Tien-Shan Mountains. Khan-Tengry Peak unites the borders of three states

Tien-Shan Mountains

The Tien Shan Mountains are one of the highest mountain systems in the world, second only to the Pamirs. Hundreds of daredevils annually climb the peaks of the Tien Shan, because from the tops you can see incredible landscapes: steep mountain slopes, wild waterfalls and majestic meadows, as well as deserts and steppes spread out at the foot of the ranges, filled with a variety of wildflowers. This beauty prompted the name “Tien Shan”, which translates to “Heavenly Mountains”.

The mountain system (2.5 thousand km) stretches over the territory of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The Tian Shan has more than 30 peaks above 6,000 m, while Europe and Africa cannot boast a single peak. The highest point is Pobeda Peak (7,439 m), just behind is Khan Tengri Peak (6,995 m).

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Video: Tien-Shan Mountains

The Character of the Tian Shan.

The territory of the mountain system is dominated by a sharply continental climate. Rare precipitation, dry air, weak winds and significant temperature variations – these are the features of the area. Winter is unusually harsh for local latitudes. During the summer months, it is hot in the foothills and valleys, and fresh and cool in the mountains.

The Tian Shan lazily basks in the sun, because there is enough light. On average, the mountain system receives from 2,500 to 2,700 hours of sunlight per year. To compare, Moscow gets only 1600 hours of sunlight. In March and April you can see more clouds. In August and September, by contrast, the sky is clear – not a single cloud. From May to October, Tien-Shan mountains welcome guests most cordially: with their heady aromas of plants, a carpet of blossoms and a generous scattering of berries.

On the way to the Torugart Pass. The Tien-Shan Mountains.

Exploring the mysterious mountain system

Mention of the Tien Shan range can be found in ancient writings and notes. Descriptions of expeditions to these places have survived, but they are more like fiction than reliable facts. The mountain “country” was discovered and described in detail by the Russian explorer Pyotr Semenov.

View of Tien-Shan from space

Till that moment European information about Tian-Shan was scarce. For example, the German scientist-encyclopedist and geographer Alexander Humboldt thought that the main part of the mountain system were fire-breathing volcanoes. Chinese sources did not fill the knowledge gap. One of them, which dates back to the VII century, mentioned: in the famous local lake Issyk-Kul “dragons and fish live together.

Semenov started thinking about the Tien Shan when he undertook a serious task – to translate into Russian a book of the German scientist Carl Ritter’s “Territory of Asia”. The task was assigned to the young researcher by the Russian Geographical Society. Semenov took a creative approach to the task: he not only translated the text but also added supplementary material from scientific sources. There was not much information about the immense vastness of Asia, but he wanted to see the mountains with his own eyes.

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The Northern Tian Shan. Kyrgyzstan

For three years the explorer had been preparing an expedition. Humboldt himself blessed the scientist for this risky venture, asking him to bring fragments of Tien Shan rocks as a presentation. In the spring of 1855, the explorer set off. With him went the artist Kosharov, whose images complement the memories of the Russian geographer. The expedition went up from Alma-Ata to Lake Issyk-Kul. The book “Journey to the Tian-Shan” is filled with his impressions of the trip.

After returning home in 1857, Semenov proposed to the Geographic Society to conduct another expedition, but there was no money for it. Later, his ideas encouraged other explorers to study Central Asia. For Semenov’s contribution half a century later, he was officially given an additional surname – Tyanshansky.

“The Grim Giant.”

The dream of many climbers is to conquer Victory Peak, which is located on the border of Kyrgyzstan and China. This beautiful peak has serious requirements for the moral and physical preparation of the daredevils. Despite its huge height of 7,439 meters, the peak has long remained unnoticed.

Victory Peak – the highest point of the Tien Shan.

In 1936 a group of mountaineers with enthusiasm set off to conquer Khan Tengri. It was thought to be the highest peak of the Tien Shan. During the expedition, the group spotted a mountain nearby that rivaled the height of Khan Tengri. A few years later, mountaineers led by Leonid Gutman set off for it. August Letavet, a famous explorer of the Tien Shan, joined the group. They managed to reach the summit within 11 days, in conditions of practically total absence of visibility. The exact height was not known until 1943.

