We appeared up in the direction of the cross in entrance of us and grew silent, partly in awe and partly in concern of the steep climb. Moments later, we have been on our method up. Although every step was rigorously positioned, our ft saved sliding again down on the free rock. We weren’t certain how we have been going to make it up.
YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO HIKING TO LAKE ALAKOL
Lake Alakol is among the hottest locations in Kyrgyzstan. I’ve by no means seen a turquoise lake fairly like this earlier than. It jogged my memory of the glacial lakes within the Pacific Northwest, but it surely was someway much more vibrant. The lake is nestled amongst the jagged peaks of the Ala-Too Mountain Vary, and it nearly feels such as you’ve found a secret spot.
IS IT ALAKOL, ALAKUL, ALA-KOL, OR ALA-KUL?
We’ve seen it spelled Alakol on-line, however after we have been there, maps had it written as Ala-Kul. We’ve seen locals use any and all of those spellings interchangeably with areas, no areas, and dashes. That is fairly widespread in Kyrgyzstan and what makes touring right here complicated. Spellings aren’t all the time constant and generally there are locations named the identical or related names. We met one other traveler who ended up at Jyrgalan (a constructing in one other metropolis), after which Jergalan (just about the identical pronunciation), earlier than making it to his appropriate vacation spot, Jyrgalan (the village).
Since Alakol Lake is among the hottest landmarks, you shouldn’t have any points when referencing it.
WAYS TO GET THERE
There are a number of methods to get to Lake Alakol, however all of them take some effort.
- The preferred route is a Three-Four day trek beginning in Karakol and ending in Aksu, the place you will get a cab again to Karakol.
- The choice is to start out in Aksu and head to Altyn Arashan first, then hike to Lake Alakol (usually 2 days) or go on horseback for a day journey.
We got here in from the opposite aspect since we hiked to Boz-Uchuk Lakes. After arriving in Altyn Arashan, we rode to the underside of the Alakol cross on horseback, then completed the final climb on foot.
OUR EXPERIENCE & THE EASIEST WAY TO GET THERE
Throughout our go to to Kyrgyzstan, we had the prospect to do a extra undiscovered hike to Boz-Uchuk Lakes after which on to Altyn Arashan. From Altyn Arashan, it’s simple so as to add a day journey to Alakol on horseback, or add a pair days to hike to Alakol. Should you’re very fast, you may be capable to hike it in a day for those who get up actually early and through the summer season when the times are longer.
For these of you on the lookout for the least quantity of effort to get to Alakol, you’ll be able to rent an off-road car to take you from Aksu to Altyn Arashan. It’s extraordinarily bumpy off-road terrain, so a daily cab gained’t take you. We requested the Vacation spot Karakol of us how a lot it usually is, and so they mentioned it may well value between 10,000-13,000 som for a automotive to drop you off and choose you up if you’re completed.
Whole Distance: 10.Four km by horse + 2 km stroll
Move: Ala-Kul North Move (3900 m)
From Altyn Arashan, you’ll be able to trip a horse to the bottom of the Alakol North Move. Alongside the best way, you’ll cross rivers, and jump over to a perpendicular valley.
Should you’re utilizing this as a photograph information, the picture under is definitely us on the best way again from Alakol.
When you attain the bottom of the cross, you’ll go away your horse on the backside and end the 1 km to the highest on foot. The final kilometer is EXTREMELY steep. The trail is made up of free shale, which makes it slippery. Every step you’re taking, the rocks begin sliding down. In case you have hassle with heights this makes for a scary jaunt. There was even a portion the place Jacob sat down paralyzed with concern. After all, our information had no challenge and was working and hopping round everywhere.
That’s me on the backside, however do you see the tiny individual in blue on the path?
We spent our time on high of the cross taking pictures and consuming lunch. I’m certain you may as well make it all the way down to the lake if you’d like, however remember to discuss to your information about it to verify. We have been quick on time, so we headed again after.
DIRECTIONS FOR THE TRADITIONAL + MOST POPULAR ROUTE
Marshrutka #101 will take you on to the trailhead for eight som. It takes roughly 20 minutes. You possibly can catch it nearly wherever alongside Toktogol St. which is the place many of the visitor homes are. You’ll wish to take it to the final cease which is close to the gates of the park, the Marshrutka will flip round and the motive force will most likely shoo you out.
