Discovery Kyrgyzstan
Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008

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The Ala-Archa mountains

The Ala-Archa mountainsThe Tien-Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan raise over the Central Asian steppes and deserts like islands crowned by clouds, like a wonderful emerald green and snow white mirage bestowing water and thus life to the sun burnt lowlands.

Yes, many a country in the world prides itself on its majestic mountains and mountain ranges. Not many countries though can claim a capital that is a mere 40km's from the flanks of a mighty mountain range, such as is the case with Bishkek and the Tien-Shan. Here lay the peaks, conquered by world champion climbers.

And Bishkek is the only capital in the world whose down town central governmental area is named in honor of the mighty range that is just within reach. In Bishkek, all important national celebrations and festivals are being held on the grounds of the capital's main square, the Ala-Too, meaning "Motley Mountains".

The most distinguished of all Ala-Archa sites are located on the gorge's right side, beyond the Ak-Say glacier, where Peak Free Korea and Peak Corona for their expressive architectonics are comparable to Han-Tengri, the famous "Lord of the Spirits" of the central Tien-Shan range.

In theTurkistan Range lay the phantastic monoliths of Ak-Su the Karavshin Mountains, famed among the world's best climbers for the highest technical difficulties they present, the ultimate challenge.

The Ala-Too Mountains inAla-Archa holds another distinguished peak. Afanasiy Schubin, the head of Kyrgyz climbing instructors was the first to ascent its 4895 meters. Holding the right of the first climber, it was up to him to name the anonymous peak and he chose to name it after Semenov-Tienshanskiy.

The Ala-Archa mountains, the world of the mountain climbers, Golubin's glacier were the inspiration to the creative works of Alexey Agibalov, one-time participant of the "Ala-Archa" expedition. The famous Russian master of the seven-stringed guitar, performer and composer, wrote musical masterpieces such as the concerto for guitar and the symphony "Mountain Rhapsody". Ala-

Archa became a popular venue for training of instructors in alpinism and mountain tourism, preparing participants of high-altitude expeditions to the Himalayan mountains. It was also a favorite background and film-set for feature films and documentaries of different film studios and artistic associations. Naturally, the beauty of Ak-Say and Ala-Archa natural park and their vicinity to the country's capital Bishkek and the Manas airport drew an enormous number of visitors from different countries of the Eurasian subcontinent and with the country's independence, draws an ever increasing number of Western tourists, curious to discover these parts of the world. Whereas sadly, the political instability in such traditionally alpinist regions as Caucasus, Pamirs, Pamiro-Alay mountains and Kashmir makes these areas off limits, Kyrgyzstan offers the environment and the safety and security which make itan ideal alpine tourism destination.

The northern walls of Ak-Say became known to the world alpinist community thanks to the hundreds of routes opened by such local specialists for technically difficult climbing as Lev Mishyayev (Moscow), Valeriy Bezzubkin (Krasnoyarsk), Boris Studen in (Almaty). There is climbing and hiking for all levels and all categories, there are thousands of peaks over 4000m and in the Meridian range about 50 peaks with an altitude of over 6000 meters.

Along with the list of the wonderful peaks of Kyrgyzstan there is a list of the outstanding climbers of the country, first and foremost those who were awarded the honorary title "Snow Leopard", the chosen few who have climbed all 7000m peaks of the Tien-Shan and the Pamirs. Almost all of the "Snow Leopards" have passed through the school of Ala-Archa, worked as instructors in the base camps.

Many of them till nowadays are in active cooperation with the young generation of alpinists. Amongst them is LevanAlibegashvili, the chairman of the Federation of Alpinism, Mountain and Glacier Climbing of the Kyrgyzs Republic, Vyacheslav Lyakh, the head of the Public Alpinist Rescue Team, Vladimir Biryukov, the director of the company "Tien-Shan Travel", Nikolay Shetnikov, the director of "Dostuk-Treckking", Alexander Gybayev, the director of "Asian Mountains", Vyachesiav Alexandrov, the director of "Edelweiss Tours". Dmitriy Grekov, honorary master of sport, subjugator of the Everest, represents "Aksay Travel". The list of these "Snow Leopards" would be incomplete without such well-known masters of alpinism as Vladimir Kochetov. Elvira Nasonova, Evgeniy Slepukhin, Robert Yakhin, Stanislav Lavrenchenko, Alexander Novikov, Vladimir Kapanin, Alexander Onin.

These strong personalities with their longstanding experience and understanding of tourism are today successful entrepreneurs, providing a wide range of services through their own companies such as "Tien-Shan Travel", who have confidently demonstrated their business acumen for over ten years. Specialized in difficult to reach mountainous regions such as Enolchek glacier, Khan-Tengri peak, Victory peak, Vladimir Buryukov's company is the trusted partner of tourist companies from USA, Germany, France, England, Sweden, China, Nepal, and other countries not only contributing to the national economy but also enhancing the country's image, aiming for the integration into the world community.

Ala-Archa pupils, "Tien-Shan Travel" company employees don't forget their alma mater. The company has taken over refurbishing of the base camps, training of instructors and is a driving force in the activities of the Federal Association, sponsoring the Kyrgyz Alpine Team, who made headlines during the Year of the Mountain.

With their consistent efforts, their active participation in the country's tourism development, "Tien-Shan Travel" amongst many other tourism service providers and leaders have made it possible to revive the Alginate, the Mountain Festival, gathering hundreds of mountain lovers each May.

Discovery Kyrgyzstan #7

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