The Chong-Kyzylsu River in the lower part of its valley, carrying the same name. This is where we start, on a dirt road easily accessible by car from Karakol.


Further up the valley the grassy terrain changes to alpine forest, which grows to an altitude of almost 3000 m.
Chong-Kyzylsu River Chong-Kyzylsu River

Above Treeline

For the sole purpose of acclimatization we take a walk into the Ashutor Valley, thus dragging our body system over the 3000 m line. A nice day trip in sunny weather, as we later remember.


A look down Ashutor Valley. We feel the altitude, trying to shake off a headache. For heaven's sake we don't have to carry the heavy backpacks.
View up Ashutor Valley Ashutor Valley


These are the views we have been hoping for. Snow-covered mountain tops under a deep blue sky. Our map doesn't mention a name for this mountain.

Valley Floor

The upper Chong-Kyzylsu Valley during our descent in the morning hours.
Mountain Chong-Kyzylsu Valley


Kashkator Valley looks like taken from a fairy tale. But it ain't no paradise, it's hot, we are going up again, the backpacks are heavier than ever.


Looking back down into Kashkator Valley from our steep ascent up to Archa Tor Pass. The smoke must be coming from a forest fire.
Forest in Kashkator Valley Burning forest in Kashkator Valley


Here we are looking up at Archa Tor Pass (3894 m), one of four passes we are planning to cross. The pass is on the left side and marked by the path.

Other Side

The Asantukum Valley from Archa Tor Pass. A small glacier in the foreground, and a downpour further down the valley. A few snow flakes give us a hint of the high altitude.
Archa Tor Pass Asantukum Valley

From the Pass

A panoramic view from Archa Tor Pass into the valley we have come up from and at the high mountain chains behind.

View from Archa Tor Pass


The mountains over 4000 m are topped with snow and glaciers. The ice is retreading as it is everywhere on this planet.


This small glacier behind Archa Tor Pass was the only one we were to come close during this hike.
Glaciers Glacier at Archa Tor Pass


Wild animals are almost absent in this part of Tianshan in favor of horses and cows. This specific animal has seen better days.


If at all, one has to photograph butterflies. They are abundant, big, and beautiful.
Asantukum Valley Butterfly


A patch of sun after a healthy rain shower in Jeti Oguz Valley. It rises our hopes for good weather.


The upper Telety Valley. Despite our hopes the weather has turned to a more rainy attitude.
Jeti Oguz Valley Telety Valley


Again it looks nice, but the thunderstorm just minutes ago wasn't. The tent stands below Teleti Pass.

Next Valley

Having crossed Teleti Pass in clouds and snowfall, we descend down the Telety-Karakol Valley to finally reach Karakol Valley.
Below Telety Pass Telety-Karakol Valley

Big Stone

A nice place, if it wasn't for the rain. The big trees are tall and provide dense cover; underneath it remains relatively dry even after hours of rain.


The river flows down the steep valley that is leading up to Ala-Kol Lake. The sky is leaking down on us.
Rock in Karakol Valley Waterfalls on Kurgak River


The camp on Ala-Kol Lake. The clouds have lifted for a minute, but we almost didn't see the lake, and for sure didn't see its beauty.


The rain has stopped, but no thanks, it has turned to snow. The advantage is that we now don't have to descend a steep hundred meters down to the lake for water anymore. A rather fresh supply of water has been delivered by heaven.
Camp on Ala-Kol Lake Snowfall on Ala-Kol Lake