photos in this report by Carolyn Cilek, Carol Hiltner, Netra Kaphle, Nick Klimenko, Kylie Martineau, and Igor Zinger

Report by organizer Carol Hiltner on the
2006 INTERNATIONAL ALTAI EXPEDITION
& PEACE-MAPPING “SUMMIT”

As you read this and look at these pictures, you will automatically become aligned with the magical energy of Altai. Such is the power of the region, and such is the clarity our group, that peace can be conveyed through a website. It was a gift to each of us, that we joyfully pass on to you.

Although certainly each of us faced our personal challenges, everyone owned their difficulties as theirs and not someone else’s. And every person in the group reached out to every other, in support and in delight. Never before in my life have I had the privilege of being in such a powerfully conscious group.

One can only access one’s greater Self as one allows healing of the places where the flow of love is shut off. Everyone opened wide. Everyone consciously received the gift of their own Self to which the Altai energy allows access.

The Group

As organizer, I can only express my awe and amazement (and relief) at our fantastically wonderful 100-mile trek to Mt. Belukha in Altai. Thirteen of us, ranging in age from 11 to 63—from Russia, US, Israel, and Nepal, plus three Altai horsemen and a 12-year-old Altai girl (daughter of one of the horsemen) became more than family to each other.
Allow me to introduce us: Standing from left: Maia and Jackie from Seattle; Angela, Alex and his wife Victoria from Moscow; Carolyn from Twisp in eastern Washington State; Altai horsemen Evgeniy and Valentin; Evgeniy’s daughter Aidisha; Nick, Alex’s brother from Moscow, and Altai horseman Arkady. In front, Carol (occasionally from Seattle, otherwise somewhere in Russia); Netra from Nepal; David and Igor, Israelis newly graduated from veterinary school in Slovakia, flanking Sveta from St. Petersburg. In front and ready for play is Carol’s granddaughter Kylie.
We were joined also by two Russian groups out of the Light Center in Moscow. One was the core group of the Light Center, and the other was teenagers from the center who were traveling a different route, but met us at Lake Akkem. Under the Light Center’s leadership we participated in many powerful peace rituals, broadcasting our intention for peace out across the planet on the waves of Altai energy. Logistical challenges (with horses and campsites) kept us from truly merging into one group, but the nature of each group was a factor too:
Members of the Russian group all knew each other well before the trip, and most of them had previously made the trek to Mt. Belukha. They were familiar with the ceremonies and rituals, and their focus and discipline provided a very solid foundation for the formal sacred work of the larger group.

The international group required much more independence for our personal needs. We had elders and children for whom the trek was a significant physical challenge, and the Americans, especially, experienced some culture shock with unfamiliar food, water, language, and customs.

To our mutual delight, members of each group had received signs and prophesies about our joint adventure, and as these appeared, one by one, we were reassured in the rightness of our collaboration.

Expedition Underway

The expedition formally started in Novosibirsk on July 14th. Most of us shared a four-room apartment, where along with all our camping gear, we had all the necessary food and cooking equipment for two and a half weeks.

Personal gear was double-checked, and everyone had what they needed. While the most recent arrivals slept off their jet-lag, our first group effort was doing the final washing, sorting, and packing meals into scores of ziplock bags brought from the US. Then the meals were separated into 4-day piles that were each packed into separate bags to minimize the need for re-sorting. As can be seen in the photo, we were literally knee-deep in food.

Enough of us had limited diets (most commonly no sugar, no wheat, no cow dairy) that I had designed everyone's meals to accommodate the limitations, and hoped that the group would pitch in with the cooking. In preparing our first group dinner, we discovered several gourmet cooks in the group—a sign of good times ahead.

Early on July 15th, thirteen of us loaded our luggage into a trailer and piled into a mini-bus for what turned out to be a 20-hour drive (including meal stops) to the village of Tyungur in southern Altai Republic. It was a long, grueling drive, especially since almost everyone was still jet-lagged. But our “boys in the back” made the most of it, building camaraderie between naps.

Altai Heritage

While I was traveling in Altai earlier in the summer with Marina, she introduced me to her friend Maria Amanchina, a highly respected Altai shaman. Maria had planned to go Mt. Belukha with us, but had gotten a wake-up call from her spirit guides instead, that she needed to pick up her whole household immediately and move across the region to Kosh-Agach, down near the Mongolian border. Altai is dotted with standing stones—somewhat similar to the system of stones in Britain around Stone Henge—and with ancient stone mounds called kurgans, some of which contained mummies and gold artifacts. These photos are taken in the Karakol Valley.
According to Altai wisdom, each of the iron-bearing stones in these mounds was carefully placed with a particular magnetic orientation, designed to stabilize the strong cosmic and earth energies in the region. The mummies are said to be particularly powerful shamans, whose bodies acted as strong conductors of these energies (akin to what acupuncture needles do in a human body), and the gold served a similar purpose. The Altai people are peace-loving, and believe that these stones not only keep the earth quiet, but also credit them with stabilizing the chaotic energy fields of would-be conquerors. Although this is treated as superstition by many, cutting edge Russian physicists have measured this energy, which is consistent with the accepted physics models regarding resonant fields, strange attractors, etc.
Until the 1940s, these relics were generally undisturbed, and were still functioning as designed. Three UNESCO World Heritage sites have been designated in the area, but there is insufficient budget to enforce any protection. Archeologists have now dismantled most of the shrines—moving the carefully placed stones and disturbing the earth energy.

Several years ago a spectacular tattooed mummy was found in Altai, and removed to Novosibirsk. Shortly thereafter, a 9.0 earthquake rocked the area. According to Maria and other Altai wisdom-keepers, the removal of the mummy precipitated the quake, and they are pleading for its return from Novosibirsk, where it now on display in a museum.

