Ontor Pass – Kyrgyzstan

Djigit Peak Glacier

Planning hikes to lesser-known areas in Kyrgyzstan is always a bit of an adventure.  We aren’t allowed to drive, so we have to find a taxi driver (who will lie about knowing the area) with a car suitable to drive up some terrible road.  You also rarely have reliable information about what exactly you will find if the hike anything but the most commonly visited trails.  AJ, a fellow PCV and Andre, a Dutch friend who owns a guesthouse in Karakol and I took a trip this past summer to Ontor Pass.  Ontor Pass isn’t hiked more than a few times a year so it was a bit hard to know exactly what the hike would entail but it looked amazing and we really wanted to give it a shot.  In early July we met up in Karakol and caught a taxi into Karakol National Park to give it a shot.

The first day started out with rain. Heavy rain. No taxi ride in Kyrgyzstan seems to be complete without some complication, this day our driver decided to pretend to misunderstand the bridge we said we wanted to be dropped off leaving us with an extra mile hike in (just an extra mile in pouring rain.)  The beginning portion of the hike is up a road and is heavily trekked.  Many people come up this road before turning left to see Lake Ala Kol.  After passing the Ala Kol turnoff, the rain subsided.  Soon, we reached a junction in Karakol Valley, we elected to go up the left side.  The path we were taking would end up making a large loop and we expected to be exiting the right side of the valley in about 48 hours.

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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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