From Tuva we traveled to Ergaki Park in the Krasnoyarsk Region, where we spent had gorgeous weather for two great days of hiking and interacting with the park's staff. Ergaki is located in the Sayan Mountains, named for an ancient tribe that lived in the area, the Sayans. The word "ergaki" means "fingers" and refers to the way the cliffs in the area stick up out of the mountains. The park is pretty popular and gets about 80,000 tourists (mostly hikers and skiers) each year.
This first photo above is of the "Sleeping Sayan." If you look at this mountain cliff right you will see the Sayan's face in profile on the left side, then his arms crossed over his chest and then his feet on the right side; he is lying down as if looking toward the sky. As you might imagine, there are many legends about the Sayan people at Ergaki. The Sleeping Sayan is the guardian and protector of nature in these parts.
A rainbow followed us into Ergaki -- a sign of great weather to come!
We stayed on the second floor of this visitors' center.
Sign on the road advertising the Ergaki visitors' center and park, amenities. Although in the U.S. we think of such signs as standard, it is very rare to see them for parks in Russia. (And it certainly makes a nice impression when you do.)
Artists' Pass Hike
This picture above is the Artists' Pass (перевал художников). On our first day in Ergaki we hiked to here -- a combination of hiking and rock climbing. The weather and the views were spectacular. It is about a 20 km hike round-trip, and unfortunately the first third of the trail was rather wet and muddy, so we did this hike in rubber boots. This makes for very sore feet at the end of the day!
Me and Anya at the beginning of the Artists' Pass hike.
Views and scenery at the beginning of the Artists' Pass trail. You can tell by the colors that it's fall already at the end of August.
Wild blueberry picking. There were lots of them and they were yummy!
This cliff in the background is called the "Nut." It is actually quite far away in this picture, and people scale all the way up to the top of it (with climbing equipment, of course). Ergaki is very popular with climbers and there are some very challenging peaks.
We arrived at Buibinskoye Lake. From here we hiked uphill to the left of the lake and then right along the ridge of the cliff you see in the background behind the lake.
Here I am standing under the Hanging Rock, a famous spot in Ergaki, of course.
Hanging Rock from a little farther away.
Rainbow Lake, looking down from the cliff near the Hanging Rock.
A view of the cliff, the hanging rock (right side) and the mountains beyond.
Tatyana is wondering when we will stop taking pictures of views.
Not yet! Mountain lakes.
We were lucky to be hiking with two boys who helped us when it really did become rather impossible scaling the rocks over the ridges. (Of course, if it weren't for the boys we would not have chosen such a crazy route with no climbing gear in the first place, but I suppose that's already not the point.) Here Ilya is going to catch Anya when she jumps down from this rock.
Anya is doubting whether this was a good idea.
Scaling the mountainside.
The trail reappears.
Cool cliffs near the Artists' Pass.
Another view from near the Artists' Pass.
Me with Buibinskoye Lake below and mountains in the background. We were 1800 meters up.
More cool rocks.
Another view of Buinbinskoye Lake from above. Anya actually went swimming in this frigid pool! The water temperature was probably only about 50 degrees F. Oh Siberians.
On our way back from the Artists' Pass we passed this miniature rock city that some tourists must have built before us. (It kind of reminded me of the rock sculptures in the river at Zion National Park.) This was pretty cool but nothing compared to the natural stone city we saw on our next day's hike.
On our second day in Ergaki we scrambled over rocks in the "Stone City." There are amazing rock columns here, and, of course, many legends, as the scientific explanation for how these huge rock pilesgot here is not completely satisfying.
The legends tell about a stone city built by the ancient Sayan peoples who lived in this area. In this first picture the huge rocks sticking out of the mountainside almost look like they form the wall of a giant's fortress built along a mountain ridge.
This is the first big rock formation you come to in the stone city -- the lookout tower (сторожевая башня).
Me and Anya in front of the lookout tower.
These are the three warriors protecting their stone city.
Me and Anya.
More huge stacks of rocks.
This is the horse or knight of one of the Sayan princes, in profile. His nose is touching the neighboring rock to the left.
At the end of the trail (we only went about 6 km round-trip today) we decided to climb some rocks. We ended getting up very high. Here is our group up top from below. I have no idea now how we got up there. Apparently we weren't looking down.
And here I am from the top of those rocks. What an amazing trip!