Day 1: Karakol to Sirota Campsite
Distance: 22 km
Time: 5-6 hours
The primary day begins off simple. You’ll primarily be strolling alongside a river, so that you shouldn’t get misplaced so long as you don’t veer off onto one of many smaller paths. Ultimately, you will note a bridge over the river to your left with large pine bushes on both aspect. Cross the bridge, then head straight up.
Extra paths will seem, however simply ensure you proceed heading east into the valley. There will likely be some path markers on occasion (often red-paint on rocks), however for those who give attention to staying on the obvious path, you need to get to the campsite with no drawback. After about an hour and a half, you’ll come throughout a small river. Observe this as much as the picket cabin on the left aspect of the valley.
Day 2: Sirota Campsite to Alakol Lake
Distance: Four km
Time: 2-Three hours
Head up the path with the river to your proper. There must be loads of markers, and also you’ll know you’re heading in the right direction if you come throughout a waterfall on the high of the valley.
Observe the cairns till the summit, the place you’ll get the primary look of the gorgeous lake. Should you plan on staying the evening close to the lake, you’ve loads of time to summit one of many surrounding peaks.
Lots of people don’t trouble staying at Lake Alakol, but when we visited once more, we’d completely camp right here. It’s so lovely and it offers you the prospect to have a sundown and dawn on the lake. Should you don’t wish to camp right here, mix day 2 and three, however remember to begin early.
You may as well see Coronary heart Lake from a distance. It solely seems to be like a coronary heart from this attitude, not for those who get nearer.
Day Three: Ala-Kul Lake to Altyn Arashan
Distance: 15 km
Time: Four-5 hours
Observe the path main as much as the cross on the northeast aspect of the lake. It’s a troublesome climb, so remember to mentally put together your self. When you’re on the high, flip round to get your final seems to be on the lake, after which comes the scary half.
This connects to our expertise so you understand how sketchy it’s to go down. From right here, observe the valley and the obvious path. You’ll finally run into a big river, the place you’ll keep to the left of it. Observe the river down staying as near it as potential (you need to by no means veer off quite a lot of meters away) and also you’ll end up at Altyn Arashan, the place there’s a bridge to take you to the opposite aspect.
Day Four: Altyn Arashan to Aksu
Time: Four-5 hours
I personally would rent a driver to take you out to Aksu. It’s a tough and bumpy trip however saves you quite a lot of time. Should you do resolve to stroll it, the street could be very apparent. Should you ever really feel misplaced, simply say “Aksu” to any of the locals and they’ll level you in the best route.
When you arrive again in Aksu, you’ll be able to seize a taxi again to Karakol for roughly 400 som. It’s going to take about 25-30 minutes.
BEST TIME TO HIKE TO ALAKOL
The very best time to be within the mountains in Kyrgyzstan is between July and September. The climate is nicer, the times are longer, and also you get an opportunity to catch the wildflowers.
This is among the hottest hikes within the nation, so for those who choose to keep away from folks on the paths, go to through the shoulder seasons. You possibly can go between Might and June or September and mid-October. The climate will likely be much less predictable although and there could also be snow at greater elevations.
SHOULD I HIRE A GUIDE & PORTERS
It actually will depend on how snug you might be within the backcountry. There are some things to think about when making this resolution.
How in form are you? We’re not hardcore hikers, however we thought we have been in respectable form going into these hikes. We have been flawed! A variety of the elevation modifications occur rapidly and steeply. We barely made it by way of and we solely needed to carry a daypack. I’m unsure if we’d have made it with full packs. Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous nation and these guys dwell within the mountains. Count on what they name average hikes to be troublesome hikes and troublesome hikes to be mountaineering.
Do you get altitude illness? You don’t actually get an opportunity to acclimate to the elevation so if altitude illness is a fear, it’s good to have a information who might help help with that. We discovered ourselves with our arms on our knees attempting to catch our breath A LOT.
How good are you at navigating and coping with getting misplaced? The paths in Kyrgyzstan could be actually complicated. Because the locals convey livestock into the mountains, there are trails all over the place! Markers are additionally unusual on most trails. The great factor is for those who’re going in the summertime, there will likely be loads of folks on the path that you would be able to ask.
