Discovery Kyrgyzstan
Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008

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The central Tien-Shan

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 landscape.
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 surrounding mountains.
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 Mt. Khan-Tengri.
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!

Discovery Kyrgyzstan #2

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