Central Asia Glaciers Clean-up

July 19 updated

Kyrgyz Alpine Club has conducted research of the most visited glaciers in Tien-Shan and Pamir mountains in Kyrgyzstan. Unfortunately these glaciers follow the fate of Khumbu Glacier and Baltoro Glacier when irrational and wasteful of it led to the terrible pollution. And only efforts of global climbers society succeed in clean-up of the mountains from garbage that was accumulated over many years of visits. Currently Kyrgyzstan itself is unable to clean-up the glaciers.

Kyrgyz Alpine Club asks to support “Central Asia mountain glaciers clean-up Project” as part of international mountaineering environment activities.

Environmental disaster on the largest glaciers of Kyrgyzstan in the Tien-Shan and Pamir.

Kyrgyzstan is a small country in the heart of the Eurasian continent, on area of 199 000 km², and 95% of it is covered by mountains of the Tien-Shan and Pamir. There are about 8000 large and small glaciers in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. They occupy about 4% of the country, which is about 8.1 thousand sq km. These glaciers store about 590 km³ of ice. The locations of glaciers are very popular destinations among mountain fans – mountaineers, climbers, trekkers and various tourists.

There are several popular mountain regions where number of visitors is growing every year. These areas are where the summits of above 7 000 m are located:

  • 1) Southern and Northern Inylchek Glaciers where the world-famous peaks Khan-Tengri (6995 m) and Pobeda (7439 m) are located
  • 2) Achik-Tash Gorge – area of Lenin Peak (7134 m)
  • 3) Area of Karavshin Gorge and Laylak Gorge in Turkestan Range (so-called Kyrgyz Patagonia)
  • 4) Ak-Sai Glacier in Ala-Archa Gorge
  • 5) Glaciers in Karakol Gorge and Djety-Oguz Gorge, and many others.

Along with the positive factors of adventure tourism development in the country, there is a “downside”, viz. these popular mountain areas are getting more and more littered progressively. These regions are visited by as independent mountaineering expeditions and individual climbers as those ones who order service to tour operators. Garbage disposal by local tour operators is more or less organized; however the situation is not the same in regard to independent expeditions.

By Zvezdochka Glacier and at the foot of Gorky Peak on the moraines of Inylchek Glacier in the Tien-Shan mountains, at the foot of northern wall of Khan-Tengri Peak, on Ak-Sai Glacier in Ala-Archa and in many other places the piles of rubbish were accumulated to the moment, both modern and “old “age, about 30-60 years old. This rubbish was buried in glacier crevasses by mountain expeditions of Soviet times, and now after breakdown of upper layers of glaciers it is in open areas. Another problem is bodies of peoples, who was killed in the mountains and by some reasons was not taken down, but rest into there. For example, on July 13, 1990 huge avalanche killed and buried 42 climbers. After twenty years their bodies started lift up from ice on to the glacier surface. The bodies have to be picked up. Similar examples there are plenty.

On the photos presented below these piles of litter are well shown. The same situation is on the moraine of Lenin Glacier under Lenin Peak in the Pamir. These glaciers and summits are unique nature monuments, and this nature heritage belong not only to Kyrgyz people but it is also international community nature heritage. If urgent actions are not be taken, these mountain sites may have the same unfortunate fate of Khumbu Glacier in the area of Everest Mt, Concordia Glacier and Baltoro Glacier in the area of K-2 Mt in Pakistan, which world mountaineering community has been trying to clean for many years. To date Kyrgyzstan is not able to cope with this problem of cleaning by itself, without international support.

Kyrgyz Alpine Club suggests for UAAA to be involved in the solution of Tien-Shan and Pamir glaciers trash and prevention of unique nature monuments from future pollution. To do this we offer UAAA to include the programme for conservation of glaciers in Central Asia as environmental activity in Tien-Shan and Pamir. Kyrgyz Alpine Club believes that leading mountaineering associations and federations of UAAA would be able to paternalize this project.

The project is a complex programme consisting of several parts and stages of activity:
  • • Establishing of Public Foundation for conservation of glaciers in Central Asia
  • • Fix of sites for cleanup
  • • Mapping of littered sites and determination of workload to make cleanup
  • • Cleanup of glaciers (trash)
  • • Elaboration and implementation of educational programme for local communities and climbers / tourists about environmental protection of glaciers
  • • Initiating of legislative measures. Enforce status “nature monument” for unique nature sites
Annex 1. Glaciers of Kyrgyzstan of more than 25 sq km
GlacierSquare, km²Length, kmLocation
South Inylchek613,258,9Khan-Tengri massif
North Inylchek202,934,8Khan-Tengri massif
Kaindy107,425,8Khan-Tengri massif
Korzhenevskaya89,121,5Chon-Alai Range
Mushketova75,020,5Khan-Tengri massif
Semenova74,621,0Khan-Tengri massif
Petrova70,914,0Ak-Shirak mountain junction
Lenina55,313,5Chon-Alai Range
Nur54,213,8Chon-Alai Range
North Kara-Sai46,510,5Ak-Shirak mountain junction
Kyzyl-Suu43,016,9Chon-Alai Range
Zhaman-Suu39,010,4Ak-Shirak mountain junction
Kan-Zhailoo32,013,0Khan-Tengri massif
Kolpakovsky30,410,0Terskey Ala-Too Range
Komarov (Ak-Sai)29,310,7Kokshaal-Too Range
Koi-Kap27,811,1Khan-Tengri massif
Kara-Kerme27,311,8Kokshaal-Too Range
Kaman27,012,0Chon-Alai Range
Archa-Bashy25,410,5Alai Range
Abramov25,29,0Alai Range
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