From the outside Victory Peak looks like a huge sullen giant who decided to take a rest. But the sunny look is deceptive: the climbers are faced with inclement weather. Only seldom the northern 7,000m high climber changes his anger for mercy. With harsh frosts and snow storms, avalanches and freezing winds, the mountain tests the stamina of those who dare to climb it. The best type of temporary shelter remains a snow cave. It is not without reason that Victory Peak is called the most impregnable and formidable seven-thousand meter peak.

But it is difficult to determine the exact summit of the peak – it is smoothed and stretched, so the summit tour was located in different places. In the early ’90s, a group of Minskers did not even make the ascent: there was severe bad weather and they could not find the mark of the previous team.

“Lord of Heaven.”

The neighbor of Victory Peak is the formidable Khan Tengri (6,995 meters). It is called one of the most beautiful peaks in the world. Its regular pyramidal shape and mysterious name “Lord of Heaven” fascinate climbers. Kazakhs and Kyrgyz have their own name for the peak – Kan-Too. During sunset, the surrounding mountains are immersed in darkness, and only this peak acquires a reddish hue. The shadows of the surrounding clouds create the effect of flowing scarlet streams. This effect is created by the pink marble, which is part of the mountain. The ancient Turkic peoples believed that a supreme deity lived on the hill.

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Khan Tengri Peak at sunset

Khan Tengri was first conquered in 1936. The classic route of mountain climbers on the mountain peak runs along the Western Rib. It is not that easy: if your track record includes only a few easy routes, you should not even try to conquer the “Lord of Heaven”. The northern part of the mountain is steeper than the southern part. But there is less possibility of ice-slides and avalanches. Khan-Tengry also has other “surprises”: bad weather, low temperatures, hurricane winds.

Khan Tengri and Victory Peak belong to the Central Tien Shan. From the center to the west, there are three mountain ranges, which are separated by intermountain basins. They are united by the Fergana Ridge. To the east, there are two parallel mountain ranges.

The “thinning” glaciers of the Tien Shan.

The high-mountain part of the mountain system is covered by glaciers. Some of them are hanging glaciers that pose a danger to mountain climbers. The glaciers are beneficial to the local peoples – they fill the rivers of the four countries and are a source of fresh water for the population. But the ice reserves are beginning to dry up. In the last fifty years, they have shrunk by almost a quarter. The area of glaciers has shrunk by 3,000 square kilometers – a little more than Moscow. Since the 1970s, the ice part began to disappear more actively. Scientists estimate that by the middle of the XXI century the Heavenly Mountains will lose 50% of their reserves. The changes could leave four countries without a water resource.

Melting glaciers in the Tien Shan

Flowers at the foot of the mountains

In spring, the mountain slopes fill with life. Glaciers melt and water goes to the foot of the mountains. The semi-deserts are adorned with ephemeral grasses, the steppes with wild onions, shrubs and tulips. There are coniferous forests and meadows on the territory of the Tien Shan. Junipers are widespread. There is a lot of golden root and blackberry. There are dangerous “inhabitants” – Sosnovsky hogweed. If you touch it, you can get burnt. The Greig’s tulip also grows here, its petals measure 75 mm.

In the vicinity of the mountains – a lot of species of plants and animals that live only here. These are saker falcon, red wolf and Menzbira marmot. Another difference of the Tien Shan is the neighborhood of animals and plants of different latitudes. Southern Indian porcupine and northern roe deer, walnut and fir live together. There are representatives of steppes, deserts, forests and mountains. Because of this, within the mountain system created several nature reserves.

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Non-freezing lake and its “neighbors”

The lakes also feel comfortable on the territory of the mountain system. The largest one is Issyk-Kul. It is located in a deep hollow between two ridges on the territory of Kyrgyzstan. The water in it is slightly brackish. From the local language the name is translated as “warm. The lake lives up to its name because its surface never freezes.

