Discover a diverse crossroads of cultures with MTS Senior Guide and Professor Rob Smurr
The mighty Khan Tengri rises high in the Tian Shan Mountains at a stunning 23,000 feet—a mountaineer’s haven and a diverse crossroads of cultures! Any trip to this remote wilderness is best considered an expedition. Far away from large cities (let alone other tourists), big skies and awe-inspiring vistas feed the truly adventurous. Come explore northeastern Kyrgyzstan, an intentionally isolated community that has avoided invaders and preserved its traditional ways of life. MTS Senior Guide Professor Rob Smurr leads you among fir trees and juniper forests, down into river gorges and expansive valleys, up and over mountain passes, along luminous glaciers and their moraines, and through high alpine meadows. You’ll encounter nomadic tribesmen moving their encampments, rock mounds marking sacred places, and possibly catch a glimpse of the elusive snow leopard. And if that’s not enough, every day will greet you with another astounding, snow-capped behemoth of a peak to put you at pause—including Khan Tengri himself. Discovering these wild mountains and the hospitable people who inhabit them is an experience of which few Westerners can boast—and only MTS has the bold legacy to get you there.
- Trek to the base of the mighty Khan Tegri (22,999’) in the heart of the Tian Shan mountains with MTS Senior Guide and Professor Rob Smurr on this special expedition
- Live and breathe the adventure in this remote wilderness
- Hike among fir trees and juniper forests, down into river gorges and expansive valleys, over mountain passes, along luminous glaciers, and through high alpine meadows
- See extraordinary historical sites on the ancient Silk Road
- Discover the diverse communities and cultures at this crossroads between Kyrgyzstan, China, and Kazakhstan
Duration: 16 days Start Location: Bishkek End Location: BishkekDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Bishkek
Please arrive in Bishkek (pop. 850,000) in the morning, the mountain-fringed capital of Kyrgyzstan. A Mountain Travel Sobek representative will meet you outside the customs and immigration area at the airport and assist you with transfer to your hotel. The rest of the morning is free to unwind after the long voyage. This afternoon, we’ll have a guided tour of the city, which will include a visit to the National Museum and other highlights.
Day 2 : Karakol
This morning, we'll drive for about 260 miles to the city of Karakol, Kyrgyzstan’s fourth largest city, located along the northeast side of the massive Lake Issyk-Kul (“Hot Lake”). En route, we’ll visit the stunningly beautiful and isolated Burana Tower, a 9th-century legacy of the Silk Road, as well as numerous petroglyphs from earlier centuries.
Day 3 : Djergalan Gorge (8,135')
This morning, we’ll explore Karakol and visit its museum dedicated to Nikolai Przhevalsky, one of tsarist Russia’s most outstanding travelers and explorers of Central Asia. We’ll also visit the remarkable nail-free wooden Dungan mosque (1910) that was built in the style of a Buddhist pagoda, and the equally beautiful Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral (1895). After lunch we will have a short (50 miles) drive to the Djergalan gorge, and camp in a fir forest at 8,135’.
Day 4 : Begin Trek
Today, we'll begin our trek by hiking along a rudimentary trail--one that is first surrounded by fir trees, then juniper bushes, and finally by high alpine meadows. This day will take us over the small Djergalan Pass (10,913’), and then down into the Tyup gorge. Our campsite is near the Tyup River (9643’). (7-8 hour hike.)
Day 5 : Camp (10,234')
We'll ascend along the Tyup river for about 1½ hours this morning until we ford the river. Then we'll turn eastward and head toward the Ashu-Tor gorge and ascend its eponymous pass (11,969’) in about 2 to 3 hours. Next, we'll descend along “the old bushy trail” to the Chon-Djanalach River, which flows through a wide valley. Today we'll enjoy many memorable encounters with nomadic families who spent the summer in remote encampments, and we’ll establish camp at 10,234’.
Day 6 : Camp (9,610')
Today we'll cross the Djanalach Pass (11,513’) and then descend into the Turuk gorge.As we hike further along alpine meadows we will arrive at Turuk Pass (11,677’). If the weather cooperates we may manage to see the panoramic view of the Saryjaz-Too range and the Saryjaz Valley. Looking directly to the east will give us an magnificent view of the range's iconic peak, the great Khan-Tengri (22,944’). We’ll then descend along the Echkilitash River to its confluence with the Sary-Djaz and camp nearby (9,610’).
