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  • Fly to: Almaty Kazakhstan

  • Internal Transfer: Almaty (Kazakhstan) to Karakol (Kyrgyzstan) in minibus (9hrs 30mins)

  • Karakol, Kyrgyzstan - Inylchek (9hrs) in an Ex-Soviet off road Military Truck

  • Ex-Soviet military helicopter flight up the Inylchek glacier (35mins)

  • Visa required: Yes if British for both Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan

  • Currency:Tenge (Kazakhstan) & Som (Kyrgyzstan)

  • Time Zone:+6hrs GMT

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Tien Shan Peak Chapayev

The Tien Shan Mountains are the most distant, unknown and captivating in Russia - a boundless expanse of peaks, many of which have never been explored. Taken from the Chinese word 'celestial'the region is notable referred to as 'Heaven's Mountains'. The immense, fertile and virtually unknown valleys are populated only by flocks of sheep and shepherds on horseback.

This region is rich in alpine lakes with the largest fresh water lake in Central Asia, Issyk-Kul & after Lake Titicaca, is recognised as the world's second highest lake. The name, Issyk-Kul literally translates to Sacred Lake which, in spite of its high altitude (over 5000 feet above sea level), is still warm in summer.

Extending 1,500 miles the Tien Shan mountain range lies to the north and west of the Taklamakan Desert in the border region of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of western China. In the south it links up with the Pamir Mountains. It also extends into the Chinese province of Xinjiang and into the northern areas of Pakistan, where it joins the Hindu Kush.

The mountains in this remote area of Asia are Himalayan in stature, with its highest Pik Pobeda reaching 7439m. It is these great mountains which form the rigid backbone of Kyrgyzstan, wedged between China and Kazakhstan. Those intrepid souls desiring to climb in these mountains will make their entry via an exhilarating journey by ex-Soviet Military helicopter up the Inylchek Glacier. At close proximity, you will fly through a vast panorama of classical glaciated and jagged peaks.

The North Inylchek Glacier is one of the largest glaciers in the world; the length of which stretches a modest 62 kilometres. The most notable peak rising out from this great expanse is Khan Tengri (6,995m) - referred to by locals as the 'Jewel of the Tien Shan'. This truly is a majestic mountain with its elegant ridges and pyramidal peak; so much so that its beauty is held alongside the equally distinguished profiles of Ama Dablam and the Matterhorn. Khan Tengri is most recognisable in the early evening, as the setting sun illuminates her many exposed faces.

Background

Kyrgyzstan is a relatively new state, which gained independence in 1991. It was formed when the former USSR was dissolved. The Tien Shan is one of the largest mountain systems in Asia. The climate is sharply continental with hot summers in the foothills and valleys and cool and cold temperatures in the Alpine zone.

Peak Chapayev (6,230m)

At 6230m, Peak Chapayev shares its route with those attempting to summit the majestic Khan Tengri. The ascent of Chapayev involves establishing two camps en route, the approach of which is richly rewarded with a vista of tremendous proportions. The higher of these two camps is on a flat plateau at 5,900m; positioned directly beneath the summit of the golden Khan Tengri.

The route up Chapayev is not too technically demanding with the majority of the ascent being on fixed ropes (so make sure you pack an ascender). There are a couple of exposed sections which require mixed ice/rock climbs. Altitude makes for a challenging climb particularly on the lungs but this is soon forgotten with a summit view that is simply breathtaking; a 360 degree panoramic of the most beautifully jagged peaks & far beyond this, a distant mirage of the vast nomadic plains.

Once upon Chapayev's summit I experienced an overwhelming feeling of achievement & awe on a scale of grandeur. My inner being was completely absorbed & shaken by the view. In that instant I experienced a moment of utter bliss, a moment where there was complete freedom from thought; however such inner stillness was soon interrupted by the physicality of the descent. To this day the Tien Shan Mountains are the most spectacular I have ever laid my eyes & feet upon. With the combination of remote beauty & an incredible summit panoramic it has the capacity to touch deeply even the most hardened of climbers.