The Tien-Shan is one of the largest mountain systems in Asia. Its highest peak is Victory Peak, reaching up over 7 km - quite impressive, isn't it? The Central Tien-Shan, located at the Kyrgyzstan-China border, is the highest and the harshest part of this mountain system. To reach the peak, you have to overcome long 7000 m upward, than go 5 km ahead and finally climb 400 meters more. Moreover, climbing is often accompanied by nasty weather conditions. Yet you may easily do without demanding mountaineering elements. The highlight of the trekking route definitely is Lake Issyk Kul, stretching out 1.5 - 2 km above the sea level located between two 5000 m high mountain ranges. Their snow-cowered tops are casting their reflections into a mirror-like surface of the blue giant - 182 km long and 60 km wide it is warm enough to have a dip there. And indeed, after several days of climb, the massive clear water body seems like paradise on earth! Otherwise, the Tien-Shan does not splurge with splendid colors, just the vegetation, including long and slim fir trees at the foot of the mountain, is slightly richer than at the Fann Mountains.
A hired horse carries your luggage and it seems perfectly natural there, after all, Kyrgyz and Uyghur people, living on the other side of the Chinese border, were originally nomads. Making your way up, you will notice herds of sheep and horses or a flock of tamed yaks here and there. The life of local people runs simple and authentic amidst these mountains. If you wish to breathe in the same air as the locals do, you can easily arrange lodging there. Take a unique chance of sleeping in a yurt and tasting mare's milk! The Tien Shan people are friendly and hospitable and you will learn that on your way. They do not seek profit from any tourist coming into view and dollar signs do not swirl in their eyes.
You have to keep in mind, that it's a young country. Although its cultural history reaches far back into the past, a spirit of the former Soviet Union is still alive there. Pretty often, talking about one and the same thing, a western traveler and a Kyrgyz have entirely different viewpoints. People do not have a clear understanding of what sort of a formation the state is and how does it function, to say nothing of a tourism industry, which is in quite a rudimentary phase right now. Any information is hardly available and tourism and travel-related services are not yet developed. For example, having inquired at the local travel agency for a good hotel, you'll get one but according to Kyrgyz understanding. A pompous place is freshly built by a local moneybag, yet with evidently no idea about hotel standards. No wonder, as no one has knowledge of the hotel business and the design ideas have been drawn from pretty pictures on foreign websites. The poor quality of interior items show up too - the posh redwood chairs turn out to be a cheap Chinese sham, for example. Yet again, maybe it adds a peculiar exoticism to your travel experience. Especially it refers to late-Soviet-era hotels. Well, at least a knowing architect has been involved there...
What the local cattle-breeders lack in refinement of manners and deep knowledge, they make up in their selfless nature. Picking up a hitchhiker if you drive alone in your car? Hardly anyone in the western world would do that. In Kyrgyzstan, however, it's a common thing - a driver stops to help an old woman with big bundles, clumping along the roadside. If you are hitching, you won't be waiting too long - someone will definitely stop. It just cannot be otherwise.
- The best way to get there is a direct air Baltic flight Riga-Tashkent and then by car to your chosen destination.
- While trekking in the Tien Shan, you will have to sleep in a tent or perhaps you have a chance to try exoticism of a traditional yurt as well.
- The top trekking season is June to August. The Tien Shan temperatures are high, up to +40ºC and over, and sweating like never before is part of the package. It's nothing unusual, in fact, and people would say that it's just warm. When temperature reaches above +40ºC, they would admit that it's hot, but below +30ºC is considered to be cool.
- The optimum trekking trip would be 2 weeks. If you wish to reach the summit, only ascending and descending would take a whole week.
- Victory Peak and Hantengri share the same base camp, therefore mountaineers often opt for climbing the both.
Keywords: mountain, mountains, trekking