The Central Tien Shan is Kyrgyzstan’s wildest and least-accessible region © Evgeny Dubinchuk, Shutterstock
It is in this region that superlatives abound: the highest mountains of central Asia, the coldest temperatures, the longest glaciers, the grizzliest mountaineers and the strangest natural phenomena.
The corner of the Kyrgyz Republic that wedges itself between Kazakh and Chinese territory to the east of Karakol is indisputably the country’s wildest and least accessible region. It is in this region that superlatives abound: the highest mountains, the coldest temperatures, the longest glaciers, the grizzliest mountaineers and the strangest natural phenomena. This is a region of ice, snow and unexplored peaks – too high and inhospitable even for most hardy Kyrgyz nomads. It is home to Kyrgyzstan’s highest peak (the second highest in the former USSR), the world’s fourth longest glacier, an amazing disappearing lake and, if you believe in that sort of thing, the remote location for the crash landing of a giant UFO.
Unlike the valleys closer to Karakol this is no place for gentle mountain hikes and is really only for committed, experienced mountaineers and those who avail themselves of the support services of guides and porters. Whatever the degree of tactical support enlisted, fitness and stamina are essential. Visiting the area requires a considerable commitment of time, energy and money, but those returning from time spent trekking in the region invariably insist that it is well worth it.