The majestic grandeur of
Kyrgyzstan’s Tien-Shan Mountains, home to the two most
northerly 7000m peaks in the world, is a draw for climbers.
The Tien-Shan (chinese for "Heavenly Mountains") mountain range lies in
the heart of Eurasia and stretches nearly 3000 kilometers from west to
east. The western foothills rise from the sands of the Kyzylkum and
Muyunkum Deserts, and the eastern end peters out amongst the sizzling
rocky plateaus of the Gobi. The Tien-Shan encompasses some of the
highest natural structures on the planet. Many reach a height of up to
five or six thousand meters, but the highest peak is Mount Pobeda
(Victory) with an altitude of 7439 meters. Most of the Tien Shan range
is to be found in Kyrgyzstan; the north and west ranges are in
Kazakhstan, and the southernmost tip in Uzbekistan and Tadjikistan. At
a fork in the Sary-Djaz River in the east of the Kokshaal-Tau Range
rises the highest point of the whole mountain range, Mount Victory.
Another 7000m peak, Khan-Tengri (7010 m), is located in the Tengri-Tag
Range, and has a distinctive pointed peak that stands out sharply
against the nearby mountaintops. They are a dream for any climber.
Nature was generous in giving Kyrgyzstan a remarkable mountain
Ancient people, Chinese sources and Byzantine missionaries knew in
general terms about the Heavenly Mountains but there was practically no
specific geographical knowledge of the Tien-Shan even as late as the
mid-19th century because of the inaccessability of the region. As a
result of two expeditions in 1902 and 1907, the German geographer
Mercbahera was able to make an accurate map of the Tengri-Tag Range
marking what he thought was the highest point of the region as Mt.
Khan-Tengri. The sharp peak of this mountain is first to catch the
morning light and it is a sight to behold as it blazes golden above the
For centuries, Mt. Victory was unrecognized mainly because it was very
difficult to reach and was not visible from afar, especially from the
northern side. To see it in all its glory, it is necessary to climb a
neighboring mountain, such as Khan-Tengri, and that is only possible in
good weather. Only in 1937 did the expedition of the academic A.
Letaveta finally confirm the peak as over 7000 meters. In 1938, L.
Gutman, E. Ivanov and A. Sidorenko climbed it but difficult conditions
and dense fog meant they were not able to define their position
accurately from the other peaks. They named it Mount "20 years of
Komsomol", completely mistaken as to which mountain they had climbed.
Then came the war but in 1943 P. Rapasov was able to launch his
topographical expedition and early in 1944 he completed a map
indicating the exact height of Mt Victory at 7439 meters. He
named the peak after military topographers, in the certainty that no
one else had climbed it. It was then recognized that the USSR possessed
the most northerly 7000-meter peaks in the world, located on the border
with China in the Kokshaal-Tau Range. In 1946, the peak's name was
changed to Victory, to commemorate the successful outcome of World War
II. By this time, three crews of Soviet climbers had already conquered
Today, Mt. Khan-Tengri has eleven mountain trails going up on all
sides, and Mount Victory nine, mostly ascending from the north. The
first explorers had to trek over many days to the region of Inylichek,
laden with a whole caravan of equipment; today any adventure-seeker can
get his fill of the view of these spectacular peaks by helicopter in
just half an hour!