2.2.1 Kitoy River
We wouldn’t be wrong to call this river the most beautiful river in the Sayan Mountains. The transparent ribbon of Kitoy winds between the Tunkinsky and Kitoy mountains. The wild taiga, teeming with gifts of nature and game, surrounds Kitoy. The river is rich in fish. Fabulously beautiful are the rocks that fall straight into the water, numerous waterfalls.
Despite the large amount of precipitation in summer, the area is quite warm. The air temperature during the rafting season is 14-16C and the water temperature is 9-12C. The considerable part of Kitoy feeding is rains. That’s why very strong (but usually short) floods are frequent during rainy season. They are especially dangerous when passing the Motkin Cheeks canyon.
By the way, this 8 km canyon is a decoration of the river. Steep walls of 100-200 m rise out of the water. On these 8 km there are more than 40 rapids, some of them are of 5 and 6 category.
Kitoy valley is not populated, nevertheless there is a handy access to the river by car from Irkutsk or Slyudyanka. The distance from Irkutsk is 340-350 km, and from Slyudyanka 270-280 km. You can drive about 8 hours from Slyudyanka. From Mondy settlement a good unpaved road goes up along the Irkut river to the Ilchir hollow. To the left of the road is the snow-white peak Munku-Sardyk (3491m) and the 12m waterfall on the river Irkut. The road goes straight to the ford through Kitoy. But it’s better to drive 1 km more downstream and to cross Kitoy at the second shepherds’ camp.
0 km – start rafting 3 km below the mouth of Zhitkhoz and Samarta rivers.
1 km – the hut is on the left
2km – there is forest on the shore. Good place to camp on the left. The river is shallow, there are a lot of rocks.
4km – obstacle 1: rocks, big drop, bank up to 1m. At low water in Kitoy we suggest to start rafting from here, because the upper part is very shallow.
6km – Possible to conduct, very shallow. Threshold 2: overflow 1.5m.
7km – Threshold 3 at the entrance to the 1st canyon in the right channel: pinch on the left turn. It’s shallow in shallow water, possible not passing. Survey of this and next two rapids is obligatory. After 100m start threshold 4: bunch of water-rock, at the end of it there is a narrow rocky gap of 3 m without any obstacles. Behind the gap in ~100m away you will start up the rapid 5 under the rock of the left bank. Rampage on the rock on the left. Long turn to the left.
8 km – the Shara Gol river is flowing into Kitoy on right side. Another 0.5 km – end of the 1st canyon. Its total length is about 1km. At the end of the canyon there is a good parking place on the right. Up to the river Ara-Khondoldoy on the right (19km) current has very high speed, significant swells, but technically the river is not complicated.
23km – On the right of the river B. Khondoldoy. Uncomplicated section. About 2 hours of rafting from Charo-Gol to the Khondoldoy estuary.
29km – Ramp 6: not complicated, but some inspection is recommended.
33km – Threshold 7 (3-4 cat.) is very interesting to pass. Points of interest: sharp left turn and small inflow on your right. The river splits into two canals. The rapids in the right channel is strong push to the right. Reconnaissance on the right.
36km – Large river Sagan-Saira flows into the river on the left. Sagan-Saira. There is a geologists’ base at the mouth of the tributary. There is nephrite deposit in the upper part of the river. Before the mouth of Sagan-Saira there is a stony quick splash with shafts, passing into the rapids 8 in 1km.
37km – Threshold 8: a lot of above-water rocks and shafts up to 1.5m.
39km – here starts the cascade of rapids 9-19: slits, shafts. Let’s note only some of the rapids of the cascade:
41km – Threshold 11 (3-4 cat.): the most difficult in the cascade. Its landmark – rocky gate. Exploration on the left. Passage at the top right, and at the end of the left on the ramparts.
44km – Threshold 15 (3-4 cat.): very strong pinch. Obligatory reconnaissance on the left.
47km – the end of the cascade. Behind it – powerful fast stream with shafts.
49km – Threshold 20: not tough squeeze on sharp left turn of the river.
52km – Threshold 21: the river is divided into 3 branches, go through the central or left branch.
At the confluence of the channels, a bump on the rock of the left bank.
53km – Threshold 22 is easy. The power of the river is gradually increasing. It takes about 5 hours to reach the rapids 23 from Sagan Sayra.
