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Guidebook: Mountaineering regions of Kyrgyzstan

Apr. 15, 2016 updated

Author: Vladimir Komissarov, Ph.D., President of Kyrgyz Alpine Club



1. Geographic description of Tien-Shan and Pamir

2. Mountaineering regions of Kyrgyzstan

А. Tien-Shan

B. Pamir

Alpine regions of Kyrgyzstan (detailed content)

А. Tien-Shan

1. Central Tien-Shan

1) Glaciers: Southern and Northern Inylchek

2) Kaindy Glacier

3) Glaciers: Semenov and Mushketov

2. Terskei Ala-Too Range

1) Karakol and Djeti-Oguz Canyons

2) Turgen, Aksu, Altyn-Arashan and Chon-Kyzylsuu canyons

3) Juuku canyon

4) Western part of Terskey Ala-Too Range

3. Kyrgyz Range

1) Ala-Archa and Alamedin canyons

2) Sokuluk, Djilamysh and Issik-Ata canyons

4. Western Kokshal-Too Range

5. Ak-Shirak Range

6. Kuilu Range

7. Borkoldoy Range

8. At-Bashy Range

9. Djangart Range

10. Torugart-Too Range

11. Djany-Djer Range

12. Djetim and Djetimbel Ranges

B. Pamir

1. Zaalaisky Range

1) Achik-Tash Range

2) East of Kyzart pass

2. Turkestanskyi range

1) Lyalak and Karavshin canyons

2) Eastern canyond of Karavshin region

3. Alaisky Range

1) Dugoba canyon

2) Canyons of Alaiskyi range


Mountains cover 95% of the territory of Kyrgyzstan and 40% of those are above 3,000 meters high. There are many regions where the foot of climber has never stepped. In Kyrgyzstan such regions as high vertical walls or 5,000 meters and over mountains are well explored. Anything besides aforementioned is not of any interest for climbers, especially if it’s lower than 4000 m. Thousands of accessible and gorgeous summits are still virgin.

There are 7 well known and explored mountainous regions in Kyrgyzstan. 4 of them are located in Tien-Shan and 3 are in Pamir. But no one knows how many unexplored or not very well studied regions there still are. Easy access and spectacular summits determine interest to the region and its development.

This guidebook gives brief description and outline of well explored as well as undeveloped and prospective regions (characteristics of the region, location, season, climate, history of exploring and development, camps, access, climbing opportunities, rescue works, connectivity and formalities). The book also gives recommendations on logistics and supply of alpine expeditions and solution of necessary formalities.

1. Geographic outline of Tien-Shan and Pamir (back to the content)

Kyrgyzstan borders with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. The Republic covers an area of 198 000 square kilometers. It stretches for 980 km from west to east and the widest stretch from north to south is 350 km. The lowest point is 550 m in the very north of the country and the highest point of 7,439 m is Pobeda Peak. The average altitude is 2200 m. About 95% of the territory is mountains. Mountainous ranges alternate with intermountain depressions, basins and valleys. There are three big basins: Chuiskaya, Issikkulskaya and Ferganskaya kotlovini. Smaller basins are called intermountain depressions. These are Talasskaya, Narynskaya, Alaiskaya, Susamyrskaya, Djumgalskaya, Ketmen-Tubinskaya, Kochkorskaya, Atbashinskaya and Sonkulskaya. There are even smaller formations as intermountain valleys, such as Sarydjakskaya, Kuiluu, Inilchekskaya, etc. Mountainous ranges condensate and accumulate moisture. They form vertical zoning of physiographic structure, distribution of vegetation, climate and other characteristics. The climate of Kyrgyzstan is acutely continental. It is conditioned by remoteness from the ocean, elevation above sea level and location in the central part of the Eurasian continent. Such climate is characterized by significant temperature fluctuation both diurnal and seasonal, moderate precipitation and high dryness of air. Mountainous areas of Kyrgyzstan vary in local climate characteristics which determine diverse landscapes. Temperature distribution is influenced basically by the true altitude and relief ruggedness. In summer the temperature is mostly influenced by the altitude and in winter is by relief features. The latitude effects temperature insignificantly. Population of the country is 5 million people and most of people live in towns and villages situated in large valleys. Mountains of Kyrgyzstan are part of two biggest mountainous systems in the world – Tien-Shan and Pamir.

Tien-Shan. (back to the content)

It is one of the mightiest mountainous systems in Asia. Its latitudinal strike is up to 2,000 km and its width is around 400 km. About two-third of Tien-Shan mountains are on the territory of Kyrgyzstan. Mountainous ridges of Tien-Shan stretch in latitudinal and sublatitudinal directions (appendix 1, figure 1). They are formed by sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks.

Orography. The orographic structure of Tien-Shan is divided into Northern, Western, Central, Inner and Eastern parts. The Northern Tien-Shan consists of Kyrgyzskii, Zailiiskii and Kungei-Alatoo ranges. The Central Tien-Shan includes eastern part of Terskei Ala-Too and Kokshal ranges, also Sarydjaz, Tengri-Tag, Meridionalnyi, Inylchekskyi and Kaindy ranges. The Western Tien-Shan covers Talasskyi, Pskemskyi, Ugamskyi, Sandalashskyi and Chatkalskyi ranges. The inner Tien-Shan is situated to the south of Kyrgyzskyi and Terskei ranges, to the east of Ferganskyi range, to the north of Kokshaal range and to the west of meridional part of Sarydjaz river. The Eastern Tien-Shan is located on the territory of China to the east of Meridional range. The ridges of Tien-Shan are characterized by the latitudinal strike and only few differ. Among the latter are: Ferganskyi and Atoinokskyi ranges, which stretch from northwest to southeast; Meridional range which has meridional strike; and Pskemskyi, Ugamskyi, Chatkalskyi and Sandalashskyi ranges stretching from southwest to northeast. The majority of ridges have typical mountainous glacial relief, so-called “alpine”. Insignificant number of ranges has high elevated ancient aligned areas – peneplains, like in Tibet. Examples of such peneplains can be elevated up to 4,000-5,000 meters, like southern slope of Terskei Ala-Too or the Inner Tien-Shan. The acutely continental climate is characterized by hot summer in foothills and valleys and by cool and cold summer in highlands as well as rigorous winters; important daily and annual variation in temperature; light cloudiness and significant dryness of the air. The sun shines for 2,500-2,700 hours per year. The heaviest clouds are in March-April and lightest are in August-September. Vertical temperature gradient – when temperature drops every 100 meters of elevation – is 0.7°C in summer, 0.6°C in autumn and spring and 0.5°C in winter. Annual precipitation is irregular and usually is between 200-300 and 1,600 millimeters. Maximum precipitation falls out during the first part of summer. Surrounding mountainous ranges of Issik-Kul lake form peculiar micro climate in the area. Landscape, climate, altitude of the snow line, vegetation and fauna of various regions of Tien – Shan differ a lot. Total area of glaciers at the Kyrgyz part of Tien-Shan is about 6580 km², which is almost 3.65% of the total area of territory of the country. It includes 700 big and small glaciers. Big part of glaciations of the Kyrgyz Tien-Shan is located in the eastern part including Central Tien-Shan and Terskei, Akshiirak, Kuiluu and Western Kokshaaltoo ranges. The largest glacier – Southern Inylchek – stretches for 62 km. It is the third longest mountainous glacier in the world after Baltoro glacier (Karakorum) in Pakistan and Fedchenko glacier (Pamir) in Tajikistan. The widest place of Southern Inylchek is 3 km and thickness of the ice reaches 200 meters.

