Back in Almaty – work again! But this time I didn’t come alone but was accompanied by my wife Anna, who I met travelling and we are still travelling well together. Anna, all keen to explore the secrets of Kazakhstan, arranged a three day hike through the Northern Tian Shan Mountains. We were picked up at the hotel on Friday morning, punctual at 7am, to be driven into a small valley just East of Medeo. At around 1800m the ride ended and the hike started. We went straight up to the Butakovsky Pass at almost 2900m. Not a walk in the park exactly, but a beautiful hike rewarded by a spectacular view over snow capped peaks over 5000m:

View from Butakovsky Pass over some peaks towering over 5000m. Slightly boring,  thinks our guide Alexander, who failed on his expeditions to Everest and Lhotse, but stood on the summit of Makalu. Alexander, it has been a pleasure to hike with a man who climbed an 8000 without oxygen!
View from Butakovsky Pass over some peaks towering above 5000m. Slightly boring, thinks our guide Alexander, who made attempts on Everest and Lhotse and stood on the summit of Makalu. Alexander, it has been a pleasure to hike with a man who climbed an 8000 without oxygen!

The walk down Butakovsky valley through fields of wild raspberries was another highlight until we reached the Talgar river, a rather wild mountain creek. We found a beautiful campsite right at the river – the instant noodles from the gas stove were a highly deserved dinner after a long (after all, we are desk bound city dwellers) hike.

Nothing nicer than a camp fire after a day of hiking. Good company and a bottle of whisky helps, too.
Nothing nicer than a camp fire after a day of hiking. Good company and a bottle of whisky helps, too.

The next day Anna and Alexander set off to another exciting hike, while I had to watch the campsite to shoo off wolves, bears, snow leopards and mind my sore knee. It seems that rolling back and forth in an office chair is rather insufficient preparation for a hike like that. I shall roll faster in the future to be better prepared. Anyway, Anna and Alex had a wonderful hike with great views and some interesting little observations on the way: looking at a glacier our guide couldn’t quite remember whether this particular glacier had merely a number or an actual name – quite a different approach to the alps where every semi-persistent snowfield has a well known name. Here in the Tian Shan a glacier gets interesting when it stretches over 10 km. Some impressions from the hike:

Edelweiss not restricted to the Alps, but also found in the Tian Shan Mountains.
Edelweiss not restricted to the Alps, but also found in the Tian Shan Mountains.
Constitution peak seen from Sunny Field in the Talgar Valley.
Constitution peak seen from the Talgar Valley.
A name less little glacier seen from the Talgar Valley.
A nameless little glacier seen from the Talgar Valley.

On our third and final day we hiked up to the Small Talgar Pass at 2800m and continued to the Big Talgar Pass at 3180m. That is also the top of the Shymbulak ski resort and accessible by cable car, so there were quite a few people from the city enjoying the beautiful weather and nice views from there. It has been a wonderful hike with a great guide – thanks Alexander and the guys from Tour Asia Travel Agency – it was not cheap, but very well organised and worth the bucks. And the promise to work with professional guides was certainly kept with Alex, who had climbed Makalu at 8,463 meters (27,765 feet).