People have always wanted to conquer nature. Some take to the sky, others traverse oceans, and others summit its highest peaks. For those adventurers that tackle the ground beneath their feet, Kyrgyzstan is a veritable playground. Kyrgyzstan is 90% mountainous, with 85% of the country at over 1,000 meters and 40% at over 3,000 meters. For a great climbing expedition, there are a few places in Kyrgyzstan for the adventurous mountain climber to try: The Tien Shan mountain range and the Pamir.
TIEN SHAN MOUNTAINS
The Tien Shan System is known as the “celestial mountains.” Clouds stretch themselves out lazily on top of the mountain peaks like light, fluffy strokes of icing. Onlookers find themselves enthralled with their ethereal nature. However, the Tien Shan has more to tempt the mountain climber than great looks; they have substance to offer the alpinist as well. The Tien Shan System is the largest in Asia (length: 2,800km, widest section: 800km) and contains over 88 major mountain ranges with 40 peaks topping out at over 6,000 meters. It covers several different countries, but most of it resides in Kyrgyzstan. For a mountaineering adventure that breaks new ground, mountain climbers can tackle one of the 17 virgin peaks that still remain in the Kyrgyz Tien Shan. For more extreme mountain climbing, there are 2 peaks that exceed 7000 meter elevations:
- Pobeda Peak (Victory Peak): This peak sits at 7,345 meters. Pobeda was originally known as “Khan Tengri”, but then Semyenov saw the present day Khan Tengri and started confusing the two peaks. The matter was finally resolved in 1946 when it was renamed “Victory Peak” at the end of the second World War.
- Khan Tengri: This peak sits at 7,010 meters and resembles a gargantuan marble pyramid. As the ray of the sun touch it at sunset, it glows red, earning the name “Kan Tau” from its Kazakh neighbors, meaning “blood mountain.”
THE PAMIR MOUNTAINS
The other mountain range to not miss is the Pamir. The Pamir System is located heavily in Tajikistan, but extends into Kyrgyzstan also. “Pa-mi-ihr” means “Roof of the World” in Farsi and rightly so; its peaks touch the sky. The second highest international highway in the world, the Pamir Highway, was born from this range of mountains and starts in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. The Pamir holds the other 7000+ meter peak that lives in Kyrgyzstan: Peak Lenin.
- Peak Lenin sits at 7,134 meters and is considered the most accessible of the 3 7000+ meter peaks. If climbers don’t have special training or lots of high altitude experience, they can still attempt this one. It was named after Lenin in 1928 because people believed it was the highest point in the USSR.
Since the mountains of Kyrgyzstan are a major tourist spot, climbing tours are always available. Also, there are a couple bonuses of traveling in Kyrgyzstan are shouldn’t be overlooked. First of all, the Kyrgyzstan’s mountains are still home to the endangered snow leopard. While they are rarely seen, some lucky travelers have witnessed them from a distance. Secondly, to encourage tourism in Kyrgyzstan, the country has gone visa free for 44 counties including the USA, Canada, and most of the European Union. The mountains of Kyrgyzstan are great for any kind of climber. So whether you’re a professional alpinist or an amateur trekker, Kyrgyzstan has something to challenge and amaze you. Photo by Andrey Lebedev