(Editor's note: Elsa Evans-Kummer, of Onchiota, is living in Gorno-Altaisk, in the Altai Republic in Siberia, Russia, with her mother and sister until Dec. 1. She plans to write a regular column for the Just for Kids page about her impressions of living there.)
This past weekend, I was lucky enough to go out of Gorno city and head south to see a glacier, as well as some petroglyphs along the way. Our first day was uneventful, consisting of a long (really only three hours) squished car ride. When we arrived at our halfway point, everyone was exhausted. Fortunately we did have enough energy after dinner to have an energetic snowball fight (except that the snow was too dry to make balls). Bright and early the next morning, we got on the road headed to Kalbak Tash (Tash means 'stone or rock'), where we hoped to see the petroglyphs. When we arrived, the tour business was closed, but we had no problem sneaking around the wooden fence to see the ancient art. There are petroglyphs from three different ages on the rocks, the Late Stone age, the Bronze age and the Iron age. The petroglyphs were discovered by the road workers who were making space for a new highway. It is believed that because there are the three different types of rock art on the hillside it may have been an important trail of some sort. I imagine it would be hard to find another reason for three ages, some more than a thousand years apart, to be in the same place in a landscape with no shortage of rock to be decorated.
One can tell the difference between the drawings from the Bronze Age and the Iron Age because the were evidently crafted differently. In the Stone and Bronze ages, the petroglyphs were made by hammering a pointed stone into rock to make an indent. This process was continued until the picture was finished. In the Iron Age, however, the drawing shows signs of a sharp tool being used to carve in a picture. The drawings were spectacular, some faded and some very clear. I'd say it took us about an hour to clear the petroglyphs, but eventually we did hit the road again and headed towards Koshagoch, our final destination.
The mountains surrounding Koshagoch looked somewhat like like the grand Tetons caped with snow. We took the bumpiest Uazik (Soviet army issue jeep) ride in the world to the path that lead up to the glacier. It was full of no roads, driving through rivers, helping another Uazik stuck in the river ice (a dilemma that took us quite a while to resolve) and falling off cliffs (that may be a bit exaggerated). All of this was through two feet of fresh white snow! Finally we arrived at the trail head that lead to the glacier. The glacier's name is Aktru, and the valley we were walking in was the Aktru Valley. It is a narrow valley surrounded by several glaciers and tall craggy peaks - spectacularly beautiful. I was surprised how much the glacier has receded in the since 2004. Judging from the big empty valley which until recently held the glacier ice, I'd say it must have receeded over 100 meters in the past 8 years. The glacier looked like a part of the mountain, that was blue-green glass. It did not look like the glaciers that the movie "Ice Age" would have you believe exist. But it was my first glacier, and that makes it pretty cool!