Pamir. (back to the content)

Only the very northern part of Pamir belongs to Kyrgyzstan – the northern slopes of Zaalaiskii ridge and north of Pamir-Alai which includes Turkestanskyi and Alaiskyi ranges. This part of Pamir is characterized by latitudinal strike. The climate of Pamir as well as of Tien-Shan is acutely continental but differs in relative weather stability, less air humidity and bigger number of sunny days. Likewise, the heaviest clouds are in March-April and lightest are in August-September. The mountains of Pamir are composed with metamorphic, magmatic and sedimentary rocks. As a rule, central line consists of magmatic rocks which toward the periphery are superseded by metamorphic rocks and eventually by sedimentary ones.

2. Mountaineering regions of Kyrgyzstan (back to the content)

A. Tien-Shan

1. Central Tien-Shan

1) Southern and Northern Inylchek Glaciers (back to the content)

Characteristic features. It is one of the most popular regions of Tien-Shan with the famous summit – Khan-Tengri Peak (7010 m) (appendix 2, photos 1-15) and the highest peak – Pobeda (7439 m). One of the biggest glaciers in the world is situated here as well – the Southern Inylchek Glacier, stretching for 62 km, 3.5 km wide with ice thickness up to 200 m. 23 summits of the region are higher than 6,000 m and about 80 summits are between 5,000 to 6,000 meters. There are a lot of virgin summits among the latter. About 70 mountaineering routes were covered and among those 26 are on Khan-Tengri Peak and 9 on Pobeda Peak.

Location. The region is administrated by Aksuiskyi raion of Issik-Kul oblast. It’s located in the very east of Kyrgyzstan on the border with Kazakhstan and China and includes such ranges as: Kokshaal-Too, Inylchek-Too, Saryjaz, Tengri-Tag and Meridonalnyi.

Season and Climate. Climbing season for summits above 6,000 m is July through August and for summits below 6,000 m season includes September as well. It’s one of the most severe parts of Tien-Shan. In summer usually first part of the day is sunny and later in the afternoon the sun gives way to clouds and snow. Sometimes weather changes for several days and it could snow for 2-3 days incessantly. The most stable weather is in August till mid of September but it’s considerably colder. The average temperature in July is 5°С, 7°С in August and 3°С in September. Prevailing category of the routes are combined: snow and ice-snow. Slopes and tops are covered with snow and ice. Besides technical difficulties climbers also face such obstacles as rapid weather change when bad weather holding for several days can result in formation of avalanches and dangerous crevasses in the ice. As the rule, it takes one-two days for fresh snow to consolidate after heavy snowfalls.

Climbing history of the region. The first ascent marking the history of the region was done in 1934 to Khan-Tengri Peak by the expedition under Pogrebetskyi. Pobeda Peak was discovered in 1943 by the military topography expedition under Rapasov and was named after the victory over the Nazi Germany. It was first climbed in 1957 by the expedition under Vitaliy Abalakov. However, the other theory claims that there was earlier ascent in 1938 by the expedition under Leonid Gutman to the unknown summit located in the head of Zvezdochka glacier and the summit was named “20 years to VLKSM (The Communist Union of Youth)”. Photographs taken from the top by the 1938 expedition correspond to the ones taken from Pobeda Peak…. Until 1985 very few climbers were able to come to the region because of the disputable situation with Soviet-Chinese border, the part of which the Central Tien-Shan was. The new age of climbing history started in 1985 when the first joint Soviet-American Expedition in honor of the 40-th anniversary of the victory in II WW. That was also the turning point marking the change in balance between number of climbers killed on the mountain and number who successfully returned with the appreciable advantage in favor of survived. Before 1985 this correlation was 56 to 56. Since that time the region becomes the ground for various climbing competitions of different level of difficulty. Mmost of the routes were laid during those competitions. In the beginning of the 90-s the Kyrgyz Alpine Club conducted number of climbing races for individuals on Khan-Tengri Peak on the classic route through Semenovskyi glacier and the western edge. The record time from the base camp located at Gorkyi Peak up to the top and return was 10 hours and 8 minutes by Alex Lou.

Camps. International Travel and Mountaineering Center Tien-Shan runs the permanent base camp in the region (photo 16-18). There are five wooden huts with habitable rooms which can accommodate 38 people, sauna and bathhouse, canteen, bar, kitchen, power station, helicopter landing area. Base camp is located at the foot of Gorkyi peak at the altitude of 3,995 meters, on the right side moraine of Southern Inylchek glacier. Seasonal base camps are set up at the moraine on the confluence of Southern Inylchek and Zvezdochka glaciers.

Access. One of the possibilities to get to the region is by helicopter. It flies from transfer camps Maida-Adyr and At-Jailyau situated 18 km and 30 km respectively to the west of Sayjaz village in Inylchek valley. It takes 30 minutes to fly or 4 days to walk from transfer camps to the base camps of Southern Inylchek. There is no path good enough for horses to get to the camps. There is also flight from Karkara transfer camp located 80 km from Karakol town at the border between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in the Karkara river valley. Regular flights in the region start from mid July till end of August. One can get to the transfer camps Maida-Adyr and At-Jailyau by car from Karakol town (former name of town was Prjevalsk) which is situated 165 km and 185 km respectively by the mountain road over Chon-Ashu pass (3,622 m)

Trekking path to the Southern and Northern Inylchek glaciers starts at the At-Jailyau camp and goes up to the Merzbacher lake on the geographical left side of the Southern Inylchek glacier at the crossing of the Southern and Northern Inylchek valleys. The path from At-Jailyau river to the Shokalski glacier goes along the left side of valley (if going upwards then along the right side) and takes 2 days. From the glade two different trails go to the Northern and Southern Inylchek. In order to get to the upper reaches of the Southern Inylchek one should take the trail heading along the left side up to the Shokalskyi glacier (the first southern tributary of the Southern Inylchek glacier after Merzbacher glade) going up to the middle of the glacier along the central moraine up to Zvezdochka glacier. There is number of base camps in the area for climbing upper reaches of Southern Inylchek, Zvezdochka, Semenovskii and Demchenko glaciers as well as Pobeda and Khan-Tengri peaks. Usually it takes about 2 days to get from Merzbacher glade to Zvezdochka glacier. In order to get to the Northern Inylchek one should traverse the Southern Inylchek glacier to the northwest towards peak Bronenosez at the west end of Tengri-Tag ridge. The very edge of the ridge ends with three passes. To get to the Northern Inylchek glacier one can through the middle pass only because the junction of Northern and Southern Inylchek canyons is locked by Merzbacher lake which is impassable by its steep sides.

Climbing opportunities. The most popular climbing route to Khan-Tengri is along the western crib which can be accessed via Southern Inylchek by Semenovski glacier as well as via Northern Inylchek along the eastern “shoulder” of peak Chapaev. Both trails have avalanche hazards. However, one can minimize the hazard on Semenovskyi glacier by passing dangerous areas of crevasses and seracs between 3 am and 6 am, because usually snow and ice avalanches here are possible after the sun touches the southeast wall of Chapaev peak – the origin of avalanches. Therefore it’s strongly recommended to start off from ABC camp on the junction of Northern and Southern Inylchek glaciers by 3 am.

