|Difficulty in August:||4 (5)|
|From:||Karagem Meadows – Alt. 1920 m (6300 ft)|
|To:||Argut Confluence - Alt. 1280 m (4200 ft)|
|Distance:||45 km (28 miles)|
|River Days:||2-3 (plus 1 day trekking in)|
|Average Gradient:||14 m/km (70 ft/mile)|
|Est. Max Gradient:||25-30 m/km (125-150 ft/mile)|
|Typical Flow in August:||20-30 cms (700-1000 cfs)|
The Karagem is a medium size right tributary of Argut, joining it right after its [in]famous Karagem Breach. The Karagem run is naturally continued by the Argut, and indeed nearly all groups combine Karagem and Argut as a single trip.
The river origins from a closed valley squeezed between snowy North- and South- Chuya Ranges and flows nearly straight west all the way to the confluence. The most difficult is first 8-10 km of the river known as “upper” or “first” gorge; the rest of it consists of mostly standalone rapids separated by easy water or even long flat stretches.
Being surrounded by many snowy peaks, the Karagem has significant glacier flow component. During sunny days water level rises sharply in the afternoon, especially in the upper gorge.
Access & Logistics
A rough local road forks the Chuya Road at the village of Ortolyk, just few kilometers below Kosh-Agach, the last major settlements on this route before the Mongolian border. This local road used to go to a small village of Beltir, but the village was recently destroyed by an earthquake and is now abandoned. The road still goes further and sharply climbs a 2800 m (9200 ft) Karagem pass before disappearing in swampy fields beyond.
In the past, the road went all the way down to the large terraces on the shores of Karagem, known as Karagem Meadows, and was used by locals to bring construction wood from there (the upper Chuya basin is almost completely woodless). Nowadays, though, the road is not being maintained anymore and in fact does not exist beyond the pass. From here you have to hike some 10-12 km down to the river; most likely by yourself as nearest villages are too far and chances to find any horses around the pass are pretty much zero.
The take-out is possible at the Argut confluence, where a rough road goes up the Argut, then along its tributary, the Djazator and along Mongolian border back to Kosh-Agach. This route is very long though (full day drive to Kosh-Agach); therefore it is much easier and makes much more sense to keep paddling down the Argut. See Argut description for details about the river and the take-out.
The entire trip must be planned completely self-supported; there are no settlements along the way. Emergency escape from the upper (most difficult) part of the river is better done by hiking back via Karagem pass; from the lower stretches you may use the road mentioned above to hike up the Argut valley to the Djazator village, situated at the confluence of the tributary of the same name (about 30 km or 19 miles). Note that local traffic does not exist on this road and you must be very lucky to find a vehicle around Karagem confluence.