I was sitting in Sunpath Hostel after seven days in the Gobi Desert. Exhausted, there was a couple Russian guidebooks on the table. Robyn told to check out the Krasnoyarsk section (specifically Stolby National Park) as I might prefer it over Yekaterinburg. My pronunciation of the Russian towns, Yekaterinburg, Irkutsk and Krasnoyarsk were abysmal early on so reading Stolby National Park was already earning itself brownie points. A quick read about the Stolby National Park mentioned hiking. Sold! Hiking in Siberia sounds epic to me.
We planned to go hiking on the second day in Krasnoyarsk, before jumping straight on the 67 hour train ride to Moscow because we’re disgusting like that. We stayed at Kiwi Hostel and were offered to go with the owner of the hostel on a guided tour which we refused as we wanted our own adventure and he was charging a silly amount.
We left the hostel by 7am or so with all our baggage we made it to the train station to pop it all in storage. For various reasons we mucked around longer than expected but soon enough we caught a bus to the Krasnoyarsk Opera House before getting a second bus to the start of the national park. (I cannot recall bus numbers we took, but the maps at the bus station are helpful and you can work out what you need to catch very easily).
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On arrival, we were stoked, minimal people and after a wee mishap taking the wrong track we were soon following the creek to the official starting point. None of the cafes/info sites were open at this point but there were locals getting in their usual walk and the odd family on an adventure.
The first few kilometres hiking in Siberia wasn’t exactly exciting, whereas Zakopane was straight into it. Following a paved road a majority of the way up though there were a couple nice picnic areas on the way up. We blasted on, and eventually we saw the first stolby.What Is A Stolby?
We are not exactly sure if it is just the name of the park or not, but the huge rocky cliffs that jutted out of the ground are what we called stolbys (you can see them clearly on the maps.me app).
Climbing The Stolby National Park Icons
We were impressed by the sheer size of the first stolby we saw, out of nowhere the rock just rises out of the ground like something you see on cartoons. After taking some obligatory snaps, we wandered around it and eventually I saw Leeza wrangle her way up a few metres. It looked awkward and there was no chance of me repeating it so was chilling until I saw a climber coming down fast. Curiously I had to go see his stolby exit point and before I knew it I was running up the stolby good as gold. Leeza somehow made it up to where I was and Robyn was back on the scene having scaled up from another point. We continued up and now that we knew there was a flag at the top we had to at least give it a good crack reaching it. The next obstacle, a cave, Robyn and Leeza made it thanks to their wicked flexibility and having ditched my shoes I was still stranded at the bottom thinking my ascent was finished. Determination is awesome though and I scaled up a different route eventually joining them again
. We were having a blast, the views over the Stolby National Park were already epic. The colours of the trees were crazy, with the fall colours contrasting like you are look at a puzzle.
road rock block. Robyn gave it a crack by spidering up between two rock faces she could barely fit between and with a struggle and the willingness to get an awesome photo in action was enough motivation for her to make it up (getting down could wait for later). Leezas turn, she decided to climb a long tree branch near the rock face and with assistance from Robyn who ensured the branch didn’t sway further away she also made it.
And then they left. Poor Jub was forgotten about.
I tried snooping around for an angle I could tackle and eventually found a possible spot 25 metres or so from where they made it up. Squeezing in a tight space it was slightly risky when it was time to geo up, I had to hope and pray the feet would grip enough and thanks to the big fella upstairs they did.
By the time I approached the summit, the girls were coming on down after their token selfies but the legends came back up with me for my share of token flag wielding photos (and a selfie or two). In the meantime, we were feeling bad for Holly having essentially ditched her at the bottom.
It was time to get down and it took a little bit of creativity but we got down the last hurdle via the route I came and rather than scrambling back down the cave we went outside it thanks to Robyn knowing some bouldering skills already. Before long we were at the bottom and sore. The best full body workouts are fun!
Five minutes later and it was picnic time. Our pic efforts in the last week were tough, Olkhon Island had been rough weather wise but we found a perfect spot near a Stolby for our manufactured sammies.
Eventually we moved on, the general consensus was to reach the furtherest Stolby on the map. By this time the park had become inundated with tourists and locals, though it was definitely evident we were one of few foreigners. The tracks were well defined and we carried on for another 45 minutes or so, navigating some wetter areas. Eventually we reached ‘the end Gobi’, nature was calling by this time so we did our biz and then realised we had missed a turn off and were not the ‘end boss’.
Luckily we are mature sometimes and decided to head back ensuring we didn’t cut it too close with the train. Maturity insisted we do a loop and…well the track started disappearing on us. We stumbled along the barely recognisable track, well away from where anyone else. We had our faith in maps.me which had us on a trail still though the unspoken consensus was everyone was a little unsure on how ‘on track’ we were. Eventually we started passing stolbys again as our pace quickened and before long we had made the loop back to the stolby we climbed earlier in the day.
By now people were everywhere, I was stoked we made the decision to start early. We headed back to the bus station at the entrance, thrilled with the day we had.
One thing we had been warned about was tick season, and they can be dangerous. We were advised to wear pants and despite not minimal details shorts seemed harmless. Ticks are insanely small, I was the first to spot one making its way through my monkey like arms. If you get a tick bite, you can get lyme disease. Throughout the day we had spotted themselves and on each other, thankfully no biting and made sure we gave ourselves a thorough checkover to make sure all ticks were left in the Stolby National Park….
Despite our best efforts, Leeza came across a tick bite a couple days later with the tick still in there. That threw off alarms of course, but after plenty of research she deemed herself okay as the tick type did not appear to be one of the ‘baddies’. No doctors visit was required and she is fighting fit too this day.
If you are in Krasnoyarsk, 100% go hiking in Siberia at Stolby National Park. It was one of my Russian highlights. Take the bus to the entrance point (free entrance) and have a blast walking and climbing around. We know a couple who arrived from Irkutsk in the morning, went to the park and got back on the train in the evening and while I would not recommend that, it is by no means impossible.