Blog 23 – Ala Archa – the icy queen of the western Tian San Mountains

Archa means juniper. It is Kyrgyzstan’s national tree and across the country there are plenty of them. Especially in Ala Archa – a valley close to Bishkek. If you were looking for someone who will take you through the Tian Shan and Pamir Mountains, Pavel Vorobiev local mountain guide of Russian origin and the technical director of the Kyrgyz Association of Mountain Guides is the person. Sitting in a café we were discussing possibilities for steep skiing. I showed him some pictures of Ala Archa saved in my OneNote, he nodded and repeated – “It is a climbing route, now probably all ice

To the Racek hut

Well, perhaps it will not be so bad” we didn’t lose optimism. “You know it´s essential to start early, the forecast promised afternoon storms.” From the parking at the bottom of the valley we started at 2 PM so the first day we had no chance not be caught by the storm. While it was raining/snowing we climbed through thick clouds towards the Racek hut (3300m). At least we didn’t have much time to think about the heavy backpacks (“rats”) on our backs during this pleasant walk.

The Racek hut is situated on the edge of the moraine glacier of Ak-Sai and Ucitel glaciers like a guard at the entrance to the kingdom of snow, ice and rocks. “Guys, be really careful there, there has been a lot of ice and currently it has snowed a lot” the hut-keeper of the Racek hut gave us some additional good news. It was becoming clear that we could not find a better location for the first ski-mountaineering trip for Bara (Martin´s girlfriend) who came to visit him for a few weeks.

Ak Sai glacier “holiday resort”

The next day we continued up along the rocky path and skinned up along the moraine of the Ak-Sai glacier. Then, through the flatter glacier we got to the Korona shelter “hotel”. I guess this yellow metal box is a nicer place stay than many of the old soviet hotels in Central Asia. You can find a lot of interesting stuff here – topos of climbing routes, remnants of equipment and supplies, two mice and also wall decoration like in a car repair shop. Simply a perfect shelter to hide in before a storm which just caught us.

The view of the valley from here is a feast for the eyes. Steep walls rising from the flat glacier, very interesting couloirs – unfortunately, all bathed in ice and garnished with a layer of fresh powder.

What about that peak – Teke Tor (4410 m)? To the saddle it looks good and then on the ridge we will see!” Eventually we saw already on the slope leading to the saddle. The snow pack was very instable – sometimes hard snow, sometime slabs all sitting on a layer of instable spring snow.

Nodding appreciatively over a snow-making creativity of the God of Tian San, we decided not to further try our luck with further zig-zags up the slope. Hence, we turned around under the saddle.

Skiing down it was tricky to keep control of the skis – sometimes they sank in the snow, sometimes accelerated on unexpected pieces of hard snow. At least they behaved quite normally in bits of powder snow in lower parts of the slope.

At the glacier at the bottom we kept looking around in the search of some safer slopes. “With these conditions, I am afraid there is not many options for use here, dude.

Right place, wrong time

Actually, there was one less steep and hopefully safer tour in the valley – Pik Korona (4810 m) – the second highest peak in the region. We identified this as the ideal terrain for Bara´s first tour with us. After a stormy night, the weather was pleasant – wind gusts around 100/120 km/h and visibility of around 50-100 metres. Ideal conditions for a nice powder trip. Above the summit ridge the clouds seemed to be taking part in a speed competition. At around 4600 metres we decided not to give it a closer look and turned around.

In the evening the wind calmed down a bit. The white ice walls of the valley were shining into the complete darkness. We listened to Karel Čapek´s RUR playing from our GoalZero speaker. Maybe even the two mice might have listened to.

I am afraid that Bara was still unconvinced about the attractiveness of our favourite hobby called late spring ski mountaineering. So the next day we set off for the second attempt of Pik Korona ourselves. After racing the previous day, the clouds seemed to have a rest day and were lazily hanging around the sky. The wind had been managing its affairs in other valleys and came to greet us first to the nice glacier field at around 4.700 metres. We roped up and climbed the icy couloir with a rocky section and continued one and half pitches to the summit. After enjoying the cloudy views we rappelled down, packed our stuff, put on the skis and went down. In such poor weather the light for filming was less than ideal so at least we could only concentrate on the great powder snow. What a ride!

But still good to be there

In the meanwhile, Robert – with his paraglider and a rucksack full of Travellunch/MX3 Aventure supplies for us – was getting on the plane in Prague. Hence, taking our Welcome Committee duties seriously, we did not have much time left here. I gave Martin and Bara an offer they could not refuse – “Let´s go for a hectic walk to the bivouac in the other valley tonite and do a super-hectic tour to Pik Semjonov Ťanšansky (4895m) tomorrow!” Of course, enjoying their afternoon siesta in their sleeping’s bags, they could not resist.

We quickly packed our stuff, skied down a bit and climbed up through incredibly soft snow into a saddle. From there we saw what we had expected – the upper part of the central couloir of Pik Semjonov Tiansansky was all ice, while the bottom parts were filled with a lot of fresh snow.

Well, this really does not make any sense, let´s go down for a beer” Martin and Bara could me saying disappointed.

However, my mood got much better while enjoying the “fantastic” ride down in the incredibly soft spring snow. Sometimes we sank to knees, sometimes we got stuck. Bara did great with this heavy backpack and I hope she believed us at least a bit that this conditions are not really standard for spring ski-mountaineering.

Under the Racek hut, again everything was hidden in thick grey clouds. As we were descending, ice and snow were replaced by wet rocks. Far below us, at the bottom of the valley, we could hear a creek. The grey mist brought a little of birds´ twittering from down below. We cross the first clumps of grass, scrub, passed the first tree. The bags were heavy but it felt great to see the green nature slowly getting ground as we descended. To come in one day from the snow, ice and wind of high-mountains to the green and for a beer.

Maybe that´s one of the reasons why we do it.



Spring sun bathing

001b_Ala Archa_sjezd_orez

Spring skiing
#G3, #Boatpark, #Pieps JetForce, #Hanibal


Spring storms
#G3, #Boatpark, #Pieps JetForce

001d_s pavlem vorobievem I

Discussing the possibilities for steep skiing with Pavel Vorobiev – local guide who knows a lot about the mountains around


Its essential to start early, with light backpack and to know where to go


„So do you think we will be caught by the rain, guys?“


„You were right Bára, the storm got us!“


Under the Racek hut


Under the Racek hut


Racek hut (3300m)


Climbing up next to the Ak Sai glacier


Climbing up next to the Ak Sai glacier


Dinner time in the bivouac „hotel“ Korona
#Travellunch, #MX3 Aventure


In this hotel facility you will appreciate especially the discreet wall decoration


Good morning – back to work!


„This slope feels a bit strange, dude, what do you think?“
#Pieps JetForce, #G3


„Well, not sure which safer tour we can do here“
#SingingRock, #Directalpine, #G3


But the views are excellent. The next time we take more climining gear!
The north face of Pik Svobodnaya Korea (local climbers call in Grand Jorrasses)


The Astronauts´ pass – already beacause of its name we wanted to ski it down. Unfortunately it was blank ice


At least we can try Pik Korona (4810m)!


While some people are sunbathing


Others have to work hard


Let´s go to Pik Korona!


Above the hotel


The snow together with the wind took care of a great face massage


While the clouds in the sky are taking part in a speed competition


Book our hotel now! Nice views guaranteed all the time!


Late night poetry attempts… failed.
Powered by #GoalZero, #OneNote

24a_IMG_9020 - kopie

Romatic dinner for three
#GoalZero, #Travellunch, #MX3 Aventure


“Im glad there is no wind today!”
#SingingRock, #Pieps JetForce, #G3, #Directalpine


At the upper glacier field


Nice couloir – for skiing a bit icy though


Nice couloir – for skiing a bit icy though


From the couloir up to the ridge


From the couloir up to the ridge


Cumbre! (Pik Korona 4810m)
#SingingRock, #Directalpine, #Hanibal


Let´s go down quickly, the powder is waiting for us!
#SingingRock, #Directalpine


Great powder skiing on the glacier
#G3, #Pieps JetForce, #Directalpine, #Boatpark


#G3, #Pieps JetForce, #Directalpine, #Boatpark


Heading back down


Endurace test of the Singing Rock Penta helmets


Perfect weather again. At least the way down will be quicker