Magnificent Golden Mountains of Altai

Where the countries of China, Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan come together, lies the Golden Mountains of Altai (alternatively Altay). The Turkish believe the Altay Mountains to be their place of birth, and in Turkic, the word Altay or Alytau, means gold for the “Al” and mount for the “tau”. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was named the Golden Mountains of Altai, consists of Mount Belukha, the Ukok Plateau, the Altai and Katun Natural Reserves and Lake Teletskoye. Not only is protecting these sites as heritage sites important for the preservation of the subalpine vegetation, mixed forests, forest steppe and alpine vegetation, but assists in the conservation of the endangered Altai Argali and the snow leopard.

The Golden Mountains of Altai is a heritage site that stretches over vast distances. Kolyvan Altai, also known as the Sailughem Mountains, are located in the northern part of the region. It extends to the northeast, to the western side of the Sayan Mountains. On the southern side of the mountains, the snow line runs at 2 400 meters and on the north it runs at 2 000 meters. There are very few mountain passes that cross the range, and those that do exist are not easily navigated. The great plateau of Mongolia flanks the mountains of the east and southeast, together with smaller plateaus. Lakes are found around this region, for example the Kobdo-Nor and the Ubsa-Nor.

The Sailugem Mountains are tremendously difficult to access, as the northern and north western slopes are very steep. It is home to the highest summit, namely Belukha which is double-headed, and the summits are at 4 506 and 4 440 meters. Lofty peaks and spurs are scattered around this area, together with glaciers and the Tomsk lowlands. On the south western slope of Belukha, starts the wild gorge that becomes Katun Valley, and gorge river then runs into the Katun Alpes. It follows through a wider valley to unite with the Biya, which together with the Katun, forms the Ob.

Another valley found within the Golden Mountains of Altai range is the Charysh that is flanked by the Korgon and Tigeretsk Alps and the Talitsk and Bashalatsk Alps, on either side. The granite domes and towers make this area one of the most breathtaking and picturesque of the range. The Uba, Ulba and Bukhtarma valleys are found further west toward the Irtysh. The Riddersk mine is located in the Ulba valley, near the Ivanovsk Peak. The center of the Bukhtarma Valley has been populated since the 18th century, and in 1869 the area was annexed to Russia. The Eastern Altai, or Mongolian Altai, separates the Kobob basin and the Irtysh basin.

With vast amounts of mountain ranges, lakes, summits and valleys, the Golden Mountains of Altai, is a beautiful landscape of vegetation, animal life and bird life. The peaceful and magical sites support the decision to declare it a heritage site, as the destruction of the region would be a devastating loss for generations.


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