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Kyrgyzstan Mountains


Mountain Ranges of Kyrgyzstan

Mountains of KyrgyzstanThere are over 88 major mountain ranges in Kyrgyzstan, most of them forming the Tien Shan System – the Celestial Mountains . The others, such as the Chon Alai range in the South of the country belong to the Pamir system. They effectively divide the country into a number of quite distinct regions – especially between the North and the South, there is only one road connecting them (the main Bishkek-Osh road). Most of the ranges vary in length from 100 kilometers to 300 kilometres – the longest, (Kakshaal) is 582 kilometres long and the Kyrgyz Range, lying to the South of Bishkek, is 454 kilometres long. Most ranges are between 10 and 40 kilometres wide.

The Tien Shan Mountains

The Tien Shan Mountains – is the largest mountain range in Asia, in surface area; length (2800km); and width (at one point reaching 800 km wide) – with a total of 40 peaks over 6000m. It stretches across several countries and about much of the system lies in the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic .  Extending over 2800km from the Chatkal range just East of Tashkent to Urumchi, (beyond which it rises again as the Bogdo Ola Range), they are usually described as being divided into Northern, Western, Eastern, Central and Inner ranges and most of them exhibit typical “alpine” features. 

It is the central portion, south-east of Lake Issyk-kul which contains the very high mountain peaks such as Khan Tengri and Peak Pobeda, closely grouped together along ridges that stretch east-to-west. The area surrounding the Enilchek Glacier has two peaks over 7000 meters, (Pobeda and Khan Tengri – more about them is later), 23 higher than 6000 meters including 3 virgin peaks – and 80 more peaks between 5000 and 6000 meters including 14 virgin peaks.

The range is made up of sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks.

The existence of this great range, (also known as the “ Celestial Mountains ”), has been known since ancient times.  Despite the records and observations recorded by many early travellers, however, until the expeditions of the Russian geographer and explorer Peter Semyenov in the mid-nineteenth century, the Tien Shan Mountains remained “more legend than fact”.  (Semyenov was granted the honorary title of “Tienshansky” by the Tsar for his exploits). In fact the southern fringes of the system were first described by the Buddhist monk Hsuan Tsang in the seventh century BC, who wrote of 'encountering nothing but ice and snow. The snow falls both in summer and springtime. Night and day the wind rages violently'.   They also would have been visible to Marco Polo who (if we believe his account) travelled in along this route in 1273, with his father and uncle.

The Terksey Ala Too

The Terksey Ala Toorange - (the “shady” mountains) - is located along the Southern shores of Lake Issyk Kul.  

The Kungey Ala Too

The Kungey Ala Too range – (the “sunny” mountains) - is located along the Northern shores of Lake Issyk Kul – and form the border with Kazakhstan .  

The Kyrgyz

The Kyrgyz range run from Issyk Kul across the Northern length of the country – about 40 km South of Bishkek.   

The Parmirs

The Parmirs are found in the South of the country.  Actually, only the most Northerly ranges of the system are in Kyrgyzstan – the Zaalaisky ridge. 

The Parmir-Alai mountains

The Parmir-Alai mountains– which separate the Parmirs and the Tien Shan – consists of Turkestan (including a number of virgin peaks) and Alai ridges.

The ranges which are snow-capped throughout the year are distinguished by the phrase “Ala Too” – although in Kyrgyz the phrase means “many colours” – or “colourful” – or “bright mountains”. The snow-line lies at about 3600 meters. There are many smaller ridges, such as: Ak Sheirak, Chatkal, Ferghana, Keolu, Kok Shaal, Talas and Zaalainsky. The mountains of Kyrgyzstan hold many attractions for mountaineers and trekkers. For most of the Soviet period, (or as some locals refer to it – “in former times”), the region was off-limits to foreigners and even Soviet mountaineers had trouble obtaining the permissions necessary for an expedition. Although the system is less rigid these days, there are still some restrictions, and permits necessary, in certain areas – especially in the border zones.

The difficulties faced by mountaineers are exacerbated by the weather – it can snow suddenly and for several days at a time – increasing the risks of avalanches and crevices. The relief of the mountains varies extensively from Massif to Alpine and many different types of landscape can be experienced. Woods tend to be located on North facing slopes, where snow lies longer whilst grassland meadows, (jailoo), tend to be located on southern facing slopes which benefit greater from the warming effects of the sun's rays. Here is a list of the some of the mountain ranges in the country with their highest peaks (from the “Encyclopaedia Kyrgyzstana”): 

Range

Length

(in km)

Width

(in km)

Highest peak

Highest

Point

(m. a.s.l.)

Average

Height

(m. a.s.l.)

