Almaty to Issyk Kul lake trekking

     Popular trekking route leads from the former capital of Kazakhstan - the city of Almaty, which is situated on the foothill of the Zailiyskiy Alatau range, Northern Tien Shan - to the one of the world's biggest and deepest mountain lake - beautiful Issyk Kul.

     The route crosses 2 mountain ranges - the abovementioned Zailiyskiy Alatau - and Kungey Ala Too. There are 2 different ways to make such a trek. The 1st, most short and easy, usually takes about 4 days (however, some well-trained backpackers make it in less then 24 hours!): Almaty - Big Almaty Lake, Bolshaya Almaatinka gorge (by car) - Ozerniy Pass (3507 m, easy trail, N/C CD) - Chong Kemin gorge - Northern Aksuu pass (4052 m, 1A* CD, possible snow-covered) - Chong Aksuu gorge - Grigorievka village (Issyk Kul lake, 1600 m). The content below which is concerned exclusively with this option, is marked with A sign.

     The other option differs depending on many factors, such as the timeframe you have and your mountain skill. For example, you can visit the other gorge which is connected to Almaty by road - Malaya (Small) Almaatinka gorge - with wide-known skating stadium "Medeo" and mountain ski resort "Chimbulak". The other place which is worth to visit is beautiful forested gorge of Left Talgar river. The variant of such the route may be as follows: Almaty - Medeo - Chimbulak (by car) - Talgarskiy pass (3163 m, N/C CD, elevator on the ascend, steep but beaten trail on descent) - Left Talgar gorge - Touristov pass (3930 m, 1A CD, usually snow on both side) - Bolshaya Almaatinka gorge - Ozerniy pass (further see var. A). The content concerned this route is marked with B sign, the common content - AB.

To enlarge image, click on thumbnail foto.

There are some places which is worth to visit on arrival to Almaty. The 1st is Ortodox Cossack Cathedral (1907). AB
Almaty. Cossac Cathedral
The next is Arashan bath complex. It consists of 3 branches: Russian bath (wet bania), Finnish sauna and Turkish branch with heated floor. Originally it was built for using only by Communist elite, but now is open to everyone. The masseurs, especially in Turkish branch, are great! AB
Almaty. Arashan bath complex
To make the 1st option route, you have to reach Bolshoye (Big) Almaty ozero (lake) in Bolshaya Almaatinka gorge by car. There is a road (however, of a bad quality, accessible only by vehicle like a jeep) further up from the lake, directly to the Ozerniy pass, but this road was hit by mud flow and seriously damaged (see foto on foreground). A
Big Almaty lake. Mud flow.
If you won't go via Ozerniy pass the 1st day, you can stay on the way up above the forest area to climb the pass as soon as it possible next day morning. A
On the way to Ozerniy pass.
Here we interrupt the 1st option because the next step to the Ozerniy pass would be the common deal with 2nd option. The difference is you go to the left (as seen from Almaty) gorge - the Malaya (Small) Almaatinka - and good road leads you to famous Medeo skating stadium (1695 m elevation, also it is using as ground for some entertainment, such as "Asia Dausi" - "The Voice of Asia" - song festival). B
Medeo skating stadium.
If you aren't overloaded with beer ;-) and want to make some training, you can leave the car (but not the rest of civilization) now and climb up the 700-step stair to main Medeo mud flow dam. However, if you don't like such an exercise, you can proceed further using car. B
Stair from Medeo to the top of the dam.
The view from the top of Medeo dam up to Chimbulak and Talgarskiy pass (left col). B
View from the top of Medeo dam.
On the middle of the way to Chimbulak, the Malaya Almaatinka conjoins the left tributary - Gorelnik river. About 20 m up from the conjunction there is hot spring (see foto), which is worth to try to take a bath for free! B
Gorelnik hot spring.
The Chimbulak mountain skiing resort is elevated at about 2200 m. There are well-equiped hotel, cottages, and 3 cable-chair ways and 3 cable-rope ways up to Talgar Pass station (3163 m). The resort has facilities luxurious enough to keep even the meeting of CIS presidents in March, 2002!. B
Chimbulak mountain ski resort.
You can climb up the Talgar pass immediately on arrival and stay overnight on the Left Talgar river. However, if you have extra time and stay in Chimbulak (recommended due to a lot of visitors in this part of gorge), there are some interesting places which is worth to visit. About 15-20 min. walk up you can see the memorial to the lost climbers. B
Memorial to the lost climbers.
Book a trekking tour "Almaty to Issyk Kul"!
Northern Tien Shan
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