Discovery Kyrgyzstan
Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008

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The song of Khan-Tengri

Women's costumeWho asked for Khan-Tengri there; rise!

Half-awake, half asleep, I can not understand where I am, though I hear the inviting call and it seems like I am kind of awake already... or still asleep? In a tent, there could not be such darkness, even at night; and whence does this wooden floor come - so rough and uncomfortably slanting, which makes all the body ache?

But suddenly the door swings open, the shrill light and chill burst in, and, at once, everything comes right and falls into place, all details are instantly recalled, and there is no trace of drowsiness anymore - oh yes, the hut! Because of it, we all have overslept! Thrusting my hand for the camera, I am hastily forcing my legs down into the boots. Those who spent the night in tents have already clicked up meters of films in their cameras - what a day! The hut is still in the dense shade, but the peaks around us are enveloped from top to bottom into a solar flame transformed hundredfold by billions of reflectors of the ice faults, hanging glaciers, snow troughs, fields, cornices. My goodness! Can it really be true? Isn't it really a dream, a fairy tale? Isn't that inconceivable, improbable as a huge sugar pie, view going to vanish in a second? Is it possible to gape at it on and on, and to forget at once about all the prose and agonizing imperfections of our earthly life? Indeed, it is improbable nonsense, an outrageous tale - all those talks of some law of the fatal unluckiness, the Murphy's law, the law of the buttered bread, the law of the last bus that always closes the door and goes away in front of you, - there is nothing of the kind in the nature; everything is just the other way round! There was only one day at my disposal for a rendezvous with Khan-Tengri - and here it is; it is simply faultless. But the sky is too much blue, too much cloudless; though by the noon at least a tiny cloudlet will appear without fail; and, for the time being, one can take good pictures even without clouds. Khan-Tengri in the morning, Khan-Tengri at noon, Khan-Tengri in the evening, Khan-Tengri with a cloudlet and without it; we are trying to fill up our memory with Khan-Tengri for the rest of our lives, as they say, no matter how long or short it may be. Afonya is already in the sun - it is about 50 meters away from the hut; it is warm there. The shadow divides the glacier in half, and to hasten the coming of a new day here is as easy as a pie - just take a step towards it. Afonya is standing with his hands in the pockets of his weatherproof trousers, craning his neck, and looking at icy, rocky, figured crests of the Tengri-Tag ridge, at the grandiose art exhibition rising at the height of two or even three kilometers above him, the exhibition of unique creations of the Nature - huge tops of huge mountains!

To my mind, here you can only stand, look, and keep silence. That is, however, what Afonya is doing. And he does not exert himself in attempts to find right words, some epithets or comparisons that are inappropriate here anyway.

But with what splendour, mightily resting on counter-forts that are set wide apart, the white dome of Maxim Gorky peak is rising up, even though overladen with miscellaneous architectural extravagances, such as elaborate curtains, eaves, and cushions, as if just whipped of sugar foam. With a delicate filigree, the lacy, needle-, or herringbone-shaped firn snow engraving on the southeast wall of Chapaev peak is performed by avalanches - now that the sun has already warmed up the slopes, they began rustling along narrow slots of troughs, here and there, with frequency and velocity of suburban Moscow electric trains. But Khan-Tengri... It is a really great summit. No ornaments or knick-knackery; just classic simplicity and austerities of lines. Everything that is superfluous, secondary, minor has been cut off; and the two crescent-shaped hollows of 'the Marble edge' has become the unique animated piquancy that distinguishes the white stone pyramid of the mountain from its geometrical ideal.

Having crossed a gully, we looked back at the hut and stood motionless. The day had gone, the sky had faded out, the white snows had become gray; everything around was peacefully submerging into cold twilights. And only above the hut, there was burning the clear scarlet fire - sunset-lit ice-marbly side of Khan-Tengri. And we stood for a long time, seeing off into the night the red triangular sail, in total silence, taking no heed of coldness drawing nearer, understanding with some subconscious clearness that we enjoy such a sight for the first and, maybe, for the last time.

When the snows ceased to burn, and the red sail became again nothing more than a frosty slope of a high mountain, we resumed our descent down the Enilchek. We looked back on our way, as if we had overlooked something, as if something was still sure to happen. If we had not waited for that, we, maybe, would not have noticed; but we did. And it happened. Khan-Tengri was beaming the light. Its own light that can only be observable in these several seconds. The yellow plates of 'the Marble edge' were shining. Shining with gentle, honey-warm glow. It was the revelation of the Tien Shan to us. We went on continually looking back.

Discovery Kyrgyzstan #5

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