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© Photo: Pavel Yakushev
September, 17, 2018

Tunkinsky District Trip: Climbing the Love Peak

There are many places around Baikal that are of interest for visitors. One of these is Arshan, a small resort village in Tunkinsky district of the Republic of Buryatia. Our readers Pavel Yakushev and Alina Yakusheva have recently visited this place and are ready to share a story with us: it tells about the correct way of eating tangerines on the mountain and the best sacrifices that can be brought to the spirits of nature.

Pavel Yakushev pic The operator of sociocultural projects, a member of the Irkutsk Youth Club of the Russian Geographical Society  Tunka Valley is a lowland of tectonic origin, surrounded by mountain chains from all sides. People come here for beautiful nature, curative mineral water, thermal springs and mountains. We hoped we would have enough time to grasp everything from this place in two days.

The Way to Arshan

There are two main options of getting to Arshan: first, you can go by public transport. To depart to your destination at the necessary time, you have to buy a ticket in advance through the website of the bus booking office. A bus travel lasts for 3-4 hours with one stop in Kultuk where you can purchase Baikal souvenirs and fish. The second option is to ride your own car or a rented one. Fortunately, navigators will not let you get lost, besides, the only turn you can miss is the one in Kultuk. Your turn is called “To Mondy”. At the entrance to the Tunka Valley you will be probably stopped by the employees of the National Park and asked to pay an entrance fee; do not throw a payment receipt away, you will need it later!

As you arrive in Arshan, you immediately feel the influence of Buddhism and the East: from the signs advertizing Tibetan massage to the atmosphere of peace and tranquility prevailing everywhere. It seems that even local dogs are somehow more peaceful and friendly than usual ones: they accompany you, without ingratiating, as if helping you to find a road or guarding you.

Almost all signs and advertisements are written in Russian, but local residents mostly prefer to speak Buryat language, causing some cognitive dissonance. The proximity of Mongolia also leaves its imprint:  there is a whole market of Mongolian goods there; besides, tourists from this country also come to Arshan.

Preparation for the Climb

You should not worry about accommodation in Arshan, every second house (maybe even every house) is rented for quite an acceptable price. There are also large hotels and health resorts with higher accommodation prices.

Our goal - the Love Peak (2412 meters) - is located near the village. It takes from 2 to 4 hours to climb it. We managed to climb the Peak in 2 hours and 30 minutes. We arrived in Arshan on Friday evening to start the climb on Saturday morning.

As a rule, it is written that the route is easy and does not require special preparation. The trail is clearly visible and any physically sound man can pass it, but one will certainly need comfortable sneakers and trekking poles on the way. Do not forget to bring water and snacks, since the voyage will be energy-consuming and long. However, you can take water directly from the springs at the foot of the mountain; for example, we had two liters of mineral water in stock. As you approach the top where the forest no longer grows, a rather cold wind blows, so, better put some warm clothes in your backpack. Here is one more piece of advice based on the experience of people who climbed up with us: do not take a lot of things with you. You will not need the ropes, flashlights and spare shoes!

The Ascent

Once you step onto the path, you understand what you got yourself into right away. The incline is steep and gives you virtually no rest; on the other hand, you advance pretty fast. Very soon we turned around and saw a valley covered with fog. After some time, small plateaus begin to be seen, one can make beautiful photos there, but truth be told, great photos can be made at every step of the way.

We managed to outfoot about 15 people, however, we met only four of them at the top and later, during the descent. In an hour after the beginning of the ascent, the trail became easily passable and almost horizontal. By that time we were already above the level of the clouds. The middle of the route is one more observation plateau, where we met a man who gave us tangerines and recommended to eat them on the top, because they would fill up our energy reserve and quench our thirst. That man did not go to the top himself, but his tangerines went with us!

The time between 50% and 75% of the route distance passed quickly, although there are steep areas. At that point we began to come across a variety of animals: squirrels, chipmunks, woodpeckers and partridges.

We found the last quarter of the route to be the most difficult: we already saw the peak, but could not reach it. Besides, we felt hot from the physical load, but the cold wind was blowing around us.

Only looking at the vast Tunka Valley, you understand that you have climbed a pretty high peak. You can see Arshan spreading before you, large rocky rivers adjoining it – the traces of the disaster of 2014 when the village was covered by a mudrock flow. At a distance, you can see Tunka lakes and a crater of the extinguished volcano that looks like a simple mound.

The Descent

When you are on the top, you have to make an offering to local spirits - leave a coin or some food. We decided to leave both, because we knew that the descent would be long and hard because of the heat. A big black dog was sleeping on the top, as if it was a tired guard monitoring the proper way of making the offerings. While we were on the top, the dog only cast a couple of glances at us in a lazy manner.

We made a lot of photos, had a bite of sandwiches and tangerines, and went back. We reached our house in two hours. On the same day we managed to reach the Khoymorsky datsan (Lamaist temple) called “Bodhidharma”.

We spent the following day on the trip through mineral springs to the waterfall along the picturesque Kyngarga River. There is a checkpoint on that way where you have to present the payment receipt from the entrance to the National Park.

Unfortunately, we did not have the time to swim in the hot springs of Zhemchug and visit the extinguished volcano, but we managed to grasp the main things: the impressions and atmosphere of the Tunka Valley, as well as the magnificent mountains surrounding it.

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