A Day Playing on the Rocks
See photos of this excursion in different seasons
Duration: 6-8 hours, year round
transportation by car to the reserve and back to the city;
English-speaking guide service;
picnic/lunch on the mountains
The 6-8 hour trip starts with about an hour drive to the Stolby Nature Preserve entrance depending on where you are beginning in the city. You head south from the Yenisey River and into the neighboring valleys for only a short distance before its time to start the hiking. From the park gate it is a 4 km hike along a dirt service road to the first Stolby rocks. It took us about an hour, but it could take up to two depending on your pace and the weather since there are some steep sections and this section, as a whole, is all at an incline. Once amongst the rocks there isn’t much hiking around involved since they are relatively close to each other, unless you chose to visit some of the more southern ones, which are a few more kilometers away.
Once you finish this section and after catching your breath you’ll head to the first rock, titled as such. Below it sits the “little elephant” which is a short little rock and amusing to attempt to climb. It has few, if any, handholds, but some people there manage to scramble the three meters to the top.
From here you’ll hike around the first rock and towards the “Grandfather,” which from a particular angle has the distinct appearance of a grandfather’s face. It’s easily noticeable and makes for a good picture. There is an easy way to rock scramble up the side here to get a good view of the surrounding valleys and rock formations.
Stolby has some great areas to rock scramble and is well known as a spot for local rock climbers, which you will realize quickly. Some of the best views from the rocks can be achieved only once you climb up and over some of the smaller pieces sometimes as high as 80 meters. These aren’t cliffs but rock outcroppings and boulders that have sheered off along the sides. It’s obvious where ropes are needed and where people can climb up unassisted. This allows you to get about the tree line. Some are more technical than others, but all require a little confidence, some sturdy shoes, and the ability to pull yourself up a body-length. It might be tricky for people with a fear of heights because once you’re on top of these rocks the edges on other sides lead to drop offs. If you can handle a few scraps and have a little adventure in you, there won’t be a problem at all and there are any number of different places to get good views from, some more difficult or easier than others.
After Grandfather you’ll visit Feathers which from the right angle looks like birds feathers which thin rock spires reaching upwards, and also Lion’s Gate which is actually two rocks with a rock in between suspended in air. There isn’t any way for you to climb up Feathers without climbing gear, but Lions Gate has some good views of some of the more distant rocks of the park.
From here you head to the Third and Forth rocks, which are the easiest to climb up and in my opinion have the best views. There’s a lot of room to climb around here and see different angles. We saw a helicopter flying around and took shelter underneath an overhang for lunch when it started to rain lightly. This was the most accessible and fun rock of them all.
From here we wandered in the woods for a bit and then ended up at the Second rock. Remember these aren’t named in the order we saw them but are actual called the First, Second, Third, and Fourth rocks. The Second rock is rather large and has a beautiful cliff side that is best seen from one of the accessible sides or its neighbor Mitra. Depending on the time of day you’ll find a lot of other people here, some stuck in places they can’t get down from others relaxing and on their way up. Here there are some easy routes to climb and also a few more difficult ones.
If you are full of energy you can keep going and head south towards Firma and Manskaya Baba. This is quite a trip adding at least another 7 kilometers to the overall trip. I never saw them myself but if you are still raring to go there is no reason not to.
It’s a strenuous day but not unbearable if you’re in decent shape. You’ll want a good pair of shoes, preferable hiking boots of some type, but they need not be some expedition style boot. You’ll also want to wear long pants since there are lots of ticks earlier in the summer. Also bring a decent amount of water since it is a 6 to 8 hour trip and has a lot of short steeps you’ve got to navigate in the woods. If you like to “play on the rocks” then this is the perfect place for you; I sure had a lot of fun.
By Brian Wilmot, USA
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