Maria has been working hard to persuade the museum to return the mummy, without success. So now apparently, she herself needed to move into that energy-space and to use her shamanic power to stabilize the earth energies there. However, Maria postponed her move to join our “Peace-Mapping Summit,” not only to strategize with the international group, but also to bless the Summit, as well as our whole expedition. We were grateful for the blessing, because it was very effective—the interpersonal eruptions that are predictable in this kind of adventure didn't happen.

“Peace-Mapping Summit”

The structure of the “Peace-Mapping Summit,” is explained in detail on the Altai Mir University peace-mapping page. But basically, during the two-day summit, everyone was invited to “map peace“—to convene discussions on peace-building topics about which they have passion and are willing to make a commitment for follow-up action. The process is called “Open Space Technology.” Proceedings from the Summit are available by e-mail.
Besides the international and Russian groups, we were joined by Sergey Shafarenko, representing World Wildlife Fund - Russia, which joined the Belukha Clean-up Campaign I had initiated a year earlier Clean-Up (see below). A few villagers briefly looked in on the proceedings, but apparently my invitation had not struck a chord with them. Maybe next year.

Onward

The next day after the Summit, we loaded ourselves into river rafts to float down the Katun River to the mouth of the Akkem River. Besides being fun, this enabled us to avoid a day-long trek over a mountain pass. Two trips were required to carry both our group and our Russian co-travelers. While waiting, Vika (and others) dipped in the river.

After a ceremony at the confluence, led by the Russian group, we camped for the night.

About noon on July 19th, the horsemen arrived, and with considerable patience on the horsemen’s part, our gear was finally appropriately packed and loaded on the horses. We self-organized into the trekking and riding groups, and the trekkers started off. Especially in the trekking group, which could easily have fragmented according to people’s walking capabilities, attention was always paid to group cohesion and individual comfort. Some members were strong in body, others in courage (most in both body and courage), but everyone was strong.
We trekked for five days along the ridge to the east of the Akkem River, with stunning views of glaciered peaks and verdant valleys. The weather was just obstreperous enough to let us know how lucky we were, that it mostly rained at night, daytime temperatures were perfect for trekking. As the trek continued, it became clear that we were all a “family,” even the horsemen, and that beyond our personal healing, there was a joyful up-welling of group bonding.
Those who walked feasted on sweet wild strawberries. We were too early in the season for the wild raspberries and currents. But each day, the walkers gathered wild herbs—onions, sorrel, mint, violets, oregano, thyme—for our dinner salad. Yum!
Butterflies fluttered and landed on our hands and faces. Birds chittered and chipmunks whistled.

We trekked across meadows bursting with colorful wildflowers, and through fragrant pine forests. We slid down into deep valleys, forded streams, and slogged up onto the ridge again, reveling in the majesty of it all.

Lake Akkem

Arriving at Lake Akkem, we spent three days adjusting our bodies to the powerful energy of the place, doing ceremony with the Russian group, hiking, wading in the lake, and completely enjoying ourselves.

The most gratifying moment of the whole trip for me, after a whole year spent planning, organizing, purchasing and packing, communicating and encouraging, was when, during one of the ceremonies, Igor could not contain his joy, and danced and leapt around the inside of the circle while we whooped and clapped.

Clean-Up

One of our points of awareness as a group was the human (and horse) impact on the fragile alpine environment as an increasing number of tourists find their way here.

The previous summer, I had initiated a Mt. Belukha Clean-Up, which was actually implemented by the Altai mountain rescue service, Vuisotnik tourist base, World Wildlife Fund - Russia, and the Belukha National Park administration.

While at Lake Akkem, we and the Russian groups spent one afternoon picking up 22 big bags of garbage, which was subsequently transported out by mountain rescue helicopter.

The rescue service, especially, has been actively cleaning up garbage in the area for years. We hope that this coalition will support both continuing garbage removal and educational programs to help the trekkers themselves to be better stewards. For additional report, see Altai Mir University website

The Return Trek

After group debate about weather prognosis and discussion with the horsemen about the best route out (back the way we came, or over 10,000 foot Karatyurek pass). The route we had come had changed since I had last used it, and was much more difficult than had been anticipated. So we decided to go over the pass.

Our good weather did not hold, however, and an icy wind, with snow and hail, followed us over the high pass, chilling us all to the core. One of our horsemen bundled a very cold Kylie in his heavy jacket, snugging her poncho around her neck like a muffler.

Our horses and horsemen, and the coyote-like dog who followed us down the mountain were an integral part of our group, reaching out to us and supporting us beyond anything we could have thought to have asked, and, I hope, receiving in return our friendship, appreciation, and efforts toward generosity.
Most of our group members consistently demonstrated great courage, because the trip was unavoidably strenuous. However, their need to answer their personal call to come to Altai pressed them to overcome great challenges. I honor their valor.

At the end of our trek, we went by car to the Karakol Valley—another place of great spiritual power (see photos with Altai Heritage, above). We all found that it was difficult for us to be here, as though this chapter of of our “family history” had held some great loss. We experienced deep fatigue, irritability, or unease. We left as soon as possible, but I believe that place was nonetheless an important part of our group work.

We spent our last couple of days camped at an idyllyic tourist base on the Katun River, relaxing and integrating the profound experience of the trek.

It's easy to explain our itinerary, but there is no way to adequately describe the personal accomplishment, the profound and joyful sense of oneness with the the cosmos, and the deep bonding within our group. It must simply be experienced.

When we parted to go back to our respective worlds, we were changed to the core. We all carried with us the wholeness, well being, and gratitude that resulted from this powerful experience—wanting more, but knowing that we each contained all within us.