north spurs of mountain system rise to the south above Alma-Ata, which is divided
into Zailiyskiy Alatau and Kungrey-Alatau. The Issyk-Kul lake is a natural boundary
of the region in the south.
Zailiyskiy Alatau expands in latitude direction for 280 km, its width is above 40-60 km. It is divided into west, central and east parts. In the west Zailiyskiy Alatau has two branches.
The highest points of the ridges are between the Kumbel in the west and Amanzhol passes in the east of the central part of the ridge ( the Talgarskiy peak is 4973 m). The central part has 370 glaciers with total area of about 540 square km. Snow-line is at 3800-4100 m, on the north slops it is at the height of 3800-3900 m, and in the north ones is at 4000-4100 m. The ends of the valley glaciers descend along the north slop till 3200-3500 m.
The biggest glaciers of Zailiyskiy Alatau are Korzhenevkogo (12 km), Bogatyr (8 km) in the south slops of the ridge; Dmitrieva (6,6), Konstitutziya (4,6) and Taguzak (4,5) in the north slops.
There are many rivers which have its sources in glaciers of Zailiyskiy Alatau. The Uzun-Kapgalu, Chemolgan, Kaskelen, Alsay, Bolshaya and Malaya Almaatinki, Talgar, Issyk, Tyrgen rivers flow into Ili. The south slop is cut through by the valley shallow rivers.
Relief of Zailiyskiy Alatau has alpine appearance, but differs by deep breaks. It is a place of steep, often vertical, rocky slops. Then it comes mountain relief. Low mountains, highlands with wide valleys are typical for west and east spurs of Zailiyskiy Alatau. General features of the central part of the ridge are mud flows. Slops, facing the north, are covered with snow or ice, north ones-with big screes of destroyed bed-rocks. Lots of valleys of Zailiyskiy Alatau in upper and middle parts are partitioned off by the old and new moraines. They cover large area till 20% of freezing.
Chain of snow summits of the Kungrey-Alatua ridge expands to the south of Zailiyskiy Alatau, after deep valley of the Chilik and B. Kemina rivers. It borders the Issyk-Kul lake on the north.
Kungey-Alatau begins in the region of Boomskiy gorge in the west and expends in latitude direction. It makes arc, facing the north and ending in the east near the valley of the Karkara river. The ridge stretches for 275 km. Its average height is 3700 m.
Kungey-Alatau is rather narrow alpine chain. Its width in its highest part is 30-35 km. The highest point is situated in the Chotkalskiy mass (4771 m) and in the central part of the ridge is Keminskiy peak (4643 m). There are many beautiful summits of 4500-4600 m. The Zailiyskiy and Kungey-Alayau ridges draw together here. The distance between them shorten till 8 km. The Chiliko-Keminsaya cofferdam is a watershed between the largest Chilicom and Chon-Keminon rivers of the region.
The total area of freezing of the Kungey-Alatau ridge exceeds 400 square km. There are 427 glaciers. The area of freezing of the north slop is much more than on the south one because of the moist air.
Most glaciers have different forms of freezing. The biggest of them are Zhangyryk (8,9 km), Uzhniy Zhangyryk (8 km), Atajayloo (Chon-Ak-Suu, 7,6 km), Noviy (6,4).
The altitude of glacier snow-line depends on exposition, the average altitude of the north slops is 3800-3850 m, the south ones is about 4000 m. Glaciers descend till 3550-3600 and 3650-3700 m accordingly.
Moraines, old troughs, terraces are met in Kungey-Alatau. There are 100 rivers, which are fed by glaciers in Kungey-Alatau. The main rivers are Dure, Kashka-Suu, Zinolynsy, Kprumdyk, Zharbulak, Zheldysay, Kugantor, Kayrakty, Sutbulak and other rivers flow from the north slop. These rivers are tributaries of Chilik, which then flows into the Ili river.
Rivers of the south slop often have the same names as the rivers of the north slop. The belong to the basin of Issyk-Kul lake. They are Dure, Kobyrga, Chotkal, Koysu, Orto-Koysu, Chong-Koysu, Cholpon-Ata, Bakty-Dolonaty, Orto-Dolonaty, Chetki-Dolonaty, Chong-Ak-Suu, Ak-Suu and others. All these rivers are not big (15-35 km of length), saying nothing about Chong-Aksu, its length reaches 50 km. Level of the rivers changes accordingly with season and day. Generally they are full in July.
It should be noticed that rivers of Zailiyskiy Alatau and Kungey-Alatau are swift and full like any mountain rivers. As a rule, there are no bridges over rivers, therefore on has to choose the most comfortable and suitable place and time to cross it. Crossing of the Chilik and Chong-Kemin rivers is possible only in the upper reaches. Bridges and ropes are met sometimes only in the lower reaches.
Zailiyskiy Alatau and Kungey-Alatau are famous for its picturesque lakes. Many lakes are moraine, they appeared on the bottom of the mountain valleys. As a rule these lakes are situated high near glaciers ends. Another group of lakes appeared owing to a damp of the valley by mountain landslides. Such lakes have stretched form, rocky steep banks, generally they are deep. The most beautiful lakes are considered to be the Bolshoe Almaatinskoe lake, Jassyk-Kel, Chong-Kel-Tor (Kol-Kogur), chain of lakes in the Taldy, Kelsay valleys.
Dry steppe at foothills of ridges changes into gardens and groves. These are forests and meadows above them, and then it comes glaciers which sparkles on the ridge. Such contrast between foothills and high mountains depends mainly on moisture. It is raining at foothills and snowing in mountains. The temperature decreases from the west to the east, and quantity of the precipitation increases.
At the basin of the Chong-Kemin river at 3600 m the average temperature of January is -13,9 C, July- +2,5 C, this is the warmest month of a year. The average temperature of a year is -5,6 C. The highest temperature of a year is +18 C. The lowest one is -30C. Precipitation is 633 mm, at the low part of the valley is 433 mm. Rate of precipitation of summer is 54%.
In the north and south contrast of the temperature is not so obvious. The quantity of precipitation in the north slops of Zailiyskiy Alatau is much more than in the south slops of Kungey-Alatau.
The nature of the region is various. Lifeless valleys change into beautiful gorges covered with fir-trees. The region of coniferous forest lies at 1600-3100m. Generally the forest covers north, northeast and northwest spurs of gorges. There are edelweiss next to glaciers.
Flora of the region is rather rich. There are more than thousands kinds of vegetation. Wild apple-trees, dried apricots, aspens, birches, bayberries, dog-roses, raspberries grow mainly at 1300-1700.
The beautiful nature, the variety of relief and good roads make the region of the Zailiyskiy Alatau and Kungey-Alatau ridges very popular.
The most interesting region for tourists is the central part of the mountain region, including Cheliko-Keminskiy. The main glaciers are concentrated here as well as the most beautiful and complicated passes. They are of different category of complication. The altitude of the main passes are from 3500 up to 4700 m in Zailiyskiy Alatau and from 3700 up to 4300 m in Kungey-Alatau.
The speed of glaciers movement is low. There is no ice-fall here. There are cracks and gullies in glaciers.
The region is easy to reach. The popular routes are from Almaa-Ata or from other towns or villages from the north to the south, to the Issyk-Kul lake and back.