What’s your price range? Guides can value between 1200-2500 KGS per day. Along with that, you need to plan on tipping your guides $6 USD per individual per day and any porters/cooks $Three USD per individual per day. In case you are doing it by yourself, the doorway payment is 250 KGS per individual. Additionally, you will pay rangers an extra 150 KGS per tent.
If we have been to do it once more, we’d nonetheless rent a information, however we noticed a ton of individuals doing it on their very own. All these folks, nevertheless, additionally requested our information for instructions.
WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR HIKE
Should you rent a information, discuss to them beforehand about what they’ll present. Should you’re doing it by yourself, ensure that you are ready. We had a information and porters, however these are nonetheless a few of the objects we’d suggest.
- Backpack: Jacob used the Lowepro Whistler Bag, since he was carrying the digital camera gear, but it surely was an enormous mistake. He ought to have introduced his backpacking pack. I used the Osprey Ace 50 Pack.
- Down Jacket: Relying on the time of 12 months it may well get chilly at evening. We went throughout shoulder season so we actually wanted them.
- Hiking Pants: I had these Columbia convertible pants which might work in the summertime as effectively. Jacob had the Mountain Hardwear Dragon Pants which have been nice for shoulder season however would most likely be too scorching in the summertime.
- Waterproof Jacket: You by no means know when it would rain, so it’s all the time to higher to be ready. Our Arc’teryx Beta SL Jackets (Hers + His) have been excellent for this.
- Hat, Buff and/or Balaclava: It’s best to completely convey a hat to shade you from the solar. Should you’re stepping into colder climate, a buff or balaclava is sweet to maintain you heat.
- Waterproof Hiking Boots: There will likely be instances you’ll have to cross shallow creeks or puddles. We each love our Danner Mountain 600 (Hers + His) mountaineering boots.
- Down Booties: Do you get chilly ft at evening? These down booties are the BEST to maintain you heat (we additionally use these shoe bags to pack them)!
- Sleeping Bag: We went in colder climate so Esther introduced her Feathered Friends Murre Ex 0 Degree Bag. Jacob used one they supplied and introduced his Sea to Summit Liner for further heat.
- Sleeping Pad: We love our sleeping pads as a result of they’re actually gentle however nonetheless snug.
- Water Bladder: The Platypus Big Zip ones are our favourite. They’re simple to fill and clear and having a bladder makes water simply accessible.
- Water Filter: Locals don’t trouble with filtering the water, however we choose to be secure. This one is tremendous gentle and works effectively.
- Headlamp: All the time good to have for early mornings and after the solar goes down.
- Quick-Dry Towel: Whether or not you need a cushier travel towel or light version to avoid wasting area and weight, it’s good to have one useful.
- Private Toiletries and Meds: Simply convey what you want. These Lewis N Clark Travel Pouches are nice and light-weight.
- Ziplock Bags: We all the time journey with a couple of of them. You should utilize them to hold out rubbish or defend your telephone/passport when it rains.
- Bathroom Paper: We rolled some up and put it in a ziplock bag.
- Trekking Poles: REI Flash Carbon Trekking Poles ware light-weight and slot in our packs after we journey.
- Phone Charger: Maintain your telephone on airplane mode to preserve battery since there isn’t any service within the mountains, and produce a telephone charger for those who’re on the market for a couple of days.
- Map: Purchase a map on the town for round 150 KGS.
- Finest time of day to shoot: As a result of the lake sits in a deep valley, one of the best time to shoot the lake is both daybreak or nightfall. On this case, it will not be as good of a blue. The center of a sunny day gives you one of the best coloration of the lake.
- Drones: Should you’re flying a drone, watch out since it may well get actually windy up there. We had the DJI Spark with us and there have been moments I used to be nervous the wind would take it away.
- Our gear and lenses: We introduced our Canon 5D Mark III for pictures and Sony RX100 Mark IV for video. We additionally had a 35mm for huge pictures and 70-200mm for tight pictures.
- Your digital camera is barely helpful if it’s simply accessible. We used the BlackRapid Backpack Sling with the Tripod Plate to maintain ours out and out there.
- We introduced a lightweight tripod with us however didn’t find yourself utilizing it. Though for those who’re tenting, you might have considered trying one to shoot stars at evening.
Don’t overlook to spend some time in Karakol exploring town earlier than or after the hike! What’s the final hike you’ve completed?
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“Discovery consists not of searching for new lands however in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust