Experiencing the Air
Mountain and Rock Climbing
If you are an adventurer who likes to get away from it all—someone who seeks the seclusion of high elevations—Baikal has a vast menu of beautiful mountains waiting for you! The mountaineers who come to Baikal all agree that the climbing here is top notch! The tallest mountain peaks loom over you with power and strength. Then there are easier climbs for less-experienced, but equally adventurous tourists; sure to give you a thrill.
The eastern Sayan Mountains are where you will find the major climbing areas, particularly in the Khamar-Daban, Barguzin, and Pribaikal’ski ranges. For beginners, the best areas for rock-climbing are along the Baikal Shoreline Railroad, and the more gentle slopes near the Olkhin Plateau.
There are a number of good places for intermediate climbers in the Khamar-Daban Range: along the slopes of the Mt Cherskogo, Mt Babkha, the Khan-Ulan, and Oilmen’s Peak. None of these are classified as difficult ascents, but they can still provide plenty of excitement for amateurs.
One of the more intriguing spots for climbing is along the rocky mountain ridge near Tunka, also in the eastern Sayans. There are 6 different categories of climbs, all adjacent to each other, ranging from difficulty 1B to 6A. At Munk-Sardyk, you can climb out of the gorges, along cliffs with names like Soviet Wings, Leonova, Dynamo, and the ominous Dangerous Ridge. At the very top of this Munk-Sardyk route, the climbs are rated between 1B and 2A in difficulty.
The Baikal rock promontory near to the Angasolka Station along the Baikal-Shoreline railroad is a place where experts often train and then compete in special climbing events. There is also a children’s climbing camp every summer.
You can spend weeks traversing the mountains of Baikal. No matter the route you take, no matter your skill level, your time spent climbing above the lake will not be soon forgotten.
Hang Gliding at Baikal
Perhaps the most exhilarating way of experiencing Baikal is to fly above it on a hang-glider. Hang-gliding really does offer a birds-eye view of everything, with nothing but air between you and the ground. And it is so serene up there—there’s only the sound of wind rushing by.
Some locals say that, like nothing else, hang-gliding immerses you in the beauty of Baikal. In flight, you feel a sense of harmony, weightlessness, peace.
Around Baikal, hang-gliding is becoming more and more popular…both for experienced flyers, as well as for those who are just getting the hang of it (pardon the pun). If you’ve never tried it, you can start out safe and fly tandem with a local professional—enjoy all the magnificent views, and simply leave most of the work to the pilot. After a few tandem runs, an instructor can help you prepare for a solo flight—with special training on how to securely fly above Baikal on your own paraglider.
Surprisingly enough, hang-gliders are usually quite easy to control, and are very stable in the air. When you land your speed is usually very moderate. One of the most popular places to fly is opposite Olkhon Island, around the Small Sea. With the prevailing northwest winds, hang-gliders can often been seen launching off gradually descending slopes next to the shoreline villages.
If the wind shifts, then everyone heads 3 miles south of the villages. Some of the more expert flyers will take advantage of the calmer days and climb all the way up the local ridge, only to descend in the air some 1000 feet in elevation to the beaches of Baikal.
The hang-gliding season here is quite long, stretching from mid-March to late October. It’s now more and more common for people who love the great outdoors to try out these gliders while traveling around Baikal. Local Siberians will warn you, however: once you’ve tried it, you’re usually hooked.
Skiing and Snowboarding?
There are several ski resorts in the southern Baikal region. Many local environmentalists, however, have advocated against these resorts because of their impacts on the natural landscape.