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I went to Kyrgyzstan in July 1998, with Kathy Cosley, Mark Houston, and Mike Christianson to trek and climb in the Tien Shan. I first did a small trek alone in the Ala Archa National Park, which is close to Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek. Next we went altogether on an acclimatizing trek in the Terskey Alatau mountains (just south of Karakol and Lake Issyk-kul).

Small and larger maps of Kyrgyzstan .

Useful links

  • Ambassy in Washinton D.C. .
  • Welcome to Kyrgyzstan .
  • Lonely Planet .
  • Travel information .
  • Mountaineering in the Tien Shan .
  • Maps based on materials from the Russian Federation of Mountaineering .
  • From Rock & Ice #45: Khan Tengri and Ak-Su Valley .

    Ala Archa

    A general view of the Ala Archa Canyon.

    The Aksay glacier and peak Korona behind.

    A deliciously surprising encounter near the Ratsek refuge.


    Terskey Alatau

    Terskey Alatau is a subrange of the Tien-Shan, with several peaks above 5000m. We trekked for 5 days from Altyn Arashan to Jeti-Oghuz (map1,map2) through Ala-Kol pass (3860m), Ala-Kol lake, and Teleti pass (3800m). The scenery is very much like in the European Alps, without their towns, roads, and hikers.

    Market scene in Karakol.

    Scene along the Arashan river.

    Mark fording the Arashan river.

    A view of Ala-Kol lake from Ala-Kol pass.

    Wood sculptures at a camp below Ala-Kol lake, near Karakol river. I guess that people made them during bad weather. If this is true, it says a lot about the local weather.

    Kathy crossing Karakol river.

    Hiking toward Teleti pass.

    View from Teleti pass.

    Our camp below Teleti pass.

    Scene along the Jeti-Oghuz river.

    Red sandstone formations at the mouth of the Jeti-Oghuz canyon.


    Khan Tengri

    The Tien Shan (Celestial Mountains) is 2000km long and 400km wide. About two thirds of the range lie in Kyrgyzstan. The two highest peaks in the range are Peak Pobeda (7439m) and Khan Tengri (6995m, previously measured at 7010m).
    Khan Tengri (map) is located at the border between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakstan, less than 5 km awy from the Chinese border, between the South branch (Kyrgyzstan) and the North branch (Kazakstan) of the Inylchek glacier. The Inylchek glacier (South branch) is 60km long.
    A truck took us from Karakol to Maidadyr Camp (Russian military camp) at the base of the Inylchek glacier, West of Khan Tengri. From there, a helicopter of Kirghiz Arlines flew us to the base camp. We arrived at the base camp of Khan Tengri on July 11. We spent 14 days on the mountain, but only got 2 days of excellent weather. We spent 4 days and 4 nights at Camp 4, with almost continuously bad weather. We had to leave without even trying to reach the summit, in order to catch our return flight to the US from Almaty (Kazakstan). A few hours after our descent, the route was swept by an avalanche that destroyed several tents at Camp 2.
    The routes on the South side of Khan tengri.

    Our truck on the road between Karakol and Maidadyr Camp (from left to right: Mark, Kathy, and Mike).

    A kirghiz man near Maidadyr Camp with his typical hat.

    The Inylchek river at Maidadyr Camp. An helicopter flies from there to the Base Camp of Khan Tengri on the South branch of the Inylchek glacier.

    The helicopter on the South branch of the Inylchek glacier near Base Camp. Peak Pobeda is in the right photo background.

    The Inylchek glacier.

    Base camp at 4000m on the side of the Inylchek glacier.

    Camp 1 at 4100m at the base of Khan Tengri.

    Camp 2 at 4900m in the middle of the Semenovskogo glacier icefall.

    Camp 3 at 5900m at the saddle West of the summit

    Several views looking downward while climbing. The Inylchek glacier progressively gets out of sight.

    Three spanish climbers in the mist just above Camp 2.

    Kathy among the seracs of the Semenovskogo icefall between Camp 2 and Camp 3.

    The pyramidal summit of Khan Tengri. The West Ridge (normal route) is in the middle of the photo. The South Rib is on the right.

    Mark at Camp 4.

    The spectacular South Rib made of white marble.

    I am not the author of this photo.