Pobeda peak is often climbed through the Western Pobeda peak which also has another name of Vaja Pshavela. Description of the most popular climbing itineraries to Pobeda and Khan-Tengri peaks as well as planning recommendations is attached.

Most of the climbers come to the area especially for Khan-Tengri and Pobeda peaks. However, there are a lot of excellent summits below 7,000 m which will satisfy different climbing tastes. Most of the routes to the summits over 6,000 m are snow-ice but there are some rock walls, like northwest wall of peak Pogrebezkii.

All peaks over 6,000 m are located eastward of peak Erkindik (6,073 m) (former Kirov peak) in Kokshaaltoo range, eastward of peak Gorkogo (6,050 m) in Tengri-Tag range, in the range Meridional from peak Plato (6,146 m) in north to peak of Voennih Topografov (Military Topographers) in south. Most of the summits over 6,000 m have been climbed however since there is no information about ascents to some of them we consider those virgin. For example, according to P. I. Solomatin (2006) there is a virgin summit of 6,747 m between peaks Voennih Topografov and Rapasova. Traversing Pobeda and Khan-Tengri peaks the group by V. Khrichatov passed it and observed on the right. According to the existing resources, between Demchenko and Drujba glaciers in the western spur of Meridional ridge there are four 6,000 meter summits from peak Otkrityi [Discoveries] (5,664) m and peak Moris Torez (6,401m). Two summits of those four were climbed. These are peak Edelweiss (6,000 m) and peak Chokhan Valihanov (6,300m). Another spur of Meridional ridge has two virgin summits as well in the area of Drujba and Nagel glaciers between peak Pogrebezkogo (6,487 m) and peak Drujba (6,800m). These several above are potential summits for first ascent. As for already climbed summits there are many opportunities for the new routes of ascents.

Summits between 5,000 m and 6,000 m. Majority of peaks below 6,000m are considered unclimbed however we don’t have reliable information on ascents especially in the area to the west of Dikiy glacier. This is laborious task for research.

Search and rescue, supply. Several travel agencies run base camps in the described area. As the rule they organize one joint rescue team for the region. There is regular communication between camps to coordinate rescue works if needed. The companies provide their customers with all necessary services. Participants of independent expeditions usually deliver everything they need themselves but if they run out of any equipment or food it’s possible to borrow (rent) or buy this in the base camps. All camps are equipped with satellite and radio connection for long-distance calls and ultrashort radio connection between camps and climbers on the routes.

This region is situated in the border area and special permit is required.

2) Kaindy glacier (back to the content)

The area is situated to southwest of Southern Inylchek glacier. It includes Kaindy and Terekty glaciers. The climate is similar to the Southern Inylchek glacier however it’s slightly warmer in the area. It’s not as popular among climbers as the neighborhood region. The average altitude of summits is up to 6,073 m. There is big amount of unclimbed peaks in the area. The routes are mostly combined, ice-snow and snow itineraries with elevation of 1,000m – 1,500m. The first mountaineering expeditions were here in 1995. The region can be reached both by helicopter and by car and porters. It takes 45 minutes to fly from Maida-Adyr camp. The car route consists of several legs: first 150 km by asphalt road from Karakol town to Inylchek village over Chon-Ashu pass and further about 10 km by rough mountain road in Kaindy valley and then 20 km on natural terrain by the off-road vehicle. To get to the upper reaches of the glacier from the last moraine of Kaindy glacier which is the furthest point to where a vehicle can go it takes about two days to hike. There is no porter service available in the area and if needed porters have to be hired and transported from Karakol town.

This region is situated in the border area and special permit is required.

3) Semenov and Mushketov Glaciers (back to the content)

Glaciers Semenov and Mushketov are divided by small Adytorskyi ridge and situated north of Northern Inylchek glacier between eastern edges of Terskei and Sarydjaz ranges. In fact there is no information about climbing in the area. Some summits to the south of Mushketov glacier and upper reaches of Semenov glacier were climbed from Bayankol and Northern Inylchek glaciers however this information is not reliable. The region can be accessed by off-road vehicle from Karakol town over Chon-Ashu pass. First the road goes along Ottuk river until it inflows into Sarydjaz river and then follows its right bank up to frontier post Echkilitash. By the confluence of Tuz and Sarydjaz rivers there is a car bridge to the left bank of Sarydjaz river. Further the natural terrain road goes on the left bank up to the river Adyrtor and then along it in the direction of Mushketov glacier. There are a lot of slope swamps, bogs and gullies in the area. It’s hard to define up to where the vehicle can go as there are lots of effecting factors like experience and skills of driver, and terrain itself which changes every season. Semenov glacier can be reached on both left and right banks of Sarydjaz river. It’s possible to hike and use horses to transport the load from where the vehicle brings you up to the base camp grounds. Horses can be rented from herdsmen who bring cattle up to the area for summer period.

This region is situated in the border area and special permit is required.

2. Terskei Ala-Too Range (back to the content)

It is one of the most extensive mountainous ranges of Tien-Shan system. It stretches along the southern shore of the Issyk-Kul lake for almost 400 km in latitudinal strike from its western edge to the border with Kazakhstan in east. Canyons Karakol, Jetyoguz and Chon-Kyzylsuu are very popular among climbers. Other canyons are whether rarely visited by mountaineers or not visited at all. There is reasonable access by road to almost all canyons of the northern part of the range and many of the southern slopes. The highway goes along northern slopes. The territory of the range is not in the border area and no special permits are required.

1) Karakol and Jety-Oguz canyons (back to the content)

Characteristic features. Some of the most popular canyons among climbers are Karakol and Jety-Oguz. The highest peaks, the most interesting itineraries and the highest walls of Terskey Ala-Too range are located here. The highest peaks are Jigit (5,170m), Karakolskyi (5,256m) and Oguz-Bashi (5,120m). More than 150 routes have been developed here varying from the easiest to the very difficult ones. Mostly routes are rocky or combined, however ice-snow or snow routes are not frequently found. Elevation is 1,500 m. In the upper reaches of canyons routes are mostly combined and in the middle area are mostly rocky.

Location. Karakol canyon is administrated by Aksuiskyi raion and Jety-Oguz canyon by Jetyoguzskyi raion of Issik-Kul oblast. Both canyons are located to the south of eastern edge of Issik-Kul lake on the northern slopes of Terskei Ala-Too range.

Climate. The climate of the region is considerably milder then of the Central Tien-Shan much depending on true altitudes and proximity to the lake Issik-Kul. Annual precipitation is quite heavy up to 2000 millimeters. It mostly falls in the beginning of summer, however snow and thunder storms are common for July and August as well. The weather is more settled in September but autumn is much colder in mountains than summer. The best time for climbing is July – September.

Climbing history. The records of first ascents date back to 1927 and were done by the group under Grechishkin, who was a dentist from Karakol town. After war the region became popular among climbers from all over the Soviet Union because of the easy access and many different opportunities for expeditions. Lots of different routes were developed during championships of various kinds. Well-known mountaineering camp Ala-Too was in operation here in 1970s-80s. Nowadays, due to the easy access and variety of routes of different grades many climbing teams from Russia come here for training, their rating and skill improvement.