The lake occupies more than 6 thousand square kilometers. Along it is a tourist area: hotels, pensions, guest houses. The southern shore is less built up, but more picturesque – the silence, the mountain air, the snowy caps of the peaks, the hot springs nearby. The lake is so clear that you can see the bottom. The coast resembles a seaside resort – there is something for everyone. One can sunbathe on the beach, go fishing or take a trip to the mountains.

Lake Tianchi is located in the Tian Shan Mountains, a hundred kilometers away from Urumqi, China. The locals have nicknamed it “the Pearl of Heavenly Mountain”. The lake is fed by meltwater, so it’s crystal clear. The most spectacular mountain in the vicinity is Bogdafen Peak, the height of which exceeds 6 thousand meters. May through September is a favorable time to visit.

Lake Issyk-Kul Tianchi

Hiking and biking tours

Hiking in the Tien Shan Mountains often includes a tour of Issyk Kul. Several days of passes surrounded by the peaks of five-thousanders, emerald mountain reservoirs, and acquaintance with the most famous local sights – all this includes a hiking route. Travelers admire local blue firs and juniper bushes, an abundance of flowers and waterfalls, swim in hot springs and rest on the coast of the healing lake. Sometimes the routes involve an introduction to the simple life of nomadic herders.

Bicycle tour of the Tien Shan

Especially tourists are interested in the Northern Tien Shan and the Kyrgyz ridge. Both areas are easily accessible. They are not crowded, untouched by civilization. You can make simple hikes or choose complex routes. Comfortable time for traveling is in July and August. Experienced tourists are advised to be more cautious in trusting the information from 20 years ago and more. Because of the melting of the glaciers some routes are easier to handle, others have become more difficult and dangerous to overcome.

Russian residents do not need a passport to travel to Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan. After the arrival you should go through the registration. The attitude to tourists is hospitable, and there are no language problems. Transport accessibility to the mountains varies. The easiest to reach are those near Alma-Ata: Western Dzungaria and Zailiisky Alatau. There is also excellent access to the mountains near Tashkent and Bishkek. You can also get to the picturesque places that are near Lake Issyk-Kul. The other areas of the Kyrgyz and Chinese Tien Shan are not easily accessible.

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There are bicycle tours through the Tien Shan Mountains. There are opportunities for trekking, cross-country and road cycling. The traveler’s strength is tested by the sultry Asian summer, the sands and off-road. The scenery changes: semi-deserts, deserts, mountain ranges. After the bicycle tour you can stop at Lake Issyk-Kul and visit the towns of the famous Silk Road along the way.

Mountain Dwellers

The Tian Shan beckons not only adventurers. For some people, the slopes of the mountains are home. In late spring, local nomadic herders set up their first yurts. Everything is well thought out in such mini-huts: kitchen, bedroom, dining-room and living-room. The yurts are made of felt. It is comfortable inside even in frosty weather. Instead of beds there are thick mattresses laid on the floor. Semyonov also observed the economy and life of the Kazakhs and Kyrgyz in the vicinity of Tian-Shan. In his personal reports, the scientist described his visits to Kyrgyz settlements and his individual meetings with local residents during the expedition.

Before the revolution, the yurt was considered the main kind of dwelling among the Kyrgyz. Today, the construction has not lost its importance, because cattle breeding is still a high priority. It is placed near ordinary houses. In the heat, the family rests there and welcomes guests.

