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Central Tien-Shan mountains.

Central Tien-Shan Tours in Kyrgyzstan.

“Thought is invisible nature”

Heinrich Heine.

Hiking and travel to Central Tien-Shan.

The Tien-Shan, also known as the Tengri-Tagh, meaning the Mountains of Heaven or the Heavenly Mountain, is a large system of mountain ranges located in Central Asia. The highest peak in the Tien-Shan is Jengish Chokusu, at 7,439 metres.
Its lowest point is the Turpan Depression, which sits at 154 m below sea level. In Western cartography such as National Geographic, the eastern end of the Tien-Shan is usually understood to be east of Ürümqi, with the range to the east of that city known as the Bogda Shan as part of the Tien-Shan.
The Tien-Shan are a part of the Himalayan orogenic belt, which was formed by the collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates in the Cenozoic era. They are one of the longest mountain ranges in Central Asia and stretch some 2,900 kilometres eastward from Tashkent in Uzbekistan.
The highest peak in the Tien-Shan is Jengish Chokusu (also called Pobeda Peak) on the border of China. At 7,439 metres (24,406 ft) high, it is the highest point in Kyrgyzstan. The Tien-Shan's second highest peak, Khan Tengri (Lord of the Spirits), straddles the Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan border and at 6995 metres (23,000 ft) is the highest point of Kazakhstan. 
Mountaineers class these as the two most northerly peaks over 7,000 metres in the world. The Torugart Pass, at 3,752 metres (12,310 ft), is located at the border between Kyrgyzstan and China's Xinjiang province.
The forested Alatau ranges, which are at a lower altitude in the northern part of the Tian Shan, are inhabited by pastoral tribes that speak Turkic languages. The Tien-Shan are separated from the Tibetan Plateau by the Taklimakan Desert and the Tarim Basin to the south.
The major rivers rising in the Tien-Shan are the Syr Darya, the Ili River and the Tarim River. The Aksu Canyon is a notable feature in the northwestern Tien-Shan. Continuous permafrost is typically found in the Tien-Shan starting at the elevation of about 3,500-3,700 m above the sea level.
Discontinuous alpine permafrost usually occurs down to 2,700-3,300 m, but in certain locations, due to the peculiarity of the aspect and the microclimate, it can be found at elevations as low as 2,000 m.
One of the first Europeans to visit and the first to describe the Tien-Shan in detail was the Russian explorer Peter Semenov, who did so in the 1850s.
Glaciers in the Tien-Shan Mountains have been rapidly shrinking and have lost 27%, or 5.4 billion tons annually, of its ice mass since 1961 compared to an average of 7% worldwide.  It is estimated that by 2050 half of the remaining glaciers will have melted.
The Tien-Shan have a number of named ranges which are often mentioned separately (all distances are approximate). In China the Tien-Shan starts north of Kumul City (Hami) with the U-shaped Barkol Mountains, from about 600 to 400 kilometres (370 to 250 mi) east of Ürümqi.
Then the Bogda Shan (god mountains) run from 350 to 40 kilometres (217 to 25 mi) east of Ürümqi. Then there is a low area between Ürümqi and the Turfan Depression. The Borohoro Mountains start just south of Ürümqi and run west northwest 450 kilometres (280 mi) separating Dzungaria from the Ili River basin.
Their north end abuts on the 200 kilometres (120 mi) Dzungarian Alatau which run east northeast along Sino-Kazakh border. They start 50 kilometres (31 mi) east of Taldykorgan in Kazakhstan and end at the Dzungarian Gate.
The Dzungarian Alatau in the north, the Borohoro Mountains in the middle and the Ketmen Range in the south make a reversed Z or S, the northeast enclosing part of Dzungaria and the southwest enclosing the upper Ili valley.
In Kyrgyzstan the main line of the Tien-Shan continues as Narat Range from the base of the Borohoros west 570 kilometres (350 mi) to the point where China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan meet.
Here is the highest part of the range – the Central Tien-Shan, with Peak Pobeda (Kakshaal Too range) and Khan Tengri.