Access. There is convenient access by road from Karakol town. The distance from the town to the end of the road in Jety-Oguz canyon is 80 km. To get to the starting point for climbing one should drive along the road on the southern shore of the lake then take turn to the mountains in Pokrovka village, which goes up to the river Tilety Zapadnaya (western) – right tributary of Jetyoguz river. Horses or porters can be used to transport loads from the end of the road to the base camps. Porters can be hired in Karakol and horses can be rented in the gorge from local people.

The distance from Karakl town to the end of the road in Karakol gorge at the river Telety Vostochnyi (eastern) is 18 km. From the end of the road to the base grounds for climbing it’s from 1-2 up to 5-8 hours walking. Horses or porters can be hired.

Logistics. The territory of Karakol canyon belongs to national park and an admission fee is in force. Road conditions are very bad and off-road vehicles are advised. There is no admission fee to Jety-Oguz canyon.

2) Turgen, Aksu and Altyn-Arashan Canyons (back to the content)

These canyons are located on the northern slopes of Terskei Ala-Too range, east of Karakol canyon and administrated by Aksuiskyi raion of Issik-Kul oblast. As typical for the northern part of range the routes here are combined with variation of rocky ones and ice-snow. Elevation reaches 1,100 m however the highest wall is 600 meters. This apparently might have been the reason for lack of interest among climbers during pre-perestroika period. The hardest summit is peak Tashtanbektorbashi situated in the upper reaches of Tergen canyon. There is grade 5B route (according to the Russian Classification system). Many summits are still unclimbed. The upper reaches of the canyon have roads. There is 12 km road from the main highway to the hot spring resort in Altyn-Arashan gorge. But only off-road vehicle can drive on this road. It’s about 5-7 hours hike from the resort to the upper reach of canyon. In Aksu gorge the 8 km of road are good for driving and then it’s another 4-6 hours hike to the campsite. In Turgen gorge fairly good road goes up to Sarydjaz. First to Kok-Kiya point where it turns east to Ashu-Tor pass and 4 more km by gravel road. After the road ends it’s about 3-4 km hike to the peak Tashtanbektorbashi.

3) Juuku Canyon is located between Barskaun and Kichi-Kyzylsuu canyons and administrated by Tonskyi raion of Issik-Kul oblast. A good gravel road makes easy access to the upper reaches of the gorge. It takes about 1-3 hours hike from possible base camps up to the climbing start points. There are more than 40 unclimbed summits above 4,000 m high with number of possible routes of various difficulty grade (from the easiest to the most difficult ones). The routes are mostly rocky and combined, and rarely can be ice-snow. There is grade 5B route (according to the Russian Classification system) on the northern ridge up to Ittish peak the highest point of the region.

4) Western part of Terskei Ala-Too range stretches for 180 km from Barskaun gorge to Kochkor village. There are more than 100 unclimbed peaks over 4,000 meters high. There are lots of possibilities for quite easy ascents. Fairly good access by the off-road vehicle to basically any region shortens walking time to the starting point of climbing to 1-3 hours, rarely 4-5 hours.

3. Kyrgyz range (Kyrgyzskyi range) (back to the content)

Kyrgyz range is the most extensive in Tien-Shan. It stretches for 400 km latitudewise from the western brink of Issik-Kul lake up to Taraz town (former Jambul) in Kazakhstan. Climbers prefer northern slopes of the central part of the range stretching for 100 km from Aksuu gorge in west till Kegety gorge in east. All canyons are accessed by the roads.

1) Ala-Archa and Alamrdin canyons (back to the content)

Location. It takes 45 minutes by the good road to get from the capital city of Bishkek to the canyons. They are situated 40 km to south of the city in the northern spur of Kyrgyz range. The regions are administrated by the Alamedinskyi raion of Chuiskaya oblast.

Characteristic features. The highest point in the area is Semenov-Tianshanskyi peak (4,895 m). Routes are mostly rocky and combined, rarely icy and ice-snow. Rocks are formed by strong intrusive rocks – granites and granodiorites. The elevation goes up to 1,100 m. The rocky walls of northern aspect are usually covered with ice and compose mostly combined and ice routes. The southern, western and eastern aspect walls are typically dry and consist of solid rocks.

Climate. The climate of the region is the acutely continental like of all the country. Annual precipitation is 700 mm. The least amount falls in August – September and the heaviest in May-June. The average temperature in summer is +12°С and in winter -7°С, autumn and spring average temperature is +3°С.

Ala-Archa canyon (back to the content)

Climbing opportunities. The most popular and mostly visited region in Kyrgyz range is the area of Ak-Sai glacier in Ala-Archa canyon (Appendix 1, figure 5, pictures 19-35). More than 160 routes have been taken here. The routes are of different complexity from the easy ones to the most difficult walls up to 1100 meters high (Svobodnya Korea peak). Rocky ridge belts around Ak-Sai, Nauka and Uchitel glaciers in a horse shoe shape. It includes the following summits: Box (4,200m), Teke-Tor (4,441m), Ak-Too (4,600m), Svobodnaya Korea (4,740m), Simagin (4,400m), Bailyan-Bashi (4,700m), Cosmonavtov (4,200m), Dvurogaya (4,380m), Corona (4,855m), Semenov-Tienshanskyi (4,895m), Skryabina (4,650m), Baichichekei (4,515m) and Uchitel (4,527m)

Camps. There are two all-year round hotels in Ala-Archa canyon by the end of the road where the trial to Ak-Sai glacier starts. In summer few cafes and grocery stores are open. Three mountain huts can accommodate climbers at Ak-Sai glacier, two of them are small framehouses – Corona and Nauka, approximately 4x4m (photos 36-37) and another one is comfortable stone house – Ak-Sai (photo 38) at the Razek camp which can accommodate up to 40 people. Next to the hut there are framehouses equipped as kitchens and also clear area for tents which can fit up to 40 tents.

Access. The distance from Bishkek to the end of the road in canyon is 45 km and takes about 30-40 minutes by car. From the end of the road 3-4 hours hike will take you to the big Ak-Sai hut at Razek campsite.

Other gorges and glaciers of Ala-Archa canyon such as Adygene, Topkaragai, Tuyuk, Golubina, Big Alaarchinskyi and small Alaarchinskyi are not as often visited as Ak-Sai. It’s reasoned by the lack of unique climbing possibilities in which Ak-Sai abounds. Elevation is 600 m and routes are mostly simple or of middle difficulty however there are plenty of possibilities for new routes.

Ala-Archa canyon is also Natural Park and there is admission fee for both cars and people.

Alamedin canyon (back to the content)

The most popular part is Salyk glacier also with 1,000m high walls and big climbing potential like in Ak-Sai. Approximately 30 routes are known there from easy to the very severe ones. Besides, there are many opportunities for new routes. Other glaciers in Alamedin gorge, like Altyn-Tor and Tuyuk-Tor are less popular. Elevation here is 500 meters. It’s reach in simple and moderate routes and many opportunities for new itineraries. The distance from the end of the road to the starting point of climbing is longer than the one in Ala-Archa gorge. It’s about 6-8 hours hike to Salyk and 7-9 hours to Tuyuk-Tor which is much longer in comparison with 3-4 hour Ak-Sai “horse shoe”. This circumstance contributes to the lack of popularity among climbers.

2) Sokuluk, Jalamysh and Issik-Ata canyons (Kyrgyz range) (back to the content)

The canyons are situated on the northern slopes of central part of Kyrgyz range next to well-known Ala-Archa and Alamedin. They are administrated by the Chui oblast

Sokuluk and Jalamysh canyons are located to the west of Ala-Archa canyon in Sokuluk raion of Chui oblast. The region had been climbed in 1950-s. According to some resources, the firs ascent to Chernyi Shpil summit was done by the group under Azim Aitbaev and according to other resources the first was the group under V. V. Starodubzev in 1958. Around the same period a number of first ascents to various summits had been done in the area. However there is no reliable information on ascents of that period. Quite a few summits of that region are supposed to be unclimbed. The upper reaches of Sokuluk gorge have many interesting opportunities for climbing. There is good road from Bishkek to Sokuluk village. Further in the center of the village the smaller road turning to the south at the Orthodox Church goes for another 18 km. After the road ends it’s another 6-8 hours hike to the upper part of the gorge. Some places at the bottom of the canyon are very difficult to walk through and one should climb the slopes. Another access to the canyon is through Adygene gorge in Ala-Archa over Mynjilki pass to the upper reaches of Sokuluk canyon. The route from the end of the road in Ala-Archa canyon to the upper part of Sokuluk gorge over the pass takes 8-10 hours which is equal to the walking time in Sokuluk canyon but considerably easier. Elevation here is 4,500 m. The rocks are formed by granites, sandstones and metamorphized conglomerates.

Issik-Ata canyon is located to east of Alamedin gorge and administrated by the Issikatinskyi raion of Chui oblast. The Issik-Ata resort at the mouth of the canyon is reachable by the road from Bishkek (75 km). Starting point for climbing is 1-2 hour hike from the end of the road and 8 hour hike takes you to the upper reach of the canyon. As a rule, most routes are combined or on rocks. In 1950s-60s the region was very popular among climbers but there is not a lot of information on ascents. The region is rich in opportunities for both first ascents and new itineraries.

4. Western Kokshal-Too Range (back to the content)

Western part of one of the most extensive and highest ranges in Tien-Shan stretching almost for 500 km is really one of the best and interesting places for climbing. It is Western Kokshal-Too. The administration of the region is divided by two raions. Territory to the east of Kotur canyon is Jetyoguzskyi raion of the Issikkulskay oblast and to the west is Atbashinskyi raion of the Narynskaya oblast. Speaking geographically the region is rather the western end of the highest part of the Kokshal-Too range than the very western part of the whole range. Altitude here exceeds 5,000m. It’s located to the center part of the range. Drawing imaginary line from the very center of Issik-Kul lake to the south on the intersection with Kokshal-Too range we can define the location of the Western Kokshal-Too. It borders with China. The region stretches from longitude 78 east to longitude 79.15’ west for almost 100 km. The axial part of the ridge here stretches in the exact latitudinal direction. Glaciers fill up the canyons meridionally spreading from the axial part. Glaciation prevails at quite large territory of the area. If glaciers slide down of the slopes they stay on the remains of ancient peneplain, on some tops of it. There are about 40 glaciers in the area. The biggest one is Chon-Turasu and stretches for almost 18 km. Glacier bottom is rather flat what makes it easier to walk there. Altitude reaches up to 5,982 m (Dankov peak). Elevation is 1,500m. A lot of walls are 1,000m high. Glaciers in the canyons are located at the altitude of 4,000-4,500 m. The climate here is typical for Central Asia, i.e. acutely continental. The region is one of the most rigorous ones and called the Arctic of Kyrgyzstan for its severe winters when temperature drops to -60°C. Summer here lasts only for one month – August and it is the best time for climbing. Thunderstorms are very common for May – July. September has very stable weather however cold one and snow doesn’t melt. The average temperature of July is +4°C, of August is +6°C and of September is +2°C. The annual precipitation is 420mm. Bottom of gorges and watersheds is alpine desert located on the ancient peneplain* surface with slope swamps in some areas.

*peneplain – is a low-relief plain representing the final stage of fluvial erosion of mountains during times of extended tectonic stability.

The area lacks wood or bushes. Fauna is represented by mountainous sheep Marco Polo, Siberian goat “Teke”, wolves, foxes, various rodents, birds including many birds of prey. Some nomads camps are found in the bottoms of valleys breeding sheep, yaks, horses and camels.

The region is not very well studied because of few reasons. The main factors are severe climate, sparse natural recourses, remoteness, inaccessibility and border with China. For many years the region was closed for visitors for the reason of complex relations of the Soviet Union with China. First description of the region was done in 1869 by the Russian geographer A.V. Kaulbars. Later on, the region was visited by few researchers. The first ascent was made by the expedition under A.A. Letavet in 1934. It was an ascent to the summit 4,900m in Chon-Turasu glacier which then was named Maron peak after one of the climbers. The first mountaineering expedition in 1938 was unsuccessful because of the bad weather. The next expedition took place only in 30 years in 1969. Participants of the expedition were from Moscow region and Kaliningrad city under the leadership of A. Korsun. Six first ascents in Chon-Turasu glacier were made during that expedition. Afterwards, during the pre-perestroika time number of expeditions took place in 1972, 1980 and 1985. That time most of the summitted peaks were in the eastern part (Chon-Turasu glacier) and in the western part (Kyzyl-Asker peak) of the region. Other areas were still unexplored due to the inaccessibility. The new stage of exploration started in 1993 when M. Lebedev organized big expedition of climbers from vicinities of Moscow and 1995 A.Korsun organized one of climbers from the West. The destination was again the region of Chon-Turasu glacier. Subsequent period was marked by the foreign expeditions to the Western Kokshal-Too with climbers from the USA and the UK. 1996 was the year when the first English-American expedition took place under Lindsey Griffin and Christian Beckwise. They reconnoitred the region and summitted several peaks in the western part. In 1997 there were two expeditions to the area. Those were again English-American. One was to the same region under leadership of Lindsey and Christian and another one to Chon-Turasu glacier was organized by ISM (International Mountaineering School) under Pat Littlejohn. The latter one with Pat discovered number of new routes and flew around the area by helicopter in order to prepare for the future expeditions. The second ISM expedition to Kokshal took place in 1998 but that time to the central region to the unexplored Kotur glacier. However because of the heavy fall of snow during first three days of expedition (up to one meter) it was possible to explore only bottom part of Kotur glacier and only three successful ascents were done. Much more successful was ISM expedition to the same glacier in 1999. Six first ascents were done in the upper part of Kotur glacier. In total there were 8 unclimbed peaks of the glacier but bad weather interfered and didn’t let to summit the rest 2 of 8. The expedition explored the canyons east of Kotur gorge in order to find out access ways for the subsequent expeditions. By now most of the canyons are more or less explored as opposed to the canyons Karagerme, Kyzylunet, Kichi-Turasu located in the central part of the range east of Chon-Turasu gorge.

Access. The western part of the region located west of Sarychat gorge can be accessed by the road form Naryn town via Akmuz village and Kindyk pass in the upper reaches of Mudryum river. The road from Naryn town to the pass is good gravel road and further is about 80 km of bad road to the Upper Mudryum. From the riverhead to the campsite grounds it’s about 10-20 km on the trail in the riverbeds and slopes which can be driven by the off-road vehicles. Another obstacle of the access is big number of slope swamps in which a vehicle can easily stuck (picture 46 a, b).

