seemed to me, was more difficult than we had walked to the bottom. I would not have been thanked))) Second, I went off the trail, sometimes intentionally.
Thirdly, I walked at my own pace, so I managed 11 km in 4 hours, of which I spent an hour and twenty hours enjoying the beautiful views, eating dried fruits and nuts).
On the way back I decided to go again where no one had gone before and in theory to see the Lower Shavlinskoe from above. I came out to the stone ridge. I thought that there was nobody there. But no! I found a fishing rod. Yes, such a normal spinning rod. Took it with me, like a trophy I’d gotten by sweat and footwear. Now the whole lake knew me as the guy with the rod. Because I was the only one that didn’t ask, “Catch it?”, “What’s the bite?” “What’s going on here?”
I came to camp exactly 5 minutes before lunch was ready. That didn’t really surprise anyone. Yes, I came for the food. A couple of hours later, the bathhouse we had ordered was ready. Yes, everyone read that correctly. There’s a guy there who sells condensed milk, scones, beer, vodka, and there was a black bath too! Which fit perfectly into our trek. On that beautiful note, our day was coming to an end. In the evening we decided that we should try to make it in one day, because no one wanted to pitch a tent and spend another night in the woods)), and it was quite realistic. We had less food, our backpacks were lighter, we knew the route and understood that we would have more reset than gain altitude. On the way back there was almost nothing interesting! Mountains, rivers, the same trail and acquaintances from Kazan! Yes! Imagine my surprise when I met them 3500 km away from Kazan, and not anywhere, but in the woods. How in general! They m/e to read until the very hike drove 400 km on a bicycle on the Chuysky tract. Good fellows! Up to the pass a group on horses tried to catch up with us. They succeeded only when we stopped for a snack and with the words: “If you hadn’t stopped to have something to eat, we wouldn’t have caught up with you” passed by)))) Who overtook us, surprised how vigorous we go.
Oh yeah! There’s a lovely cattle bridge on the route. But the local guys here are smart, they take a bribe of 100₽ per person, one way on the way back I had no mood or desire to pay for the exit. With the words: “I estimated your bridge at the entrance of 100₽ and it is not worth more” Passed for free. Of course there was some heartfelt talk about how difficult it was to build this bridge, that it held up, etc. By 9:00 p.m. sharp we got to the car. The plan to reach it in a day was safely accomplished.