58km – Threshold 23 is not difficult, it is a landmark of the beginning of the second canyon. It is situated before the dangerous Threshold 24, passing into the waterfall of the 2nd canyon (6th canyon). The passage of the waterfall is carried out together with the threshold 24. The slope of the river greatly increases 2 km before the 2nd canyon. The length of the threshold 23 is about 1km. Its landmark is a wide rocky talus on the left bank near the brook mouth. We recommend scouting the place to go before the threshold 24. There are 2 waterfalls in the second canyon (first 5-meter waterfall, the second one is 300 m behind it). It takes about 2 hours to drive around 2km along the left bank. The upper trail is more comfortable. End of the walk around the intersection of the left bank trail and the second talus (dry creek bed). There is room for a couple of tents.
Next you can raft about 1km through the second canyon.
62km – The river Ara-Oshei flows into the river on the right. She is suitable for rafting and very interesting. Its flow rate is 15-25 cubic meters/second. The narrow ribbon of the river winds along the picturesque gorge, forming set of thresholds. Along the river, there is a trail from the Khobuty pass from the villages Hoyto-Gol and Nilova Pustyn. The length of the trail to Kitoy about 45 km.
63km – Threshold 25 (3-4 category): strong pinch to the right bank. Exploring from the left bank.
70km – Beautiful and interesting rapids 28. Here very strong push to the right bank. This rapids marks the beginning of Gorlyk-Gol cascade.
71km – Threshold 29 (5th category): one of the most difficult in the middle stream of Kitoy. Reference point – high rocky left bank, Kitoy divides into 2 arms. It’s very shallow on the right. On the left is series of steep 1.5m drains. Reconnaissance from the island.
74Km – Thresholds 30-31: two arms, bump on the left, shallow on the right.
76km – Threshold 32 (4th category): situated on the steep right turn of the river. Strong squeeze with track and bumping wall.
How it was: Kitoy 1977.
Kitoy was my first rafting “five. The group was formed almost by chance and consisted of three Muscovites and two Riga residents. Our goal was Biy-Khem, but after sitting for a week in the rain at the Kyren airport we decided to take the back-up route to Kitoy via the Khobuty pass. It was not like that: heavy (50kg) backpacks, twice lost trail before the pass and almost before Kitoy, non-drinking Buryat with horses (we had to carry our unused currency – 9 liters of alcohol on our hump down to Kitoy and drink it later). After three days of very heavy hiking we reached the Kitoy and Ara-Osheye arrow. Sanya Nedorezov took a dozen bows to “Father Kitoy” and we started building a raft. By the middle of the second day the raft was almost ready. We were finishing our work on the oars, and then a colorful little peasant came out of the taiga to our slipway. He was dressed in a storm jacket and tattered Soviet jeans with a huge dagger on the belt. He was wearing pointy-toed half-shoes. The man said a polite hello and asked if it was Kitoy. It turned out that he was going rafting alone to Angarsk. He was from Novosibirsk or Krasnoyarsk. A Siberian, in a word. He disappeared into the woods again and reappeared in a couple of minutes with a long bag, from which parts of some vessel were sticking out – a “kaydar,” as he called his boat. As he shook everything out of the bag, Sanya said: “Man, you won’t get far on that boat.” The little man brushed it off: “Nah, it’ll be all right.” He got his boat together pretty quick. Outwardly it really looked like the canoes of Chukchi or Eskimos, which you can see on the sketches of the 16th-17th century, but obviously it did not have the same running qualities and looked a little scary. The rapids began 50 meters downstream. The commodore made one last attempt to dissuade the man. He stood his ground. We decided not to participate in this suicide attempt and went to the fire in the camp, leaving Jura to advise the man. Ten minutes later, Jura showed up at the campfire. The little man waddled after him, completely wet. It turned out that, luckily for him, his kayak capsized three meters from the shore and went into the rapids together with his oar. The man scrambled ashore and now wanted to clear a path down the Kitoy. He took a slightly damp map out of the pocket of his wet storm jacket. The map resembled the ones Semyon Dezhnev’s Cossacks probably used when conquering Siberia. After copying something from our map and getting a sack of rice and matches, the soggy Siberian went off down the Kitoy. We never saw him again.
77km – Dangerous Threshold 33 (4th category): sharp turn to the right, and then sharp left. Strong pinch to the rocks on the right bank.
