Trekking Into The Alakol Lake
Travelling… spending time on the road not only can change a dull person to become a great storyteller… but also can change strangers to become buddies. Only after a few days since Anselm and I met with Amber, we already feel closed to each other, no more feeling awkward towards each other. When we managed to laugh over a lame joke, that shows that we are already really comfortable with each other. After spending a few days in Tamga and also in Songkol a few days earlier, we then decided to travel further east towards Karakol, to trek to the very beautiful lake Alakol, a high altitude lake that sits at about 3800m altitude. We took a marshrutka to get to the biggest town in the Issykul province, Karakol which sits right at the foot of Tien Shan mountain range on the east. This is where high peaks of Tien Shan dwell, such as Jengish Chokusu (7439m) and Khan Tengri (6995).
We stayed in a very nice guesthouse with a beautiful garden and great location at the corner of the town… a quiet place by the river. There is a great view of the mountains when you look at the direction of where the sun rises. The guesthouse we stayed is almost like the house that I ever dream to live. With beautiful garden, quiet, great views of the mountains and near a very small town… small enough for me to walk from end to end, without having a need to drive. We waited a day until the weather become sunny again to trek into the Alakol Lake since it was cloudy the day we arrived. The three of us then hired a Russian jeep to get us to the foot of the mountain, before we start trekking from some 2500m altitude climbing all the way into some 4000m altitude. We started trekking when the morning light started shining, giving its beautiful light through the colourful landscape of the Tien Shan mountains.
The trek was quite easy at first when we walked through the forest… not much climbing but quite confusing. After a few minutes going through the woods, we finally came to an open space with beautiful mountain view all around but that was when the tough climb starts… all the way to the top! Climbing all the way for hours above 3500m altitude can be quite tiring unless trained well. I can imagine climbing above 7000m peak that I plan to do soon where the oxygen is half the amount of normal sea level altitude must be a little harder than walking in a shopping mall. Even though Im used to cycle thousands of kilometers through steppe, deserts and mountains, but this is using totally different muscle system. Plus I was carrying my camera stuffs on my back. After a while, we took many stops between the climb. The only motivation we had was the magnificent views along the way and the most beautiful view that awaited us at the top, where the Alakol lake lies.
Once we reached some 3000m altitude, the landscapes totally changed into rocks and snow. It got steeper and quite dangerous, since none of us were carrying any mountaineering equipment. We felt stupid at this point, not preparing ourselves. It feels like we were doing some crazy winter adventure in the Arctic by just wearing tshirt. It was slippery climbing through fields of melting snow without crampons, proper mountaineering boot, gloves, walking stick etc… we were basically naked… completely nothing.
But all the hardship finally pays, after we reached the mountainpass and walked down to some 3800m altitude of the beautiful Alakol lake, one of the nicest lake I’ve seen in my entire life. When I first reached the mountainpass and saw the lake from there, I was so happy, quickly took a deep breath and shouted to both Anselm and Amber, telling them I saw the lake, which motivated them to continue the climb to the mountainpass. We then picked a spot to take a good rest and enjoy the view while feeding ourselves with some food we brought. The water of the lake is crystal clear, its so green, untouched, unpolluted surrounded by wild untouched Tien Shan mountains. Looking at the surroundings, reminds me of the fantasy world I always imagine when I was reading some fairytale books while I was young.
We wished to stay longer but after about an hour, time was up. Anselm already giving a signal that we all should move, since going down will take a few more hours and we don’t carry any camping equipment with us. Going down, especially on the steep snowy part was much more difficult compared to the climb. We lost our track and had to go through difficult terrain without proper equipment. It was so slippery since the snow was melting due to the strong sun and all of us didn’t have any crampons on. So we had to hold on rocks and hard snow with our hands… without gloves. Really bad moves! Our fingers were freezing bad. The only motivation to keep moving now is the good food that all of us imagine back in our hostel and a good long… hot shower! After we passed the hard part going down through the slippery snowfield, we felt so relieved. It was an easy walk down the mountain with beautiful view but it seems that the view of good food back in the hostel seems nicer and were dominating our mind compared to the mountain view.