The eastern part of the range can be accessed through Barskaun gorge on the southern shore of Issik-Kul lake. From the gorge the road goes over Barskaun and Suek passes to Karasai village and further over Ashusu pass and Kichi Uzengegush gorge to the river Uzengegush and follows its head. The area along the river has lots of unexplored gorges up to Chon-Turasu gorge. The road goes mostly along the northern bank of the river and unexplored gorges are on the southern one. There are no bridges or crossings over the river thus it has to be rope crossing. It’s necessary to work out access to the each canyon itself and recommended to visit the area with people familiar with it. Another difficulty is that in places the road runs on the right bank of Uzengugush river but now it belongs to China in accordance with the Kyrgyz-Chinese agreement of 2002 and only Kyrgyz border service and its transport has authority to drive the road.

The region is in the border area and special permit is required.

5. Ak-Shirak Range (back to the content)

Aksyirak range is located to the south of western brink of Issik-Kul lake in the middle between lake shore and border with China. Climate of the area is similar to the central Tien-Shan one but slightly milder. Annual precipitation is 700 mm. The heaviest precipitation fall in spring and beginning of summer, the least is in winter. The average temperature of winter is -16°С, of spring and autumn is -7°С, temperature of July and August is +4°C and of September is +0.5°C. The highest altitude here is 5,126 m. Glaciation is very significant and quite often glaciers slide down from the passes and mountain tops. Elevation is 700 meters and in eastern part reaches 1,000 m (area of the peak 5,126). The biggest glacier is Petrov, 14 km long sliding to north in the central part of northern slope of the range. 10 km long glacier of Jaman-Su is located in the eastern part of the range. Karasai Severnii glacier is 10km long and Kaindi glacier is 8 km and both are situated in the western part. There are about 130 glaciers in the range with total area of 450 square kilometers. Glaciers are situated above 3700 m. There are great conditions for ski touring almost all year round except second half of August and in September is the time when ice outcrops. Most of the routes are combined, on snow and ice or snow-icy and snowy. There are no high vertical walls. Routes are easy and moderate and only northern and southern slopes of 5,126m peak are rated as difficult. One can find lots of possibilities for first ascent and new routes. The northern, western and southern areas of the range can be easily accessed by car from the southern shore of Issik-Kul lake, first passing Barskaun village and then 100-150 km on gravel road by off-road vehicle. Hiking time from the road to starting point of climbing is about 2-3 days.

The southern region is in the border area and special permit is required.

6. Kuilu Range (back to the content)

The region is situated in the Issik-Kul oblast to the south of Terskey Ala-Too ridge in the interfluves: Kuilu river in the north, Uchkul in the south, Sarydjaz in the east and Irtash in the west. The range stretches for 50 km to the north-west. The first exploratory expedition under A.A. Letaeva in 1936 had established the highest peak of the ridge. In the following year of 1937 the group of climbers led by I. Cherepov as a part of the second expedition to Kuiluu under Letavet had made the first ascent to the highest summit of the range. The summit was named peak of Stalinskoi Konstituzii (Stalin Constitution). Later in 70-s-80-s the peak was re-named into peak of Sovetskoi Konstituzii and nowadays it’s just peak Konstituzii. During the second expedition the neighboring peak was summitted and named Peak Karpinskogo (5,025m). In 1956 another expedition under B.Gavrilov developed new routes to 6 summits including one 5,000m peak and named it peak Obrucheva (5,203m). Two more expeditions to peak Konstituzii explored the region in 1973 and 1977.

Altitude reaches 5,281 m (peak Konstituzii) relief is more dissected then one of Akshiirak with elevation up to 1,100m. Among numerous glacier bowls there are a lot of rocky walls and various stages of icefall. Majority of peaks are unclimbed which gives good perspective for first ascents and new routes. The range of difficulty is quite wide from the easy routes to moderate and very difficult ones. Mountains are formed by metamorphic and igneous rock. There are monolithic and fractured rocks depending on its type. Four main sub-regions can be identified in Kuiluu region, such as Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western. Each region has different access and development. First three can be easily accessed by gravel road from Karakol town via Chon-Ashu pass (3,622m) by off-road vehicle. Mountaineers explored the area in two main stages. First stage was during so-called pre-perestroika, when the highest peak Konstituzii and surrounding peaks were climbed. Second period took place during post-perestroika characterized by the expeditions to the easiest accessible and “untrodden” regions. For Kuiluu it’s Northern sub-region. The new stage of exploration was started by the expedition to Karator canyon by the International School of Mountaineering (ISM) under Pat Littlejohn in 2000.

The Northern sub-region. The first expedition to the region was in 2000 the expedition of International School of Mountaineering (ISM) to Karator gorge under leadership of Pat Littlejohn. The Northern sub-region occupies northern slopes of Kuiluu range on the right bank of Kuiluu river. The Western part of the subregion can be accessed by road on the left bank of Kuiluu river. The turn to the left bank is on the sixth kilometer from the Ottuk river inflowing into Sarydjaz river. The road goes to Karator gorge, where river condition in summer allows crossing it and reaching the right bank with convenient spots for base camps. On the way two side rivers need to be crossed, which are Molo river (10 km from the start of road) and Sarychat river (18 km). In summer time these rivers can be crossed by off-road vehicle only early in the morning. In about 500 meters from the end of the road there is a year-round shepherd camp where one can rent horses and buy fresh dairy products. Good place for base camp are mouths of rivers Karator or Bardytor. Since 2000 there have been more than 10 expeditions to Kuiluu upper reaches. However despite the relative popularity there are still a lot of unclimbed peaks. From base camps to the climbing start in the head of canyons Karator, Bardytor and Ashutor hiking time is 5-7 hours. Only easy accessed peaks with easy routes have been climbed in the region. The eastern part of the northern slopes of Kuiluu range can be accessed by vehicle on the right river bank of Kuiluu in summer. The road starts at the frontier post located at the right bank of Kuiluu river where it inflows to Sarydjaz river. Nowadays it’s most popular and accessible part of Kuiluu range.

The Southern sub-region. The southern slopes of Kuiluu range are referred as the Southern sub-region. It is the area where the highest summit of the range – peak Konstituzii – is situated. One can easily reach the area by road Karakol-Sarydjaz and further on the right bank of Sarydjaz river follow 3 km to where Terekti river inflows to Sarydjaz. Right in between the rivers Terekti, Ayutor anf Echkitas peak Konstituzii is situated to which several routes are developed.

Access to the Eastern sub-region is along the river Taldysu from its inflow to Sarydjaz river which is a bit lower than the village of similar name (Sarydjaz). It’s about 5-6 hours hike from the river mouth to the upper reaches of Malii and Bolshoi Taldysu. The region is not popular among climbers and therefore wasn’t explored.

The most difficult access is to the Western sub-region. There are two options: A) through Barskaun to the upper reaches of Arabel river and futher along rivers Kumtor, Sarychat and on the left bank of Irtash to Kuykuu Zapadnaya river. Vehicle can go only to the upper reaches of Sarychat river and from there 2 days walking to the climbing start. B) on the right bank of Sarydjaz river to its inflow to Uchkul river and further on the old road along the left bank of Uchkul river. The road hasn’t been maintained since the 80-s and there is not much traffic there but some distance can be covered by off-road vehicle. By foot same distance will take two days. The main obstacle while driving or walking is crossing the rivers. June through September rivers are full-flowing and violent. Just like the eastern sub-region this one is also not explored by climbers. Some summits of the region are higher 5,000 m.