81km – the Gorlyk Gol river flows in several branches to the left. It takes about 2.5 hours of rafting to get there from the mouth of the Ara-Oshei. There is a good place for camp behind the tributary on the left. There is a beautiful canyon with waterfall in 1 hour walking along the trail on the left bank of Gorlyk-Gol from this parking place. When approaching the waterfall, don’t miss the trail going down to the river! In the valley of Gorlyk-Gol you can find beautiful samples of green jade stone and serpentine. In the canyon there is excellent grayling fishing. By the way, there is also very interesting canyon on the next right tributary of Kitoy after Gorlyk-Gol.
89km – Uncomplicated part. Threshold 34: powerful, but relatively easy. In the middle of the bed there is a huge above-water boulder. There is a lot of water on it. Passage on the left.
Threshold 35 after 0.5 km: shallow, comb of rocks.
90km – Threshold 36: Z-shaped turn. A lot of rocks in the stream.
91 km – The Hunoy-Gol River flows into the river on the left. There is a good stop at its mouth. From the mouth of Gorlyk Gol to this stop about 1.5 hours of rafting.
97km – Powerful water obstacles 37-40 (4th category) with slalom between huge boulders in the bed. The most difficult of them 39-th. Its length 400m. Before the threshold on the left bank of the rock and stone tour. After the slalom between the big boulders you need to get into the 3-meter gap between the rock on the left bank and the rock, lying in the middle of the river. At this point a stream falls from a rock on the right bank.
Descent to the valley of the Ara-Oshei river. Photo by Vladimir Gavrilov.
Kitoy in Gorlyk-Gol Cascade. Photo by Vladimir Gavrilov.
98km – Ramp 41 (4th category) on the smooth right turn. Then you will have steep left turn with strong rush to the right bank.
100km – Threshold 42 (4th – 5th category) is beautiful, but very dangerous. A landmark of the rapids: a rock on the left bank. Under it the river takes a sharp turn to the right. Big drop on the length of the threshold of 60-80m. In the central part of the rapids on the right side flows into the brook. The threshold passes into the next obstacle 43.
101km – Threshold 43 is very dangerous (5th category). On the left turn in the middle of the bed is a huge rock. The stream heavily piles up on it. On the right oblique two-meter drain. Look at the threshold from the left bank.
After 400m Beginning of the threshold 44 (4th category). Slalom among large stones and foamy pits. On the left turn at the end of the threshold there is a large red-brown stone. The passage is on the right. Behind the rapids on the straight section you can see typical rocky gate as a reference point of the entrance to Motkiny Cheki canyon.
102km – Threshold 45 is just before the rock gates. Just behind the gate behind the mouth of the left creek you should take a boat to the left bank. Here you’ll find comfortable parking place and start to take a good path to the main canyon of Kitoy – Motkiny cheeks. From rocky gate to unnamed creek flowing into Kitoy on the left just before entering the canyon there are five rapids on the river. We recommend carrying the load from the parking place at the rock gate to this creek and passing these 5 difficult rapids on unloaded boats. The duration of the reroute is 0.5 hours.
103km – Threshold 46 (3rd category): behind the rocky gates Kitoy spill. There is an island of big boulders in the middle of the channel. The right channel seems to be better. Dangerous overflow at the end of the channel.
Behind the threshold splash 100m. On the smooth right turn under the high left bank the rapid begins 47 (3-4 cat.). Its length is more than 0,5 km. The most difficult part of the threshold – the ridge of stones, completely blocking the river. It’s better to pass it on the right. After it you are going to the right and very sharp turn of the river to the left. Here it is necessary to stop immediately on the left. Right on the left turn on the ledge you can set up camp.
Threshold 48 (4th category) is short, but very powerful. Two steps are located under the steep bank and divided by 30m section of smooth water. The first stage is a steep water slide, the second is a drain through the whole bed.
Two-hundred-meter threshold 49 not technically difficult, but dangerous. There is a long boulder bank on the left. In the course of a series of steep drains. After the rapid there is a relatively quiet section for a while. Rock to the left bank as soon as there is a clear left turn, rocks on the right bank and a huge boulder in the middle of the stream.
Threshold 50 (5th category): length 70m, total drop 6m. The threshold is very difficult technically and very dangerous, because after 30m of rapid behind the mouth of the nameless creek starts the first threshold Motkinskih Cheeks, passing directly into the most difficult obstacle of Kitoy – the threshold-waterfall (6th category).
It takes about 2-3 hours to pass the last 5 rapids. Usually, the groups will pass the rapids-waterfall 2 (we give the numbering of the Motkin Cheeks fences separately). From the mouth of the unnamed creek at threshold 50, the trail moves away from Kitoy, crosses one big and three small creeks and goes to the ford over the river Ehe-Gol. It is approximately 3 km (1.5 hours) to the Ehe-Gol river by the trail on the left bank. When approaching the ford, be careful: one of the trails goes up along the valley of Ekhe-Gol to Onot river. There is a small camp site right above the ford. Crossing the river in high water is very dangerous. There is a 15-meter waterfall 100 meters below the ford. By the way, this waterfall was first passed in 1992 by the German kayakers Jonas Nocker and Victor Klaus – the members of Latvian-German expedition.
4 km after the ford the trail goes to the river Motkin-Gol (2.5 hours walk from Ehe-Gol). There are several camp sites high above the tributary. You can cross the Big Motkin-Gol at its mouth. This place on the left bank of Kitoy is perfect for camping and spending the day there. Further the path goes along the right bank of Kitoy. We strongly recommend not to go rafting in Motkiny Cheeks during the high water. If the water is too high, we recommend that you do a full trip around Motkin Cheeks. At the mouth of Motkin Gol you should cross Kitoy on its right bank. Then the path climbs steeply serpentine upwards. The length of the ascent is 3.5 km (1.5 hours). There are a lot of blueberries and cranberries along the trail. The trail goes away from the Kitoy bank for about 1 km. From the ridge saddle, start the steep 1.5 hour descent.
Rafting through the canyon Motkiny Cheki is the culmination of the route. It is available only for highly qualified watermen. There are two parts of the canyon. First: up to the mouth of the Motkin-Gol. The most difficult threshold – waterfall 2 (6th category), consisting of several steps with vertical falling of the stream. Since the waterfall and most of the rapids on this section are in a canyon with vertical walls, you should carefully examine and insure all the obstacles (there are 17 rapids on this section). Passing the rapids-waterfall possible at optimum water level and very high qualification of watermen. It is practically impossible to pass only waterfall along the bank. Therefore, in order to assess the possibility of rafting, the whole section from the beginning of the Razor trail to Motkin Gol should be surveyed from the shore. We recommend that you do an ROD in this section anyway.
The Motkin Cheeks rapids have their own numbering. Threshold 1 is not difficult, but if you go through it, it is impossible to get out of the canyon and you should go Waterfall Threshold 2. Undoubtedly this is the most difficult and dangerous rapids of Kitoy. It is possible to navigate only these two rapids. The length of such crossing is approximately 1.5 km. The trip finishes with abrupt descent to the ravine at the bottom of which big creek is running. Below the mouth of the brook you start the most difficult rapids Motkinskie Cheeks series. Thresholds 3-6 (cat. sl. 4-5) require scouting and insurance. Between the rapids are very short (30-50m) areas of calm water, so be extremely careful when hauling. This series of rapids ends at the mouth of Ehe-Gol. It takes 2-3 hours to pass the section from the rapids-waterfall to Ehe-Gol.
Below the mouth of Ehe Gol follows a pair of simple rapids. Then from the high left bank we recommend to examine rapids 7-9, clutched by vertical walls and following one after another without interruptions. Let’s note especially threshold 8 (cat. sl.5) – one of the hardest on Kitoy. Its length is 400 m. It consists of four steps, to get ashore between them is very difficult. In the threshold it is difficult slalom line of movement. Below this series of rapids there is some fast and smooth water up to the brook mouth on the left, where you can have a snack and take a short rest. Subsequent rapids to the mouth of the river B. Motkin-Gol are much easier than the previous ones. On this part usually distinguish obstacles 10-17 (cat. sl. 2-4).
Passage of the upper part of Motkin Cheeks canyon. Photo by Sebastian Grundler.
108km – The second part of the canyon starts at the mouth of the Motkin Gol. Right after the Motkin-Gol estuary powerful short 18 (5 cat.) rapids with abrupt drop-off and rafting on the right bank. Then Kitoy again goes to the narrow rocky gap. The steep walls rise more than 100 meters above the water. You can go up from the canyon only by the riverbed of the M. Motkin-Gol (about 1.5 km downstream). If the weather and time allow, we recommend that you go upstream of Motkin Gol to the impressive waterfall.
There are about 20 rapids of 3-4 category. The rapids are rather monotonous: abrupt powerful flush through the whole river-bed. Behind it strong rushes to rocky walls. It becomes much easier to navigate after the beautiful waterfall on the left. The end of Motki cheeks is considered obstacle 43.
Camp in Motkin Cheeks Canyon below the mouth of the Motkin Gol River. Photo by Sebastian Grundler.
113km – After 1km below the canyon on a steep right turn, there is a drain across the channel. Then a quiet section to the Shumak River on the right.
118km – Shumak river flows into the river on the right. There are several good parking lots here. Rafting from Motkin Gol river to the Shumak estuary takes 2.5-3 hours.
125km – 25 minutes of rafting to the right tributary of the river Bilyuta. Here starts the cascade of rapids. It consists of five powerful rapids 3-4 cat. We recommend to take a tour along all the rapids. On r. Bilyuta you can enjoy very beautiful canyon. Below the Bilyuta rapids the valley widens and the river becomes very easy.
136km – Donysheva r. on the left.
142km – Fedyushkina river on the left.
154km – The River Fedyushkina flows to the left. Kitoy-Kit
176km – Dabady weather station is on the left.
184km – winter hut Podkamennoye.
198km – winter hut “Prizhim”.
258km – Oktyabrskiy settlement, from here you can go to Angarsk and then to Irkutsk.
The Ara-Osheya is a very wide river in the eastern Sayan Mountains, with canyons where the river narrows to a few meters, and waterfalls and a large lake.
The Ara-Oshei is one of the largest tributaries of the Kitoy River.
In addition to the river, the peak, which belonged to the mountains of the Eastern Sayan – Tunkinsky mountains, has the same name. The river neighbors the cities of Irkutsk, Angarsk, and Cheremkhovo. Ara-Oshei belongs to the rivers of South Siberia.
Interesting! In Buryat language, the word “ara” means “back” or “opposite”. In the context of the river, “ara” is translated as “flowing on the other side of the ridge”.
Weather and Climate
A distinct continental climate is characteristic of the area around Ara-Oshi. Winters in this region are cold and dry. A winter anticyclone comes in late September or early October and leaves in April or May. The average temperature in winter is 25°C with a minus sign.
Spring, which begins in March and April, is windy, with occasional night frosts. It is replaced by a short summer. At the beginning it is excessively dry, but in July-August the maximum amount of precipitation is recorded. The average summer temperature is 10-15°C. Autumn is long and warm. But there can be dramatic temperature changes.
How to get there
You may get to Sliudyanka station from where all hiking and rafting tours start from Irkutsk by train (190 RUR), by bus (170 RUR) or by cab (price is negotiable). The trip takes from 2 to 3 hours. There are two ways to get to Irkutsk:
- By plane. The flight from Moscow takes about 6 hours. Ticket prices vary and depend on the airline, flight (connecting, direct). The starting price for an air ticket is 8700 RUR.
- By train. Travel time is 3 days and 9 hours. Price of plane ticket from 6500 RUR, compartment from 6800 RUR.
Things to do on Ara-Oshei
Tourists in the area of Ara-Oshei have many things to do:
Extreme tours for those who have experience of river rafting combine 3 in 1: rafting (passing through waterfalls), fishing (grayling), hiking. The tour takes no more than 2 weeks. Number of people in a group from 2 to 6. Customers are provided with wetsuits, fishing gear, boats, catamarans, life jackets. Rafting tours cost from 39 180 RUR.
Interesting! Ara-Oshei is famous for the numerous waterfalls scattered along its length. There is a large lake in the upper part of the river.
Duration of hiking tours is from 2 to 3 weeks. In the group – more than 10 tourists. Each of them before the hike is briefed on safety and equipment management. Clients are provided with tents (2-3-4 – local), sleeping bags. The cost of such a hike – from 19,550 RUR. You can get acquainted with the fauna of the Eastern Sayans: small and large rodents (badgers, squirrels), roe deer, hazel-grouse, wood grouse. Landscapes of the route are constantly changing: Alpine meadows alternate with pine forests, cedar forests with stony tundra.
Fishing tours: the goal of the mountain fishing is to catch grayling, tench or taimen.
Fishing tours are held from June to September. A helicopter takes you to the fishing place. Tour duration is one week. Groups are made up of 6-8 people. Tour groups are guided by an experienced guide. Companies provide three meals a day, overnight accommodations in two-person tents. Equipment and clothes for fishing and underwater hunting are provided (spinning rods, rods, wetsuit, speargun, catamarans). Each client receives an insurance policy. The cost of the tour – about 1150 USD.
Ara-Oshei is a place of rest for active people who are not afraid of difficulties, who love nature and tourism.