Worldwide Destination Wedding Photographer Olga Saliy

Life on Ukok Plateau

  by Annatamila  •  Archives Blog Russia photography  •  2,885 views

Ukok Plateau is a remote and pristine grasslands area located in the heart of southwestern Siberia, the Altai Mountains region of Russia near the borders with China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

Average height of Ukok – 2200-2500 m. In 1993, archaeologists from Novosibirsk found here “Princess Ukok.” DNA analysis allowed scientists to declare that “Princess” is a Scythian tribes. This is an occasion to disagree for the representatives of the intelligentsia of the Altai. They argue that the Altai – direct descendants of the ancient tribes who inhabited the plateau Ukok. After excavation Southern part of Plateau Ukok was declared a “Zone of Peace” and the sacred place. Moratorium on any excavation was imposed for 10 years and ended in 2006. Now here are digging only geologists who lead the study for the gas pipeline “Altai”. This is a big scandal for the environmentalists and the government.

Boundary runs along the mountain junction Tabyn-Bogda Ola. This is a sacred place for Mongolian and Chinese Buddhists. Ukok plateau appears as a sacred place in ancient pagan Altai.

For me, these strange mountains, cold, quiet and uniquely magical. It is subjective and it is difficult to explain.

The path to Plateau passes through the Kosh-Agach town. It is located on Russia territory, but it is more than 90% of the population there are Kazakhs. The main activity for them – cattle. Settlement rather rich than poor. Here is a border post in which to make a permit to visit the Plateau Ukok. Without it, there is not anyone admits.

Kosh-Agach in Kazakh – “A pair of trees.” Previously, there were two trees, but now is only one. A second tree is died. This is a symbol of Kosh-Agach.

This is a dirt road after Kosh-Agach and frontier. The best is to keep the speed of at least 60 kilometers per hour – that’s less to feel well.

This is the road to the plateau Ukok through pass “Warm Water”.

There are several such houses in Ukok. Here you can escape from the wind and rain, and stop for the night.

Abandoned border post “Argamji”

This trenches for border in the background of a playground for children.

Next we drive on roads Ukok Plateau.

And here at last we found life on Ukok. This is the geologists. They are conducting research for a project pipeline “Altai” and live here about two month each other.

It’s cold here and not everyone wants to get out of the car 🙂

There are many ancient mounds here.

This is a toilet near the house for the night.

These people are really maniacs. They’re going to do river rafting Ak-Alah to the Katun River for 2 weeks. Now the temperature is +1C, in night in August can be -10C.

Here is official place of excavation Ukok Princess. But we know not trusted source, who claims that the tomb of the princess in another place, not so far from here.

And it’s a real princess mound. And vewpoint from here.

A little farther along Ak-Alakha is another winter hut. It is alive. Houses are closed shut, people are not here, but it is clear that they are here sometimes.

The next border post on the way to lake Ukok is living. This called Chelyabinsk Cossack or “Bertekskaya.” Guards – one more Ukok residents.

So we have found life on Ukok and it is geologists, shepherds (periodically), the border guards, poachers (hunters marmots), people who raft on the river, tourists (according to geologists is crazy), marmots, eagles, cranes, and all the beasts. The feeling is that you’re in the Wild West ..

There are several ways to Ukok Plateau. One across the river Dzhazator (but the river is often too deep), the second way – the pass warm water (we drove through it and it is pretty rocky and difficult road) and one – the old road through the pass. If I’m not mistaken, it’s called Kaltuginsky. This road for some reason choose rarely. This way even the stones laid by Kosh-Agach. But this road is breathtakingly beautiful! We chose it in the opposite direction.

There is abandoned Kaltuginsky wolframite-quartz hydrothermal deposits near the pass. These tunnels were built by Gulag prisoners during WWII. They paved the road to the mine car through the rivers Tarkhan, Djumala and Dzhazator.

From one of the tunnels 3-kilometer long have access to the surface is the pass-Zhumaly Kalguty. Earlier it was possible come to a plateau inside of the mountains through Zhumaly tunnel.

This part of Altay is not far from Siberia.


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