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River Guide • Altai • Greater Chili
Rivers by Region

Difficulty in August: 5 (5+)
From: Aba Confluence - Alt. 1400 m (4590 ft)
To: Teletskoye Lake - Alt. 440 m (1450 ft)
Distance: 40 km (25 miles)
River Days: 3-5 (plus 1-2 days trekking in)
Average Gradient: 25 m/km (125 ft/mile)
Est. Max Gradient: 60-70 m/km (300-350 ft/mile)
Typical Flow in August: 10-20 cms (350-700 cfs)
Best Season: July-August
First-hand Information: YES

Greater Chili area map
Greater Chili area map

The Greater Chili is (besides the Chulyshman) the biggest side stream of Teletskoye Lake. Unlike the Chulysman which has a well-developed lower valley, the Chili makes hard way cutting through the mountainous lakeside and creating one of the hardest whitewater in the Altai.

The river starts on the plateau west to the lake, not far from lower Chulyshman valley and for the first 20-30 km it just collects water from many small streams. After last significant tributary, Aba, comes in from the right, the Chili flows to the north, parallel to the lake and the Chulyshman. All this section is quite easy and boring.

After the valley swings to the east, the Chili enters a narrow 15 km long gorge that cuts the lakeside mountains. This stretch drops nearly 700 m, and is almost continuous class 5 with some terrific portages. The river eases only within a kilometer before the lake.

Access & Logistics
The way to the put-in requires trekking from lower Chulyshman valley, which in turn can be accessed by the Ulagan – Teletskoye Lake road (see Bashkaus and Chulyshman descriptions for details).

The trek starts along a good but steep trail (used by locals to bring their herds to the summer pastures on the plateau), about one kilometer below Balykcha, the major village on the lower Chulyshman. It should be generally possible to arrange horses here if you’re not keen to be a horse yourself.

The trail winds up the left side of the Chulyshman valley (along the small stream called Achelman), gaining some 800-900 m of altitude before it flattens out on the plateau. The trail then gradually ascents another 600-700 m and crosses a pass leading to the Aba valley, the tributary of the Chili. The trail along the Aba is rarely used and is much worse than the Achelman trail.

The put-in is right at the confluence of the Aba and Chili (do not try to paddle Aba, it has mainly rocks and trees rather than water in the riverbed). Overall trek distance is about 25-30 km (15-18 miles) and can be done by a well fit group in 1.5 - 2 days (or perhaps in one day with horses).

Take-out is at the entrance into Teletskoye Lake, where there is a hunting / fishing camp and you will be almost unavoidable welcomed with Russian sauna, food and vodka. There is no problem to find a motor ship here to go to either end of the lake.

Remember that the whole trip is completely self-supported, there are no roads or settlements between Balykcha and the lake and there are no people inside the lakeside gorge (where you are supposed to spend most of the time).

Emergency escape from the gorge is only possible over the mountains on the right side (back to Balykcha). There is no passable path through the gorge, but if you are within 5-6 km from the lake, it perhaps worth to hike along the river. There is a trail along the left bank going from the lake 2-3 km up the gorge, but otherwise both sides of the river have so many cliffs that frequent crossings are nearly unavoidable.

The Chili valley is a bear-prone area, so create as much noise as possible when scouting and portaging and do not leave unwashed dishes and scattered food in the camp for the night.

River Description

Aba to Enmis, 25 km (15 miles) – 1 day
Below Aba confluence the Chili is mainly class 1-2, with occasional class 3 rapids. The valley remains quite open (comparing to what you will find later). Despite relatively easy water, there are plenty of trees in the river, so be wary and don’t go around blind corners.

At the end of this sections the valley gradually turns east and a small tributary, Enmis comes in from the right while another unnamed stream comes in from the left just opposite, creating a valley intersection. There used to be a local trail along these tributaries and so even a bridge across the Chili, but it seems to be abandoned now and the remains of the bridge are hardly noticeable.

Enmis to Teletskoye Lake, 15 km (9 miles) – 2-4 days
Few hundred meters below Enmis the valley narrows drastically and first serious rapids appear – you’ll hardly miss the spot. First 4-5 kilometers of the gorge are mainly class 4/4+ and are generally all runnable, but again, beware of trees and scout all blind corners.

After about 5 km (1/3 of the gorge), the river nearly flattens for several hundred meters before dropping into extremely hard class 5/5+ rapid, squeezed between steep cliffs. Scouting and portaging is very difficult and neither shore can be particularly recommended. The only significant tributary in the gorge, Kurumbu, comes in from the right in the middle of the rapid and adds nearly 1/4 of the volume to the river.

The 7-8 km section after Kurumbu is the steepest and the most difficult part of the river, full of class 5 rapids and unrunnable stuff. The number of trees decreases though (possibly because of increased volume); however scouting is necessary for almost every stretch. There are several noticeable (not particularly difficult but rather photogenic) 4-6 m drops in the second half of this section.

Last 2-3 km before Teletskoye Lake the river gradually eases to class 4 and finally to class 2 just before confluence. The valley here opens a bit and you can see the mountains on the opposite side of the lake.

Teletskoye Lake from the Achelman trail Trekking to the put-in Chili near Aba confluence Beginning of the gorge below Enmis
Section above Kurumbu Tough portage over the cliffs near Kurumbu Some hard stuff below Kurumbu Some more hard stuff
Section below Kurumbu One of the bigger drops at the end of the gorge Another bigger drop at the end of the gorge Entering Teletskoye Lake

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