18th August 2015
Tour leader Max is just back from our Kyrgystan: Celestial Mountain Action Adventure tour.
The helicopter trip to the South Inylchek Glacier from Karkara had certainly been the highlight of the trip so far. On the previous evening to the flight and overnight there had been very strong winds; these had kept us up during the night as our tents flapped around us and we had thought it unlikely we would be able to go ahead as scheduled. In the end all was fine and we had a great flight.
On the evening before our planned Ton Pirival Pass walk, a general 3 day weather warning had been sent out through text message by the official meteorological office on all the cell phone providers in Kyrgyzstan; thunder, lightning and rain in the evening close to our yurt camp by the shores of Issyk Kul meant we feared this time we wouldn't be so lucky.
The morning though brought a relatively clear sky and so we decided to head up the Ton valley in our Kamaz truck which had arrived overnight. We ascended from 1650M to about 3550M as our vehicle rocked and rattled up the heavily potholed track. When the truck could drive no further we got out and prepared ourselves for the next 8 hours of trekking. The route to the pass was clearly in view and importantly no clouds were chasing us up the valley. The scars of the old Soviet road are still very visible but now covered with hardened snow fields which make them impossible to follow. I’ve never seen any other hikers on the four times I've crossed the pass (and once we had to cancel because of the weather); it is so remote. There are sometimes local families on horseback looking for an alternative to the 220 mile journey a vehicle needs to travel to cross between the valleys.
We climbed steadily through quite rough ground - our walks around Karkara had helped us to acclimatise to a certain extent – and moved on to an upward traverse on medium to large rock runs, which took a lot of concentration. A scramble in places. We reached the pass with much joy and time to spare before the clouds which had now formed towards the north would stream up the valley to cover the pass. The track down is a completely different experience. We descended just over two thirds of a mile in height on a well formed a nicely angled path leaving us the possibility to admire the wonderful views towards the Ddjailisuu valley below us. The total distance walked is only about 9 miles. Our final obstacle before camp was a rather a slightly swollen and very glacial stream. Wisely we hired a couple of horses from the locals nearby to maintain our dry feet and carry us across.