7. Borkoldoi Range (back to the content)

The range is situated to the north of Western Kokshaltoo and to the east of Jany-Jer ridge. It’s administrated by Jetyoguzskyi raoin of the Issik-Kul oblast. Borkoldoi range is formed in horseshoe shape facing west with its open side. The region is not very well explored. There is no information on climbing during pre-perestroika period. First expedition took place in 2002 by Pat Littlejohn and was followed by several more. Different parts of the range have different accesses. The northern, eastern and south-eastern parts can be accessed from Barskaun via Karasai village. The southern and central part of the range can be reached only from Naryn via Akmuz village and further to the valley of river Moyudrum. As the region is not very popular among climbers only 20 summits were climbed among numerous unclimbed peaks. Nowadays more than 100 peaks over 4,000 meters high and 8 peaks over 5,000m are still unclimbed. Only off-road vehicles can provide access to the region itself and to the base camps. It takes about 2-4 days to get there from Bishkek. There are no people living there permanently. Only several hunting grounds and shepherds’ farms are found in the area, no settlements. Access to the hunting grounds is restricted therefore it’s advised to get in touch with the management and inquire the permission to enter the territory.

The region is in the border area and special permit is required.

8. At-Bashy Range (back to the content)

The range is situated in the southern part of middle Tien-Shan. Its sublatitudinal strike is more than 100 km. It’s administrated by Atbashinskyi raion of the Naryn oblast. 70 km of central part of the range is of the interest for the climbers. Despite the easy access the region is not explored by climbers. First ascents have been done in 2002 by the climbers from Naryn region under the leadership of V. Komissarov. Later after 2007 there were several British expeditions of Pat Littlejohn and Andrew Vielkovsky to Orto Kaindy gorge. There are more than 60 unclimbed mountains over 4,000m in the region. Busy highway connecting Torugart pass and Naryn is located along the northern slopes of the range. All northern canyons can be accessed by off-road vehicle. Convenient base camps can be set up there within 2-3 hour walking distance to the climbing start. Horses can be hired to deliver loads from BC to ABC. Elevation is 600-700m. Routes are on rock, combined, rarely on ice-snow. No permits required to access canyons of northern slopes.

First two expeditions of Pat Littlejohn were conducted in Kensu and Muzdabas canyons of the southern slope of Atbashinskyi range in 2011. 16 first ascents have been done during those expeditions. The road connecting Kaindi and Torugart passes goes along the southern slope. All southern canyons can be easily accessed by the road. In fact even last moraines of the glaciers can be reached in canyons if driving in the river beds. In comparison with the northern slope of the range and At-Bashi valley the level of erosion in this part is much higher and elevation is less.

The southern slopes are in the border area and special permit is required.

9. Djetim and Djetimbel Ranges (back to the content)

The ranges are situated to the south of the central part of Terskei Alatoo ridge and to the west of Suek pass. There is a road over the pass to Karasai village. The ranges were not explored by climbers. There is great number of peaks over 4,000 m high with easy routes. Easy accessibility to the region is by mountain roads on off-road vehicles. Western part of ranges can be accessed from the side of Malyi Naryn river and access to the eastern part is over Suek pass from the side of Taragai river. The average walking time from the end of the roads to the climbing starting points is 1-3 hours and in some parts it’s 4-5 hours.

The ranges are in the border area and special permit is required.

10. Torugart-Too Range (back to the content)

The range is located to the west of Torugart pass over which the international highway to China goes. It stretches for almost 50 km west along Arpa river to Ferganskyi ridge. 30 km of the eastern part of the range stretch along the Kyrgyz-Chinese border. The region is administrated by Atbashinskyi raion of the Naryn oblast. Easy accessibility is conditioned by the highway Naryn-Torugart pass. Nevertheless off-road vehicles are necessary to get into the canyons. First exploration of the region was done by Pat Littlejohn expedition in 2006. Then 6 first ascents were done in the area of Mustyr river valley. Later two more expeditions added eight more first ascents. There are still several unexplored canyons to the west of Mustyr gorge with more than 40 peaks over 4,000m high among which 5 peaks are over 5,000m.

Routes are mostly combined and on ice and snow. Numerous summer shepherds camps in the lower canyons can be the sources to replenish dairy products and meat stock and to hire horses as well.

The region is in the border area and special permit is required.

11. Djangart Range (back to the content)

The region is located to the south of Kaindi range on the border with China. It is administrated by Aksuiskyi raion of the Issik-Kul oblast. Small Jangart range is divided from Kokshaaltoo range by the river and glacier Jangart. Both ranges have lots of perspective for climbing as Jangart with altitude up to 4,600m and Kokshaaltoo with altitude to 5,340m. This region of Tien-Shan can be defined as the most difficult in terms of access and totally unexplored by climbers. First mountaineers came to the region in 2001. It was the British exploratory expedition of Ingrid Crossland and Graham Sutton which accessed the region by helicopter from Maidaadyr camp grounds. Another group of the British climbers visited the area in 2010 when they climbed many summits. That expedition drove along Kaichi river at the foot of Jangart pass. Then they hiked over the pass and down to Jangart glacier. This itinerary takes 4 days.

The region is in the border area and special permit is required.

12. Djany-Djer Range (back to the content)

It is situated to the east of Atbashi range as its continuation and divided by Kindy pass. The region is administrated by Atbashinskyi raion of the Naryn oblast. The best climbing is in the eastern part. The range is barely explored. The first climbs were done in the extreme eastern part of the range in Mustyr canyon (Appendix 1, figures 17) by Pat Littlejohn expedition in 2003. There are about 50 unclimbed peaks over 4,000m in the ridge. The access is quite easy from Naryn town via Akmuz village and Kindy pass to the river Myrdrym valley. In the valley the road goes along the southern slope of the range. Practically all canyons of the southern slope can be accessed by off-road vehicles and have good grounds for base camps. It’s about 1-3 hour hike from base camp grounds to the climbing start. Routes are on rock or combined, rarely on snow-ice. The northern slopes of the range are accessed via Akmuz village and further to the upper reaches of Atbashi river. No special permits are required for climbing here. On the way to the area river Atbashi will be crossed several times and in some places there is no other way but drive on the riverbed. Only off-road vehicles have capacity to access. In summer time only all-wheel drive trucks as GAZ 66, ZIL131, URAL or KAMAZ can cross the river because depth of wade is 60 cm and more.

The southern part of the range is in the border area and special permit is required.

B. Pamir. (back to the content)

Zaalaiski Range

1) Achicktash tract of Zaalaiski Range

Achik-Tash. Area is administrated by Chon-Alaiskyi raion of the Osh oblast. It’s one world famous climbing regions. The most easily accessed 7000m peak is located here – Lenin Peak, 7,134m. The region occupies the northern slopes of Zaalaiski range on the border with Tadjikistan 20 km from Kashkasu village. Slopes and mountain tops are covered with snow and ice due to the severe glaciation. Elevation is up to 3,000m. Routes are not technically difficult and on snow or snow-ice. This circumstance gives great opportunity for high-altitude climbing to people even without special skills. The climate is much milder than of Tien-Shan. The average temperature of July-August is 10°С in Achiktash base camp. The heaviest precipitation is in April through beginning of June and the least is in August-September. Mountain road from Osh city goes over Taldyk pass (3,615m) right to the base camp. The distance is 220 km. However beside Achiktash side, Lenin Peak can be climbed from the neighboring gorge Kamansu via peak Razdelnaya. Due to the popularity there are a lot of expeditions, base camps and climbers from all over the world at Achiktash grounds. But route from Kamansu gorge is not used very often despite the fact that ascend time is the same, the route is less dangerous and base camp can be reached by car.