West of this, the Tien-Shan split into an ‘eye’, with Issyk Kul Lake in its center. The south side of the lake is the Terskey Alatau and the north side the Kyungey Ala-Too (shady and sunny Ala-Too).
North of the Kyungey Ala-Too and parallel to it is the Trans-Ili Alatau in Kazakhstan just south of Almaty.
West of the eye, the range continues 400 kilometres (250 mi) as the Kyrgyz Ala-Too, separating Chui Province from Naryn region and then Kazakhstan from the Talas Province. This oblast is the upper valley of the Talas River, the south side of which is the 200 kilometres (120 mi) Talas Ala-Too Range ('Ala-too' is a Kirgiz spelling of Alatau).
At the east end of the Talas Alatau the Suusamyr Too range runs southeast enclosing the Suusamyr Valley or plateau. As for the area south of the Fergana Valley there is a 800 kilometres (500 mi) group of mountains that curves west-southwest from south of Issyk Kul Lake separating the Tarim Basin from the Fergana Valley.
The Fergana Range runs northeast towards the Talas Ala-Too and separaties the upper Naryn basin from Fergana proper. The southern side of these mountains merge into the Pamirs in Tajikistan (Alay Mountains and Trans-Alay Range).
West of this is the Turkestan Range, which continues almost to Samarkand. On the north margin of the Tarim basin between the mountain chain of the Kokshaal-Too in the south and that one of the Terskey Alatau in the north there stretches the 100 to 120 km wide Tien-Shan plateau with its set up mountain landscape.
The Kokshaal-Tau continues with an overall length of 570 km from W of Pik Dankowa (Dankov, 5986 m) up to east-north-east to Pik Pobeda (Tumor Feng, 7439 m) and beyond it. This mountain chain as well as that of the 300 km long parallel mountain chain of the Terskey Alatau and the Tien-Shan plateau situated in between, during glacial times were covered by connected ice-stream-networks and a plateau glacier.
Currently the interglacial remnant of this glaciation is formed by the only just 61 km long South Inylschek glacier.
The outlet glacier tongues of the plateau glacier flowed to the north as far as down to Lake Issyk Kul (Lake) at 1605 (1609) m asl calving in this 160 km long lake. In the same way strongly glaciated was the in excess of 50 km wide high mountain area of the Kungey Alatau connected north of Issyk Kul and stretching as far as the mountain foreland near Alma Ata.
The Kungey Alatau is 230 km long. Down from the Kungey Alatau the glacial glaciers also calved into the Issyk Kul lake.Its Chon-Kemin valley was glaciated up to its inflow into the Chu valley. From the west-elongation of the Kungey Alatau –that is the Kirgizskiy Alatau range (42°25’N/74° - 75°E) - the glacial glaciers flowed down as far as into the mountain foreland down to 900 m asl (close to the town Bishkek).
Among others the Ak-Sai valley glacier has developed there a mountain foreland glacier.
Altogether the glacial Tian Shan glaciation occupied an area of c. 118 000 km² .The glacier snowline (ELA) as altitude limit between glacier feeding area and melting zone had decreased about 1200 altitude metres compared with today.
Under the condition of a comparable precipitation ratio there would result from this a depression of the average annual temperature of 7.2 to 8.4 °C for the Würm-ice age (Last Glacial period = MIS 2) compared with today.
The Tien-Shan holds important forests of Schrenk's Spruce (Picea schrenkiana) at altitudes of over 2,000 metres (6,600 ft); the lower slopes have unique natural forests of wild walnuts and apples.

The Central Tien-Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan.The Central Tien-Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan.The Central Tien-Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan.The Central Tien-Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan.The Central Tien-Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan.The Central Tien-Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan.The Central Tien-Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan.The Central Tien-Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan.The Central Tien-Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan.


Photos by
Alexander Petrov.