The Tian' Shan' mountain range
Tian' Shan' (meaning celestial mountains) are situated in the territory
of the former USSR and Eastern China. In
the limits of the former USSR this mountain
system occupies the main part of the Kyrgyzstan territory as well
as small parts of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Geographers
usually divide the Tian' Shan' into four regions: Central, Northern,
Western, and the Inner Tian' Shan'.
The highest peak of the range is the Pobeda (Victory) Peak at 7493
meters which is the most northern seven thousand meter peak on our
planet. Khan Tengri (6995m), a gigantic pyramid, rises not far from
Peak Pobeda. Both of these peaks are very popular among mountaineers
and climbers. High altitudes and complicated relief create great
contrasts in temperatures and moisture levels. The average July
temperature at the foot of the mountains is about 20-25 C. The high-altitude
Lake Issyk-Kul' (182 km long and almost 60 km wide) is the reason
for the mild climate of the adjoining area.
There are 7787 glaciers which comprise a total of 7326 square km
of area in the Tian' Shan' Mountains. The largest is the South Ingylchek
glacier at 60 km long. These glaciers and their melting snow are
the source for the rivers of the Tian' Shan'. This glacial melt
during the summer leads to high river flows and makes rafting very
dangerous, sometimes close to suicidal. At that time most rivers
are very cold (about 7 degrees centigrade). Therefore the best rafting
season is late August and September.
of the rivers flow into the desert lakes and many of them have dams.
Almost all rivers are extremely interesting for rafting althogh
the majority of them are very complicated (Class V and VI). The
most popular among them are the Sandalash, Chatkal,
Chilik, Chon-Kemin, Kekemeren, Naryn,
Oygaing, Pskem, and Charyn rivers. Each of these have magnificent
The Tian' Shan' lakes, especially Lake Issyk-Kul', are amazingly
beautiful. The Issyk-Kul' is wonderful due to its greenish-blue
color and picturesque surrounding mountains. The lake is 702 meters
The higher Tian' Shan' region is covered with beautiful
fir forest followed by alpine meadows at higher elevations. The
lower zones of southern and southwestern Tian' Shan' are areas of
deciduous forests with walnuts and maples. There are many bushes
and sea-buckthorn grow here as well as fruit trees growing in the
The Kyrgyz population practices cattle-breeding and agriculture.
Villages are located only in the lower river reaches and nothing
but shepherds stops can be found higher. Even though the area is
sparcely populated, most whitewater runs can be reached either by
truck or by air.