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River Guide • Altai • Chuya
Rivers by Region

Difficulty in August: 3 (4)
From: Chibit – Alt. 1130 m (3700 ft)
To: Katun Confluence - Alt. 740 m (2430 ft)
Distance: 80 km (50 miles)
River Days: 2-3
Average Gradient: 5 m/km (25 ft/mile)
Est. Max Gradient: 10-12 m/km (50-60 ft/mile)
Typical Flow in August: 60-80 cms (2100-2800 cfs)
Best Season: June-August
First-hand Information: YES
The Majoy Gorge of Chuya
Difficulty in August: 5 (5+)
From: Majoy Bridge – Alt. 1420 m (4660 ft)
To: Chibit – Alt. 1130 m (3700 ft)
Distance: 15 km (9 miles)
River Days: 1
Average Gradient: 20 m/km (100 ft/mile)
Est. Max Gradient: 25-30 m/km (125-150 ft/mile)
Typical Flow in August: 50-60 cms (1800-2100 cfs)
Best Season: June-August
First-hand Information: YES

Chuya area map
Chuya area map

The Chuya, a significant right tributary of the Katun and is probably most easily accessed rivers in the area. Apart from 15 km stretch, the whole river is followed on its right bank by the Chuya Road, one of the main routes connecting Siberia and Mongolia.

The river gathers its water from many smaller streams in Kosh-Agach basin, a woodless flat steppe adjacent to the Mongolian border. Below the settlement of Kosh-Agach it then meanders for nearly 100 km, occasionally with some easy class 2 sections. This stretch takes a lot of left tributaries coming from snowy Chuya Ranges nearby; and the river below becomes essentially glacier-fed, although morning-evening water fluctuations hardly exist.

Some 15 km upstream of Aktash, a large village on the Chuya Road, the river diverts left and around a huge hill, creating difficult and committing Majoy Gorge (named after a small left tributary at the beginning of it). The road and the river join again at Chibit, a village located couple of kilometers below Aktash.

From here down it is a straightforward class 3 river, with three distinct class 4 rapids in it, all the way down to Katun confluence.

Access & Logistics
Being followed by the road for its whole length, the river access is fairly trivial and put-in and take-out points can be selected pretty much arbitrary.

Most of the groups who are about Majoy Gorge take out at Chibit, as there’s not much for them to do afterwards; on the other hand, those planning lower Chuya usually start at Chibit, as they have equally nothing to do in the gorge. Many groups doing lower Chuya then continue their trip down the Katun River – indeed, it’s obvious choice, as the difficulty is comparable and the lower Katun valley is beautiful and relatively wild.

For the Majoy Gorge, there are two options for the put-in. A rough local road forks at Chibit and goes inside the gorge up to so-called Majoy Bridge in its upper part (then crosses the river and climbs up the Oroi pass, see Shavla description for details). Another way is to follow main Chuya Road, passing by Aktash, to the point where it meets the river again – watch for concrete remains of never-completed Chuya powerhouse; from here it’s about 5 km down to Majoy Bridge with some easy class 2-3 rapids to warm you up. First option gives you the chance to have a look at least at the Presidium rapid and locate the place to get out of the boat for scouting; but the second way is definitely faster – the road inside gorge is far from excellence.

Convenient put-in for the lower Chuya is near a wooden road bridge, 3-4 km downstream from Chibit.

River Description

The Majoy Gorge: Majoy Bridge to Chibit, 15 km (9 miles) – 1 day
This section of the river became quite popular as a destination for “Majoy Rally”, held annually first week of May, when the river is still low but the weather and the water are really icy. The whole stretch is used to be run in about 2 hours, if you know the lines. It is much more difficult in summer high water.

Most of the distance, 10-12 km from Majoy Bridge to Oroi confluence (the only visible tributary in the gorge) can be generally run from the boat, although there are some class 5- in there. If you find yourself scouting most of this stretch, you should then think if it makes sense to go past the Presidium rapid.

From where the Oroi comes in from the left, the most difficult section of the gorge starts, and it is the last point where you can get out for the first class 5/5+ rapid, The Presidium, squeezed in a rock corridor with nearly vertical 30-40 m walls – scout right from the top of the wall. There is a rough suspension bridge at the Oroi confluence; but it is regularly destroyed by floods from time to time, so be wary – the entrance into the canyon downstream leads right into the Presidium.

The rest of the gorge is only 3-4 km long, but is heavily packed with powerful class 5/5+ rapids; thankfully none of them have the both-side wall feature of the Presidium. First kilometer of so can be generally seen from the terraces on the right; but afterwards there’s no passage any close to the water (the road climbs away from the river). It usually calculates as 10-15 separate rapids, but it depends on the water level and upon your perception of the rapid; all prominent ones have their names (all quite meaningless until you know who is who):

  • The Skew
  • The Stuntman
  • The Sieve
  • The Lure
  • The Roller-Coaster
  • The Touchy Person
  • The Kiddy

Finally, the river makes big right arch around a small standalone hill on the right bank and exits into open valley at Chibit.

Chibit to Katun confluence, 80 km (50 miles) - 2-3 days
From the bridge below Chibit it is about 10 km of easy, but fast mowing water; there may be trees in the small channels behind the islands. The valley then narrows and several class 3 rapids follow in the next 5-6 km, then river eases again.

The first class 4 rapid, The Hippo, comes in about 6-7 km and is clearly marked by a solid wooden road bridge across the river – scout left. There is a substantial drop in the middle passage of the bridge and more drops and holes further down.

5-6 km stretch below the Hippo is a quite continuous class 3, with some easier sections in between. The river then eases to nearly flat for almost 30 km, and only around the village of Iodro there are some class 2-3 stretches.

In about 15 km below Iodro, two more class 4 rapids come. First one, The Turbine, can be easily seen from the road on the way up, but has no visible landmarks on the river – it just appears around a sharp left bend. The rapid is more or less straightforward drop split in two channels by a huge rock – scout right. Second rapid, The Horizon, follows after 700-800 m of easy water and has a nasty undercut in the right wall at the end – scout right.

After the Horizon it is about 7-8 km of more or less continuous class 2-3 down to Katun confluence. As you enter the Katun, take out at any convenient place or continue your trip down the Katun (see Katun description for details).

The Majoy Bridge in early May Entrance to the Presidium Inside Majoy Gorge Inside Majoy Gorge
Bridge below Chibit Chuya below Chibit The Hippo The Hippo
A rapid below Hippo The Turbine The Horizon The Horizon

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