Tien-Shan Mountains. Khan-Tengry Peak unites the borders of three states

In nature there is a great variety of mountain systems, each of them is unique and has its own distinctive feature. A special place is given to snow-covered peaks, which climbers around the world are so eager to conquer. This article describes Khan-Tengry peak, which is recognized as one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Tien-Shan Mountains. Khan-Tengry Peak unites the borders of three countries - Photo 2

Tien Shan Mountains. Khan-Tengry Peak unites the borders of three countries

Geography and History

Khan-Tengry Peak strikes with its views. But most of all surprised by its unusual location. The peak is located on the joint of the borders of several countries at once: Kazakhstan, China and Kyrgyzstan. The height – 7010 m, excluding the glacier – 6995 m The peak is on the Tengri-Tag Ridge, in the eastern part of the Central Tien-Shan the shape is a square pyramid type of landscape: with snowy sharp peaks, glaciers, coniferous forests there are more than 20 routes to conquer the top – the highest point of the Republic of Kazakhstan

Tien-Shan Mountains. Khan-Tengry Peak unites the borders of three countries - Photo 3

Tien Shan Mountains. Khan-Tengry Peak unites the borders of three countries

Khan Tengri was first mentioned in Chinese chronicles 1200 years ago. The first person to describe the peak was Petr Semenov, who later became Semenov-Tyan-Shansky.

In ancient times Turkic peoples considered the peak of Khan Tengri as an embodiment of the dwelling place of deity Tengri. He together with Umai and Erlik ruled the order of existence, and were especially revered in Tengriism. Tengri is the most important deity capable of influencing the fate of people, determining the duration of life, controlling the rulers. The name of the peak is translated as “Lord of Heaven.

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Khan Tengri in tourism

Khan-Tengry Peak is located in a park whose name is identical to the name of the mountain. The park belongs to the Issyk-Kul Nature Reserve, located on the territory of Kyrgyzstan. The area of the reserve is more than 17 thousand hectares, occupying 20 percent of the state. The nature here is picturesque and varied: alpine meadows, fields, forests, mountains and cliffs. These fascinating views attract many tourists and photographers . This area is home to such amazing and rare animals such as the snow leopard, the gazelle, the weasel and the sandman. But it is also necessary to consider that this area is also home to dangerous creatures. Such as the caracourt, its bite can lead to death, phalanx, which causes blood poisoning and others. In subalpine meadows you can find edelweiss, the plant, which is a distinctive feature of the alps.

Tien-Shan Mountains. Khan-Tengry Peak unites the borders of three countries - photo 4

Tien Shan Mountains. Khan-Tengry Peak unites the borders of three countries

Khan-Tengry Peak is the northernmost seven-thousandth peak in the world. Because of its views, majesty and height, it has become a dream for many climbers from all over the world. For the first time got to the top Michael Pogrebetsky, in 1931, a lot of laid routes, to date, made the conquest of the top possible. There are two classic ways, which were used by the very first conquerors of the mountain. It takes at least 14 days to reach the top. Tourists who want to see all the natural beauty surrounding Khan-Tengri should come to the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, and from there take a shuttle bus to the town of Karakol . The climbing season lasts from July to the end of summer.

Tien-Shan Mountains. Khan-Tengry Peak unites the borders of three countries - photo 5

Tien-Shan Mountains. Khan-Tengry Peak unites the borders of three states

Interesting facts

In 2002, the Khan-Tengry Peak was for the first time represented on the 100 som bill. After that Kyrgyzstan was one of the few countries that have depicted mountains on banknotes.

Tien-Shan Mountains. Khan-Tengry Peak unites the borders of three countries - photo 6

Tien Shan Mountains. Khan-Tengry Peak unites the borders of three countries

Mountaineer Gleb Sokolov has conquered the peak the most times. In 2016, his record was 34 climbs . Khan-Tengri Peak and its junction with the nearby Chapaev Peak are quite similar to the location of Everest and its South Saddle, which makes it possible to compose a route simulating the classical way of conquering the Himalayas. The youngest climber is a Pole, Adam Beletsky, who climbed the peak at age 17. Denis Urubko, a Kazakh mountaineer who has conquered all the eight-thousanders in the world, trained for climbing in the Himalayas at Khan-Tengry Peak.

Tien-Shan Mountains. Khan-Tengry Peak unites the borders of three countries - photo 7

Tien Shan Mountains. Khan-Tengry Peak unites the borders of three countries

Khan-Tengry Peak is amazing not only for its geographical location, but also for its diverse and colorful nature. And the ascent to this peak will leave simply indescribable impressions.

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