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River Guide • Altai • Shavla
Rivers by Region

Difficulty in August: 4-
From: Shabaga Confluence – Alt. 1640 m (5380 ft)
To: Argut Confluence - Alt. 870 m (2850 ft)
Distance: 40 km (25 miles)
River Days: 2 (plus 1 day trekking in and 1 day paddling out)
Average Gradient: 19 m/km (95 ft/mile)
Est. Max Gradient: 20-25 m/km (100-125 ft/mile)
Typical Flow in August: 15-20 cms (500-700 cfs)
Best Season: July-August
First-hand Information: YES

Shavla area map
Shavla area map

The Shavla is a low to medium size right tributary of Argut, joining it in its lower stretches. It is quite similar to another right Argut tributary, the Karagem, but slightly shorter, easier, and avoids most of the Argut’s difficult big volume whitewater. Another attraction of the trip are famous Shavla Lakes, just few hours walk up the valley from usual put-in. All this makes Shavla very popular journey, despite the trek required to get to the river.

The river actually flows straight out of Lower Shavla Lake and first 1.5-2 km are full-on class 5 to unrunnable, but huge amount of trees stuck in the river make this section mostly unfeasible. River then flattens out and remains mostly flat (with one more steep stretch, equally log infested) until Shabaga comes in from the right. Still, logs remain a problem all the way down the river; however by the end of season most of them are usually removed by cataraft groups.

First half of the river is very continuous class 3 to 4, with definite lack of long pools in high water; while the rest of it is merely class 2 all the way to Argut confluence. In low water conditions it may take as little as 5-6 hours of eddy hopping to run the whole river; but in high water quite a lot of scouting is required.

Access & Logistics
A rough local road forks the Chuya Road at the village of Chibit, just few kilometers below Aktash, one of the major settlements on this route. This local road then goes up the Majoy Gorge of the Chuya River, where the Chuya Road itself detours around a huge hill. The road then crosses the Chuya near Majoy confluence (the place is commonly known as Majoy Bridge, see Chuya description for more details), climbs up the Oroi pass and then disappears on local pastures.

From the pass it is quite easy 8-10 km trek down along the small stream called Shabaga (Eshtykol on the upper plateau). The trail is quite busy with many trekking groups going to Shavla Lakes, but they usually start directly from Chibit and use a shortcut way and not the road via Majoy Bridge. Note the trail actually skips the Shabaga confluence on a large forested terrace (and goes straight up the Shavla towards the lakes), so don’t miss the spot.

While last 3-4 km of Shabaga are definitely runnable, there are so many trees stuck in the stream that it does take much longer to paddle it.

There is nowhere to look for horses on the pass, so if you really do not want to carry your gear you should arrange them in Chibit and start trekking from there (about 25-30 km on a shortcut trail).

The first road at the end of the journey is the Chuya Road at the Chuya - Katun confluence; it takes about 5-7 hours to paddle lower Argut and then Katun to reach it.

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 Oroi pass.

River Description

Shabaga to Achik, 20 km (13 miles) – 1-1.5 days
From the put-in the river is so steady and continuous, that it makes no sense to describe it in details. In low water most of it can be run from the boat; although high water makes things much more difficult. There are 2 or 3 rapids that usually require scouting in any water level.

The Achik confluence (from the right) is actually indistinguishable from all other streams, it is just a name of the place where gorge opens and the river gradually eases.

As this part of the river is very continuous, especially in high water, beware of trees and do not go around blind corners.

Achik to Argut confluence, 20 km (13 miles) – 0.5-1 day
After upper half of the river this section definitely feels boring all the way down. There are mainly trivial class 2 rapids; but the current is fast enough and this stretch is easily done in 2-3 hours.

As you enter the Argut, continue down to Katun confluence, the down Katun to Chuya confluence and take out there or few kilometers further down at Inya village (see Argut description for details).

View from Oroi pass Lower Shavla Lake Typical rapids of Shavla Typical rapids of Shavla
Typical rapids of Shavla Typical rapids of Shavla Typical rapids of Shavla Typical rapids of Shavla

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