Koshaal Too

582

54

Pobeda (Victory Peak)

7439

4500

Chon Alai

250

40

Peak Lenin

7134

5460

Alai

350

20

Tandikul

5880

4450

Sari Jaz

93

16

Semyenov

5816

4700

Turkestan

300

30

Sabla

5621

4430

Terskey Ala Too

354

40

Karakol

5280

4290

Ak Shyirak Too

60

28

Djaman Suu

5126

4720

Ferghana

206

62

Kara Kuldja (Uch Seyit)

4940

3620

Kyrgyz

454

40

Zapadni Alamedin (Western Alamedin)

4855

3700

At Bashi

140

30

Uoyrme

4786

4300

Kungey Ala Too

285

32

Chok Tal

4771

4200

Chatkal

225

30

Chatkal (Aflatun)

4503

3800

Naryn Too

120

18

Baibichye

4500

4200

Talas

260

40

Manas

4488

3930

Djumgal

54

15

Min Teke

4281

3800

Those mountaineers that climb all five mountains in Central Asia which rise above 7.000 meters (three of which are located in the Kyrgyz Republic ) receive a certificate and become a 'Snowleopard' . Obtaining this honorary title is a very real ambition for many Russian climbers.

The five mountains are:
1. Peak Communism (in Tajikistan - 7495m)
2. Peak Pobeda (in Kyrgyzstan - 7345m)
3. Peak Lenin (in Kyrgyzstan - 7134m)
4. Korzhenevsky (in Tajikistan - 7105m)
5. Khan Tengri (in Kyrgyzstan - 7010m)

Kyrgyzstan Mountains - Smaller Peaks

Some other peaks, most of these names will mean little except to experienced mountaineers, but these are some of the more famous peaks:

Adygene: In the the Ala Archa national park, rising to 4393m – and the slopes provide trekking territory rather than mountaineering.
Chapaev: 6371m - in the Central Tien Shan , Muztag massif.
Corona Peak : 4860m – Part of the Ak-Sai range in the Ala Archa national park – this mountain has six towering peaks – resembling a crown - hence the name (which means crown in Russian). There are 600m rock walls – and the Northern wall reaches 900m.
Druzhba: ( Friendship Peak ) – 6800m – in the Central Tien Shan , Muztag massif.
Gorky Peak: 6050m – located in the Pobeda massif, this presents one of the most difficult mountains to climbers – especially due to the rapidly changing weather conditions. The mountain presents a pyramid profile, and there are ice walls (upto 200 m high).

Free/Independent Korea: in the Ak-Sai range in the Ala Archa national park presents a challenging climb for mountaineers. The northern wall rises some 800m with steep rocks.
Jigit: In the Ogus Bashy massif on the southern shores of Lake Issyk Kul.
Karakol: 5216m - In the Ogus Bashy massif on the southern shores of Lake Issyk Kul.
Komsomol:  On 1 st May every year climbers gather to ascend this summit – and for many it is the first summit they conquer.
Manas: 4482m – the highest point of the Talas range.

 Nansen Peak, Kyrgyzstan
Nansen Peak
by Anastasia Yahno
Marble Wall: 6400m - in the Central Tien Shan , Muztag massif – originally climbed by the Merzbacher expedition in 1902.
Marquee Peak: 6700m - in the Central Tien Shan , Muztag massif.
Military Topographers: (honest – that's what it is called- !) 6873m - in the Central Tien Shan , Muztag massif.
Myra: 4940m – this mountain, with its twin peaks, is near to Peak Lenin and the two day ascent is often used as part of the acclimatization process for those climbing the taller peak.
Nansen Peak:  5697m - in the Central Tien Shan , Muztag massif.

Peak of the 19 th Party Conference: also known as Peak Korzhenhevskovo, (not to be confused with Korzhenevsky in Tajikistan – whish is 7105m) – 5882m. It is easily visible from the Base and Onion Field camps at the foot of Peak Lenin and is sometimes used for acclimatization in preparation for an ascent on Lenin – although there are other more popular alternatives which don't take as long.

Petrovsky: 4910m (although there appears to be some dispute – various figures are quoted from 4700 to 4900m) – standing over the Achik Tash camp, the base camp for ascents of Peak Lenin from the Northern (Kyrgyz) side – an ascent of this peak provides is often used as part of the acclimatization purposes for climbers before attempting the higher peak.

Prezhevalsky: 6450m - in the Central Tien Shan , Muztag massif.

Pyramid: 5621m – in the Turkestan range Ogus Bashy: Located in the Djety Orguz valley, near Karakol, on the southern side of Lake Issyk Kul, this is the highest peak in the massif which contains other peaks such as Karakol and Jigit.This peak rises to 5215m with glaciers surrounding it. The northern slopes of the massif are cut deeply by deep gorges.  There are a range of routes mapped out here from relatively simple ones to others which are much more demanding.

Semyenov Tien Shansky: this peak is not a simple climb but there have been many expeditions that have established some seven different routes to the summit.

Soviet Kyrgyz: 5650m - in the Central Tien Shan, Muztag massif.

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