Karzhantau – Transversing the Ridge

This piece was originally published on The Tuqay before it became part of Ajam Media Collective.

In the beginning of April, three alpinists (mountain climbers) from Uzbekistan made another ascent to the peak of Mingbulak, 2, 824 meters above sea level. “Mingbulak” means “thousand springs”, and is the highest point of the Karzhantau ridge.

Karzhantau is the northern spur of the Talas Alatau system of mountains in Western Tien Shan.  Tien Shan is a scenic corner of the world where over 1,300 species of plants, 150 kinds of birds and variety of wildlife live.

By its southwestern end, Karzhantau enters the range of Uzbekistan, forming the Uzbek-Kazakh border for 30 kilometers, while the whole length of the ridge Karzhantau is about 130 km.  Close to the main peak, Mingbulak, there are two other peaks on the ridge, and their height is just below that of Mingbulak.

The Uzbek slopes of the ridge Karzhantau are the head of Kyzylsu, Karakiyasai, Aktashsai, Tavaksai and other small mountain rivers.  Those rivers meet river Chirchik, and their waters are used for drinking by villages and sanatoriums, as well as for watering the fields by some farm facilities. Some of those mountain villages by the rivers are pretty developed, and their adjacent rural lands are extensive. The closest towns to the ridge are Chirchik and Gazalkent.

Here are the details of the alpinists’ trip:

“On April 5th, our group of two guys and one girl left Tashkent in order to climb Mingbulak. We reached the town of Gazalkent by train, but we still needed to take the taxi to Karakiyasai where we begin our ascent. The route that we planned was this: Karakiyasai – ridge Karzhantau – peak Mingbulak – Kyzylsusai. This route is not classified by alpinists, and it’s made by regular tourists, but the long distance and a considerable climb make it not easy at all.  At about 10 a.m., we came to Karakiyasai and after paying the taxi-driver, we started our walking along the river. Blossoming tulips and green grass pleasantly pleased the eye – we could sense spring in the mountains.


On our way we didn’t meet any single person or even livestock, which will be grazing here starting a month later. On the way along the river we overcame one river crossing. It wasn’t much water, but it was still pretty cold. In 45 minutes we reached a 15-meter waterfall.


We took picture of the waterfall, and we settled nearby for lunch and rest before our long ascent to the main ridge. Our current height is 1,430 meters. We have to climb more than a kilometer, this day. At 12:30 we left the place we stopped for our lunch and climbed up. Vertical meters are difficult, especially with a heavy backpack weighing on the shoulders. Before this ascent, we haven’t been in the mountains for over one month, and so our bodies are unaccustomed to such strain, but if we would go to mountains regularly, 2-3 times a month, then the same expedition would be much easier. The first three hundred vertical meters we’re walking is mostly grassy slopes that are heavily overgrown with thorn bushes. The waterfall and the river we left behind long ago. We went out on a crest that is going straightly to the main ridge, Karzhantau.


There is a decent layer of snow here. The steepness of the climb slightly decreased, and the going became much easier. By 2,200 meters, our way was obstructed by a huge rock wall, but we found small passages between the rocks.


We are going up already over three and a half hours, and we’re very tired. We are stopping here for a little while to rest and to refresh our strength with a chocolate bar. The weather is wonderful! The sun is periodically covered by clouds, and that’s why it isn’t that hot to walk.



Going round the big rock, we are going out on a beautiful ridge that we should pass before nightfall.



Sometimes, on the way we encounter rocks that are relatively easy to pass.


And here it is; the last big push and access to the Karzhantau ridge.


We are at 2,472 meters above sea level, and we have to go to the left and down. There, on at 2,415 meters, there is a place more-or-less protected from the wind, a depression in the ground for spending the night. We arrived to this place at 5:30 p.m., and whole ascent took us five hours. We quickly got busy putting up our three-man tent and melting snow on our gas burner to make tea. How pleasant it is simply to be lying down in the tent and do nothing! Night went very well; we did not freeze, and the wind outside was moderate, but still sometimes flapping of the tent in the wind kept us awake.

In the morning of the second day, we are having breakfast in the tent, getting ready and taking off. We need to cross a big distance along the crest until the peak Mingbulak, and then it’s a matter of the enormous descent down to the river Kyzylsu. What a wonderful panorama is in front of us! A rock gendarme that we must go around, and the first peak of three became visible.




It took us couple hours to reach the gendarme, and we passed around it with extra caution, since it is so steep here.

14It took us a couple more hours to go up and down to the first, second and the main peak. And finally we are on the highest point of this ridge – 2824 meters from where we can see an excellent view on surrounding mountains and reservoir.


It’s much easier to descend, but the risk of an avalanche causes us some concern.

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After going down few more hours and losing 1,300 meters of height we are spending night in a canyon by the river Kyzylsu – a formidable and rugged mountain stream.

On the third day at 6 a.m., a storm started that turned into a long rain. Water in the river has increased and the water became brown from clay. We need to overcome ten hard river crossings because it’s impossible to walk along only one side of the river. Three of us are closely attached to each other while crossing the river. The level of water is over one meter in the middle and there is a possibility that the strong current will take anyone of us away. We successfully passed all the crossings and then got on a good path. Rain doesn’t stop, but after crossing the full-flowing Kyzylsu we don’t notice it any more. We are passing the rest 10 kilometers until the railway station in Hodzhikent and successfully going back to Tashkent.

Once again we went through this beautiful route and received a lot of enjoyment and impressions. The route was 33.3 kilometers. It’s not as much as it can be seem on the first look, and we went this same route in only one day, the other time, but this is a topic of another story”.

“Aida Eizeman” is the pseudonym of this journalist, who sent this to me as a biography. As such, it wouldn’t make much sense for her to have contact information available now, would it?