"Altay", the "Gold Mountains" system of Asia, is located in the territory of Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. It extends over 2000 km, with a maximum width of 500 km, from the northwest (the West Siberian Plain) to the south-east (Gobi). The highest mountain is Belukha (4506m).
The Altay Mountains have retained a remarkably stable climate since the last ice age. It is known more than 1300 glaciers, covering about 900 sq.km, and 3500 salty and fresh water lakes. Soil and vegetation zones are clearly expressed: mountain-steppe, mountain forest and alpine. Fir, cedar, mixed fir and larch forests dominate here. The alpine zone has common subalpine and alpine meadows, and mountain tundra. Altay’s climate is continental. The average summer temperature is +25°C, day time.
Since the last ice age the Altay mammals have remained almost the same – with a few exceptions such as extinct Mammoths – making it one of the few places on Earth to retain an ice age fauna.
The Altay Mountains were home to the Denisova branch of hominids who were contemporaries of Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens. The Denisova hominin, dated to 40,000 years ago, was discovered in the Denisova Cave of the Altay mountains in southern Siberia in 2008. The same cave has uncovered Neanderthal bones and tools made by Homo sapiens, making it the only known place in the world where all three hominids lived together. Dog-like bones, dated to around 33,000 years ago, were found in the Razboinichya Cave. DNA analysis published in 2013 affirmed that these bones were more similar to modern dogs than wolves.
The Altay Mountains have been identified as the point of cultural origin of the Seima-Turbino Phenomenon. This culture arose during the Bronze Age, 2nd millennium BC, and caused a rapid and massive migration of people from the region towards distant parts of Europe and Asia.
Altay still keeps many secrets: barrows, “Stonehenge”, Princesses Uooka, geoglyphs, petroglyphs... Altay has also many wonderful geological features: sedimentary rocks, tectonic faults and deformations. Outcrops of incredibly mixed magmatic rocks provide wonderful sceneries.
Today Altay Mountains is a popular tourist destination for skiing, rafting, hiking or for simply enjoying quiet rest and beautiful nature.
You will have a chance to try delicious local cuisine that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, listen to unbelievable stories, history and geo-histories that will definitely make you see things differently.
Welcome to Geo Trip – Altay!
Altay cuisine is mostly milk and meat based. From top to bottom, - Barley soup - Kocho, bread, shashlik, Araki from fermented milk 12-16% alcohol.
The Gorny Altay, which is a part of the Altay-Sayan orogenic area (ASOA), is one of the biggest orogenic chain of Central Asia. It is a complex folded system with a long history of formation. The Paleozoic structure of ASOA includes many terranes – tectonic elements: microcontinents, island arcs and oceanic islands formed at different stages of the Paleo Asian ocean evolution. The Paleozoic orogeny is a result of the collision of Kazakhstan, Siberian and Tarim continental blocks. The Russian-Kazakh part of Altay formed at the southern margin of the Siberian continent and represents the first stage of Central Asia orogenic tectonic evolution belt. Four major tectonic areas can be identified within the Russian-Kazakh Altay: Altay-Mongolian terrane, Gorny Altay subduction-accretionary terrane, Rudny Altay island-arc terrane and Kalba-Narym collisional terrane. The terranes are separated by suture-shear zones.
The Gorny Altay has a mosaic structure and many differently oriented tectonic dislocations. Its terrane consists of Caledonian and Hercynian subduction-accretionary and collisional units. The subduction-accretionary complexes include fragments of ophiolites and seamounts accreted to island arcs and/or active continental margins. The Charysh-Terekta suture-shear zone separates Gorny Altay terrane from the Altay-Mongolian unit. The Kurai suture-shear zone separates the Gorny Altay terrane from West Mongolia terranes.The Altay-Mongolian terrane also has a complicated geodynamic evolution. The terrane is dominated by Precambrian rhythmically bedded quartz-feldspar or polymictic sandstones, siliceous and phyllitic shales and slates. Rhythmic flyschoid units are isoclinal folded and transgressively overlapped by Ordovician-Devonian units. Grey marine sediments are formed during the Ordovician and early Silurian ages. The early Devonian is characterized by the island-arc volcanic complexes which overlie the Neoproterozoic-early Cambrian and Ordovician-Silurian units. A large volcanic belt of the Andean type was formed in the Devonian time, and the intrusion of granites in the Late Devonian and Early Carboniferous marked the collisional development of the area. Coal-bearing molass was accumulated in the Late Paleozoic. The next Meso-Cenozoic stage is characterized by a continental regime with mountains destruction and weathering crust from Late Cretaceous – Early Paleogene to early Paleogene. The next stage of tectonic activity started in the Late Paleogene due to the Indo-Australian and Eurasian lithospheric plate collision.