Lenin peak was discovered in 1871 by the expedition of Fedchenko and was called peak Kaufmana (after the governor-general of Turkestanskyi krai of the Russian Empire). In 1928 the first ascent was done by the climbers of the joint Russian-German-Austrian expedition: Karl Wien, Eugene Allwein and Erwin Schneider. It was then that the summit was given name of Lenin. In 2006 the government of Tadjikistan gave new name – peak Abu-ibn-Sina but the government of Kyrgyzstan left the old name (the mountain is on Tadjik-Kyrgyz border). Nowadays the peak is recognized by the international community as Lenin peak.

There are 18 known routes to the summit: 9 from north and 9 from south from Tadjikistan. The safest and the most popular is the route from north via Razdelnay peak (6,148m) from Achiktash tract. In the area there are also several peaks below 7,000m but they are not as popular.

The region is in the border area and special permit is required.

2) Zaalaiski Range, east of Achiktash Gorge (back to the content)

Part of Zaalaiski range to the east of Lenin peak up to Chinese border is scantily explored. West of Kyzart pass is occupied by Kojenevskyi glacier, area of which has not been visited for the last 40 years. In 1963 Kyrgyz climbers from the Osh oblast held a high-altitude expedition in the area under the leadership of V. Freyfeld. They had climbed peaks Korjenevskogo (6,005m), Kyzyl-Agyn (6,679m) and traversed following peaks: VMF, Korjenevskogo, Belezkogo, Simanovicha. The eastern part of Zaalaiski range to the east of Kyzart pass isn’t well explored except the region of Kurumdy peak. In summer of 2000, the group of climbers under Alexander Novik (Moscow) climbed peak Zarya Vostoka (6,349m) and in autumn of 2005 the group of Kyrgyz climbers under Alexander Gubaev climbed peak Kurumdy. The rest of the range isn’t explored and has an abundance of climbing with several unclimbed peaks above 6,000 and lots of summits of 4000-5000 meters high.

During the Soviet time the area wasn’t very popular because of well-known regions of proximity of peaks Lenin and Kommunism. After perestroika the region starts to draw more attention. In 1990 the British climbers tried to summit the peak for 40 days but without success. In 2004 the Russian and Uzbek expeditions had the same setback.

2. Turkestanskyi Range (back to the content)

Lyalak and Karavshin groges of Turkestanskii range. The canyons are located on the northern slopes of Turkestanskyi range and administrated by Lyalakskyi raion of the Batken oblast. This is “paradise” for climbers. Rocks of the region are similar to Southern Patagonia by its structure and composition. It’s sometimes referred as Kyrgyz Patagonia but unlike the original weather is much warmer here and extent of walls is much longer. For example, the northern wall of Ak-Suu peak is 2,000 m high. Rocks are composed with solid, monolith granites, limestones and sandstones. Great opportunity for technical climbs on the known routes as well as first ascents and new routes are at climber’s disposal. Warm weather settles from mid June till September. Major precipitation is in autumn. The first climbers visited area in 1936 during geological expeditions. Their names are well-known: Vitalyi and Eugenie Abalakovi, Maleinov, austrien mountaineer Lorenz Saladin and others. Then they unsuccessfully endeavored to ascent the highest peak of the region Piramidalnyi (5,509m). Since that time the region has been forgotten for almost 50 years. The modern exploration started in 1982 with the Russian expedition under leadership of Leonid Trochinenko to the Lyalak gorge. Later in 1986 Karavshin gorge was chosen as the ground for Climbing Championship of the USSR. This one region has more extremely difficult routes of grade B than in all Kyrgyzstan (more than 100). There are more than 50 grade 2-5 routes in the area.

The region is accessed by road from Osh and Batken towns. Beside main road there is also air service connecting Bishkek with Osh and Batken. If you go to Laylak first drive to Katran village and from there one day hike or horse riding to the climbing start. If going to Karavshin you should drive to Vorukh village and from there one day walk or horse riding. The rout to Karavshin lies through Tadjik enclave Vorukh. For each crossing it’s required to have Tadjik visa (if your country has visa system with Tadjikistan). However, this issue can be “solved” right at the spot though there is no guarantee.

Usually to deliver loads from the end of the road to base camps horses are used and can be rented right in the villages. Fresh fruit and vegetables of good quality are available here and even cheaper than in Bishkek or Osh. Other supplies, petrol for primus stoves and gas is better to stock in Osh or Bishkek.

The region is in the border area and special permit is required.

Turkestanskyi Range (excluding Layalak and Karavshin). (back to the content)

The region is situated in south-west of Kyrgyzstan and rim south-west of Fergana valley. It faces Kyrgyzstan with its northern slopes. Approximately 80 km of northern side of central and eastern parts of the range offer great variety of climbs. In fact the region is scantily explored with the exception of world known Ak-Su and Karavshin canyons. The climate here is much milder than in Tien-Shan. Annual precipitation is 250 to 400 mm and it’s gradually increases eastward. The driest season is Auf\gust and September. The average temperature of January is – 5°C and of August is +14°C.

West of Ak-Suu gorge is the area of little-known canyons Uryam, Sabakh, Kyrk-Bulak containing the same type of rocks as ones in Ak-Suu and Karavshin and abundance of virgin peaks and possibilities of new routes. Further west of these canyons in the upper reaches of Karasang river there are 10 km of rocky walls. These rocks reach up to 800 m high and are composed with limestone and sandstone. These are extremely virgin places for rock climbers.

East of Karavshin gorge there is a 30 km stretch of sub-parallel, meridionally oblong canyons, such as: Jaupai, Tamyngen, Min-Teke, Jiptik, Kshemysh. These are rarely visited regions with lots of opportunities for first ascents and itineraries. This mountain knot has also the name of Matcha. Only in the gorges of Kshemysh and Jyptyk (the latter is sometimes mapped as Churovskyi glacier) there were expeditions of the alpine club of Novosibirsk Academgorodok “Vertical” in 1968-75. During those more than 40 peaks were climbed and number of first ascents were made. There is an easy access to all these gorges from the town of Osh. The climbing grounds are within 1-2 day hike, possibly with pack animals which can be rented at the spot.

3) Canyons of Alaiskyi Range (includes basins of the rivers Kichik Alai, Isfairamsai, Ak-Suu, Sokh on the north face and river Kok-Suu on the south face). This vast mountain territory has lots of little explored canyons with big potential for first ascents. Only one canyon is well researched which is Dugoba gorge (Appendix 1, figure 16) where alpine camp with the same name used to be located in pre-perestroika time. Hundreds of peaks over 4,000m are unclimbed. An easy access is from the Fergana valley by car from Osh town. Almost everywhere in the region it’s easy to find horses or donkeys to transport loads. The climbing season starts in May through October and is relatively earlier than in Tien-Shan.

No special permits are required to access the area except the basin of Kok-Suu river as it is situated in the border zone.

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For more information

Email to Kyrgyz Alpine Club: alpclub-kg(at)