Kyrgyzstan — the former Soviet state tucked away between China and Kazakhstan— is a breathtaking jewel along the old Silk Road. Dominated by the Tian Shan mountains, the country is home to wild and rough peaks, immense mountain lakes and incredibly hospitable locals. And it's a place bursting with raw adventure.
Here, in Kyrgyzstan, innumerable mountaineering, climbing and backpacking trails make the country a true gem for adventurers. Based on its growing reputation as a hiker's insider tip, Niko and his mountain biking buddies decided to pack up their bikes, head to the country — and to check out what Kyrgyzstan has to offer.
On arrival, it quickly became clear that this was a place few mountain bikers ventured to. And while this got the adventure off to a rather puzzling start, it meant that the diverse landscape, the endless flow trails and the 13,000-foot (4,000-meter) high peaks that dominated this MTB playground came as an even greater surprise. They had truly entered a mountain bike eldorado that is comparable to the more famous haunts of Utah and the Alps. Combine that with a type of charm you only find in these former Soviet republics and the hearty food that will leave you full for days, and you've got the perfect mountain biking adventure.
From Bishkek, a continuous good road leads into the heart of the Ala Artscha National Park. There you can even book hotel rooms, you should not be traveling with a tent. These should however be booked with sufficient time interval, since they are often quite overcrowded. If you've brought your camping gear with you, you can set up your dwelling in one of the many meadows completely free of charge.After refilling your supplies at the local "mom and pop" store, we recommend taking a tour to the Ak-Sai Glacier. With the bike is at about 3000 meters finish, but with suitable equipment you get even further out. The climb is straightforward and runs on an extremely well-developed path, which always snakes along a small gorge. On the same way it goes back to the valley. Thanks to the almost rootless path, it is progressing very fast. A successful entry into the Kyrgyz trail world, which will still be clearly topped.
To the west extends a special cream piece of the Ala Archa National Park. Although the route is very lonely and rarely undertaken, a consistently good walkable and drivable path leads up to a nameless summit that marks the end of the river valley. The raging stream, which sometimes has very strong currents, must be crossed again and again, which is quite an adventure with the bike on the back.But if you manage this challenge, you will be rewarded with a fabulous flowtrail. In addition, on the way up an alpinist cemetery can be seen, which illuminates many stories and destinies of Soviet mountaineers. Kyrgyzstan had roughly the same significance for the East mountaineering scene as the Alps did for the West. Many competitions over first ascents were fought here, which ended among other things deadly.
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Before you rush into the Kyrgyz wilderness, there are two things to do in Karakol: Once you should go to Asman and try out all sorts of Kyrgyz specialties. On the other hand, you should visit the big market and get your supplies there for the upcoming tour. The ascent of the Alaköl lake will take three days for conditionally fit bikers.At first the company starts very harmless. From Karakol a well-maintained road leads to the last small settlement at the foot of the mountain range. So far, it's going on relaxed, provided that none of the many shepherd dogs today has a bad day. These are sometimes quite aggressive and should always be watched with a watchful eye. But if you have left the last village behind you, you will hardly meet any other creature. Only a few larger eagles fly over your head again and again.In line with the loneliness, the road is getting worse and steeper and more straightforward with the omission of any hairpin bends. In places must be pushed. Shortly before a narrow path branches off in the direction of Alaköl See, the first overnight camp should be established. A fresh source of drinking water and barbecue areas invite you to linger, while the tired muscles can be relaxed in a freezing cold mountain stream.
The ascent from the base camp is very long, very steep and very exhausting. The bike must be shouldered here predominantly. The path is virtually impossible to miss, since there is only one leaked track. As a result, he is also extremely good to commit. However, should the forces wane, halfway there is an old refuge, which can be used for another overnight stay.All in all, of course, there are ways to fill eight hours with more joy, but the reward for this drudgery is just overwhelming. At over 3,500 meters, you'll be camping amidst the breathtaking scenery of the surrounding 5000s, which catch fire in the light of the setting sun. At your own feet lies the surreal turquoise glowing Alakul lake. A unique sight.
Once you've made it to Alakul Lake, the hardest part of the climb is over. Now there are only two climbs to overcome before reaching the Alakul Pass, which you climb almost unnoticed as the incredible mountain panorama detracts from all the hardships. In between even waiting for a short descent, which is extremely steep and technical. You almost feel like rushing into the lake.A good three hours after breakfast, you are standing on the Alakul Pass. Then it is necessary to climb another 50 meters to climb to the almost 4000 meters, nameless summit that towers high above the lake.After more than two days of climbing, you finally made it. You will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the Kyrgyz Terskej-Alatau Mountains, which rivals most of the sights in the Alps. The same applies to the following trail. Starting as a treacherous, technically challenging, rocky little path, the path transforms more and more into a dream drawn in the meadow. Good 2000 vertical meters chisel a grin into the face of every mountain biker, which lets forget all the hardships of the previous days. In between, a short river crossing awaits, which requires some caution due to some rapids. If this is overcome, the trail meanders in the usual flow to the valley. "One of the best trails I've ever driven," says Niko.
The stage from Balyktschy to the Keckek-Bel Pass can be done well in one day from the distance and the elevation meters, but on some days a violent wind blows over the Yssykköl Lake, which can cost a lot of strength. Otherwise, the route is characterized by many lonely, beautifully situated roads, which are interrupted only by very small, rudimentary villages. These usually offer no way to increase stocks, so it is advisable to pack in Balyktschy enough drinking water and food.The people on the way are extremely friendly and most of the time you do not come around for one or the other invitation to a glass of vodka. Just right, at the desert-like temperatures. The last climb to the Keckek-Bel Pass is dead straight and therefore mentally a bit exhausting. Long time you see the target, but you come very slowly closer. But if you are finally on top, you will be rewarded with a magnificent foresight. But beware: In case of bad weather, it is not recommended to camp on the pass.
A stage can not start better than a descent. From the 2109 meter high Keckek-Bel Pass, it goes down in no time down to the Yssykkul Lake, where you can best enjoy a breakfast directly on the beach. As luck would have it, this is the best bakery on Yssykköl Lake. Inconspicuous, but recommended by many locals, is served every morning fresh flatbread, which could not be fluffier. It is paid for by the little sons of the baker, who like riding on their donkey through the area.Then, back on the road, you'll be well rested on the fun sandstone hills along Yssykköl Lake to give the freerider space. Erosion has created a multitude of different lines in the rocks over the centuries, reminiscent of the Red Bull Rampage in the legendary Utah. After that it is still a fairly flat, but long stage to Karakol, on which only rarely can be bought. With supplies, therefore, be economical to deal with, before you can beat your stomach again in Karakol.