Day 7 : Riverside Camp (10,860')
Crossing the Echkilitash River this morning will help us reach the upper reaches of the Tyuz River system. Later in the day we will cross the Sary-Djaz river by a bridge, and we will then enjoy an easy ascent along Tyuz River to our riverside camp (10,857’).
Day 8 : Chon-Tash (9414')
This will be our most strenuous day of trekking, for we will ascend one of the Tyuz River’s tributaries to a small glacier, and then reach the crest of Tyuz Pass (13,123’). The pass should give us fantastic views of the Inylchek glacier and valley, as well as of the Inylchek-Too range with the snow-covered Nansen peak (18,686’). We will then descend 3,936' through bushy slopes into the valley of the Inylchek River where camp awaits at Chon-Tash (9,414’).
Day 9 : Camp (10,890')
Today we'll hike along the valley to the terminus of the Inylchek glacier. Once we reach the glacier we have a simple traverse across to its south side and then we'll continue along its southern slopes to our camp at 10,890’. (This hike is technically easy and does not require any climbing gear or ropes.)
Day 10 : Camp (12,366')
This morning will lead us along the Inylchek glacier and its pronounced moraines until we reach a terrace between the mountainside and the glacier. We'll then hike on the terrace to the Merzbacher glade and camp (11,349). We will be able to see both the South Inylchek glacier and Merzbacher Lake from our campsite, even though both are still distant. A six hour radial hike to the lake is entirely optional.
Day 11 : Camp at confluence of Komsomol and South Inylchek glaciers (12,366')
Today our group will continue tracing the South Inylchek glacier and its moraines, all of which are surrounded by magnificent towering peaks--the majority of which remain unnamed and unclimbed! We'll camp at the confluence of the Komsomol and South Inylchek glaciers tonight at 12,366’.
Days 12 - 13 : Base Camp (13,382')
We'll continue to hike along the South Inylchek glacier today, and we'll pass the terminal moraine of Zvezdochka glacier. Hiking on this moraine will take us to our base camp at 13,382’.
On the following day, each of us will have a chance to choose which radial hike, if any, we would like to join: one will take us beneath Khan-Tengri, the “Lord of the Spirits;” and another will take us closer to Peak Pobeda. No matter what direction you choose, massively powerful 19,000- foot peaks will embrace you before your return to our base camp.
Day 14 : Karakol
This morning a helicopter will transfer us to the Maida-Adyr base camp located in the valley of the Inylchek River. We will drive to Karakol from this camp by 4WD vehicles. This drive will take us along a beautiful mountain road and over the Chon-Ashu pass (12,536’).
Day 15 : Bishkek
This morning, we'll drive back to Bishkek. We can stop en route to bask on Lake Issyk-Kul’s isolated beaches and swim in her surprisingly warm waters.
Day 16 : Fly home
We'll transfer to airport and fly home.
DATES: Best time to go: July Departures: No group departures scheduled. Private departures are available on the dates of your choice, pending availablity. Call us for details.
$500 single supplement
Ak Keme Hotel
This hotel is located in the ecologically clean district of Bishkek. The splendid views of the city with its greenery from one side and grand snowy mountains from the other side. Because of this, the AK KEME HOTEL, which is only 8 km to downtown of Bishkek is an ideal place for people, seeking for fresh air, quietness and plenty of green, which guarantee high efficiency and good relaxation.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Rob is both a professor of Russian and Environmental History at Washington’s Evergreen State College and an experienced outdoor guide in the former Soviet Union. He spent two seasons leading climbs on Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe (in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia) and several more seasons leading numerous treks in the Pamir, Tian Shan, and Altai mountains in Central Asia. Rob has excellent Russian language skills. He served as a U.S. Department of State interpreter in Leningrad and Moscow and studied at such places as the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and the University of St. Petersburg in Russia. He obtained an M.A. in International Studies and a Ph.D. in Russian History at the University of Washington. Rob’s outdoor skills include mountaineering (he has summited peaks like Aconcagua and Mont Blanc), rock climbing (5.10), and advanced (Class V) whitewater kayaking. Rob is also a triathlete.