Ala Archa National Park – (nearly) Climbing Peak Uchitel

We recently took a trip back to Ala Archa, our first time since going last year during PST.  The previous trip was easy to arrange as our host family owned a marshrutka and a group of us just hired them to take us up for the day.  This trip we had to find a taxi on our own which is a pain even when we speak the language.  After too many phone calls and conversations at the bus station, we negotiated a ride, picked up our friends and drove to Ala Archa.  Of course upon arrival the driver showed us an ‘official’ price list that said the price was nearly double what we agreed to and he seemed to forget our previous conversation.  Too bad guy, we’re not falling for that… we gave him the agreed upon fare and headed into the park.

The hike up to the hut was a little less pleasant that our previous trip.  Between the persistent mist that soaked everything and our heavy packs, things were a little less than ideal.  There was also a bit of snow to deal with than our last trip which was at the end of August.  After a few hours of hiking we neared the hut, the clouds parted and we got a glimpse of the towering peaks that make Ala Archa so special.  We set up the tents and settled into one of the kitchen huts (which you have access to if paying for a tent site or spot in the Ratsek Hut) to make dinner.

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Ala Archa National Park Hike

Since the first part of Pre-Service Training (PST) we’ve been planning a trip to Ala Archa National Park.  Ala Archa is an alpine National Park, just South of Bishkek.  Phase three of PST has miserably hot most days and a trip to the cool weather in the mountains was coming at a great time.  Early last Sunday, 12 of us plus our brother and sister piled into the family marshrutka early in the morning and our host dad drove us up to the park.

 

Ala Archa has two main trails.  The first is relatively flat and follows the main river up the valley.  We opted for the trail to the left which climbs a steep valley, past a waterfall and ends at a climbing hut where several glaciers meet.  The hike started up a steep hill and as soon as we reached the top the views were awesome.  To the North-East, 15 miles of the Ala-Archa river valley could be seen and in front of us the large waterfall and beyond that, the valley where Racek hut, our destination, was visible.

 

After traversing the side of the valley for about a mile and a half we stopped for lunch before tackling a steep section that took us past the waterfall.  Here, the trail winds through the Juniper Trees that give the park its name and is incredibly scenic.  Across the valley we could see a herd of ibex(s?) scaling the steep slope.  I’d seen many statues of ibex across the country and it was pretty awesome seeing them in person.  Even though they were several hundred meters away, it was easy to make out their huge antlers.

 

As we approached the top the steep cliffs and glaciers of the park became visible.
As we approached the top the steep cliffs and glaciers of the park became visible.

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