The field trip will include a visit to the region where the common structures of the Altay Mongolian and Gorny Altay terranes are present.
Please, know that caring gems over the Russian boarder is forbidden. Please do not take the precious stones out of rocks, leave them to be observed by generations.
1. Sedimentary textures in recent sediments
2. Cristal quarts in Sandstones
3. Conglomerates with volcanic material
4. Fauna Devon - colonial corals
5. Eathquakeed terass
6. Fillite cleat
7. "Border Ordovician and Silurian" Carbonate replaces Silurian Ordovician terrigenous more. Upturned bedding
8. Permian dikes in the Silurian marbles
One of the route:
- Arrival in Novosibirsk, Geo-, Paleo-, and Arkhi – Museums visits. Excursion in the Akademgorodok – the famous Scientific Center in Siberia. Hotel.
1st day – departure from Novosibirsk to first stop. Hotel or Camp – Ice break.
Relics of the oceanic crust, pillow lava - volcanic products at the bottom of the oceans, Cambrian age.
2nd day – Camp1
Mineralogical Museum, Archaeological Park. Mammoths and dinosaurs.
3rd day – Camp1
Siberian cedars and flowering grasses; Altay and Mongolian local market – you can buy herbs, balms and the real mountain honey!; igneous rocks: diorites with xenoliths of gabbro (Devonian), dolerite dikes (Permian) and postmagmatic processes results – epidote veins, mylonite; huge deposits of glacial floods composing many terraces in the river valleys – results of megafloats.
4th day – Hotel
Tectonic mélange, hot contact zone of batholith and marbles, where skarns are formed on (diopside-epidotot-garnet); Silurian fauna, Permian dikes; the boundary between Ordovician and Silurian sediments; different kinds of deformation: tectonic breccias, folds, boudinage, flexures, cleavage, fracture, etc.; petroglyphs; Ordovician clastic stratum; glacial trough valleys; paleontological Devonian screes - corals and shells.
5th day – Camp2
Vermilion, mercury deposit (HgS). Geyser Lake. «Stone mushrooms» – natural monument in boulder pebble Quaternary sediments .
6th day – Camp2
Mountain Ridges – the result of the Alpine orogeny; bottom of the glacial lake where water had gone during gigantic breaks; carboniferous continental sediments with remains of flora, glaciological dislocation in glacial deposits.
7th day – Hotel
Ediacaran-Cambrian ophiolites – relicts of an oceanic crust: peridotites layers and gabbro – the very bottom of the Earth crust and upper Mantle came to the surface along the deep fault, metamorphosed to serpentinites and amphibolites; «Martian landscapes» of Devonian volcanic and sedimentary rocks and Cretaceous-Paleogene kaolin weathering crust with an angular unconformity; about one kilometer of the Devonian outcrops.
8th day – Hotel or Camp
Neogene stromatolites – fossils cyanobacterial mats, formed as a result of bacterial community activity. Stromatolites are known since the Archean age, 3.45 billion years (In modern times these stromatolites are present only in Shark Bay on the west coast of Australia, and on the Atlantic coast of the Bahamas); the box fold in colored Devonian sediments; the consequences of the recent earthquake (2003) – fractures and seismic landslide; barrows and petroglyphs at the Altay part of Great Silk Road going from eastern China!
9th day – Return to Novosibirsk, Hotel
- Departure for Oslo