RaftSiberia Logo The Katun River

Rising Water on the Argut

We came to the entrance of Sapozhnikov Tube in the late afternoon and scouted this very long rapid. From the high shelf of the left bank it seemed to us that it was not too complicated. We decided to organize camp just below the rapid and run it the next morning. By the time we came back to our catamarans, the rain poured in torrents. It continued for two hours and we waited under the small rocky shelf for it to end. We built our tents among the wet bushes and high grass in the dark, had dinner around a campfire under the rock's overhang, and went to sleep. In the Middle of the night I awoke because it was really raining cats and dogs. The downpour continued until midday.

When we looked at the river after the rain, we couldn't recognize it. The speed of stream had increased strongly, and the water had changed its color from gray to dark brown. It carried a lot of bushes and logs and was rising before our eyes. And there were no eddies for our catamarans to stop.

We could not wait for the level to fall and therefore decided to organize double bank support before the next extremely dangerous rapid. We began with two catamarans because our idea was to have support from the water in case there was an accident.

The run was giant slalom (more than 1 km long) on very heavy, extremely fast water among very deep holes - our slalom "gates." From the bank the holes did not seem very big, but they looked very unpleasant: the white foam had changed its color to dirty brown.

I cannot say that we ran this slalom distance clean that day. We worked hard but there was not enough power to cross the stream between two holes. And then we fell down into a deep hole. The water was so dense that the catamarans could not go through the hole - a very unusual situation for catamarans. We stopped and surfed for several very long instants. The front paddlers pulled the catamarans with all their power and we went out. We passed tens of such holes during this kilometer. Sometimes it was close to our limit. When we stopped near our bank support team, we could not muster the strength to leave the catamarans. We had no power and our hands were shaking.

After this we waited for our third catamaran. It was a long and very difficult wait for us. We could not see the whole section of the river, only the final 200 meters. We wondered, what will we see in a second: a working crew or a flipped boats and heads of swimmers? But they've been lucky as we were this day. We've won this game with the river.

Razdel'nyy Rapid

We began from the mouth of the Yungur and very soon entered the lower canyon of the Argut. It was such a nice, picturesque canyon! We met only a couple of simple rapids and decided that all extreme things had been left behind us.

The canyon began to widen. A "beach" of large boulders appeared along the left bank. Then we saw that high vertical cliffs had "locked" the gorge at the end of the straight section. We stopped our catamaran at the beginning of the "chain" of standing waves. We walked 100 meters and saw the "end of the idyll." The stream became more and more narrow and the waves bigger and bigger. After the last huge water "mountain," all the water in the narrows just across the end of our "beach" fell down and created a large hole. There was only one way - through this hole. The low overhang on the right and several rocks on the left followed the hole. Then strong current pressed on and under the right wall with a number of undercuts. The memorial plaque on the left wall supported our far from enthusiastic impression.

After a stormy discussion, most of our people decided to portage this rapid. It was a short, but difficult portage. My crew waited for them. The sun sank and shade fell down on the rapid. Without sun it looked very gloomy.

We started when two of the catamarans were portaged downstream. The entrance of the rapid was very simple. We tried to keep our catamarans in the center of stream, but the last huge standing wave threw us toward the right wall. It was a surprise for us. The hole was not so terrible - we passed it easily, like a needle through silk, but then the stream strongly pushed us under the overhang of the rocky wall. We paddled as never before, trying to come out of the undercut, but the stream "nailed" us into the rocky ledge. It was a very short contact and in ten seconds we could take a breath. One paddle and the frame of our catamaran were bent.

It was a strange feeling: we did not feel victory. The water made with us what it wanted. We had been a toy for the stream. We were lucky. But Timur Mustafin, whose name was on the memorial plaque, did not have such luck. Now the bent paddle hanging on the wall in our partner's home reminds us of rapid "Razdel'nyy."

- an excerpt from Rivers of an Unknown Land by Vladimir Gavrilov

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