Tien Shan - Celestial Mountains
Chon Kyzyl Suu
The region is rich in alpine lakes with the largest fresh water lake in Central Asia, Issyk-Kul - after Lake Titicaca, the world's second highest lake. The name translates to Sacred Lake which, in spite of its high altitude (over 5000 feet above sea level), is still warm in summer. As a total contrast, not far from the lake, there are ski resorts which are open all the year round!
The valleys of Kirghizstan and neighbouring Kazakhstan lie on the Silk Road trade route and for centuries the region has been of great importance due to its position and rich valleys. Our trek takes us from the more populated northern valleys to the south east of Issyk-Kul and up into the more wild and almost uninhabited mountains of the Terskei-Ala-Too ridge (from the Kirghiz "motley mountains turned back upon the sun"). We cross some high mountain passes and hike in picturesque valleys with slopes covered by coniferous forests of the famous Tien Shan pyramidal fir-tree which grow up to a height of 50m. Along the way we will meet local people. They graze sheep and horses and are very hospitable. We'll visit their yurts and try their local milk and milk products - airan (yogurt) and kumys. The area is rich in fauna. Marmot, hare, mountain goat, partridge, eagle are most likely to be seen. Much less likely to be seen are snow leopard, bear, wolf or fox. On trek we will admire 5000 meter peaks towering above us their with snow-ice caps, camp on the banks of a pearl of this area - the Ala-Kul Lake (from Kirgiz - Motley lake), 3500m. The lake changes its colour depending on the time of day and on the weather; it can have an innumerable number of tints of violet, blue and green at any one time. We visit hot springs; swimming in them is said to give you second youth.
View from Ala Kiol Pass
Tien Shan Trek
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Although porters carry all communal luggage you will need to carry your personal belongings. Some of the walking is over difficult terrain although no technical mountaineering experience is required.
Our trip starts in Almaty from where we have a long drive, first eastwards, round the high mountain ridges dividing Kirghizia from Kazakhstan to Karakol. Here we can leave a small amount of luggage before continuing to our first camp site. We will return here at the end of our trek to collect our luggage before spending a day by Issyk-Kul Lake - the largest fresh lake in Eurasia - for an excellent rest and day to relax after the mountains. Stunning mountains all around over 5000m high and magical lakes make this an unforgettable experience.
Ala Kiol Lake