Trekking Through Unknown Valleys in The Turkestan Range, Kyrgyzstan

Orto Chashma, Eastern Karasu Valley, “Koshes” and passes. Who ever heard of these places before? Certainly not any of us. The days would begin very early and the group would usually be on the trail by 7:00 am, leaving the camp crew behind to break camp. It wouldn’t be long though before there would be noises behind us, and we’d turn to see the Kyrgyz crew with horses coming up, quickly passing us, and continue on to the eventual lunch spot. …View image

The Orto-Chashma Vallley was beautiful walking along the rushing river and even had to ferry across in one spot with some, riding horses and other wading across (me). There were meadows the entire length along with occasional herder encampments. A “kosh” is a mountain camp for shepherds and usually consists of extended family. It was always a little surreal to be trekking through gorgeous, isolated valleys and suddenly see a few hardy Kyrgyz nomads.

Orto-Chashma topographic map section, Kyrgyzstan

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Kyrgyz shepherds

Tonight’s camp was in one of these grassy “kosh” meadows. The crew had the tents up before we huffed and pulled in. A pleasure to throw down the packs, take boots off aching feet and organize the tents. The inside of our tent was always an exercise in disorganization. Dirty clothes and smelly socks hanging over our heads during the night, two duffles, sleeping bags, clothes for tomorrow, flashlights, toilet paper at the ready…not exactly gracious living at its best…

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Martha getting her tent shipshape in Kyrgyzstan

It was time for the Eastern Karasu Valley beginning with a very steep 2,000′ ascent to the top of Kosh-Mainock pass. There were snow fields, hanging glaciers and the spectacular granite spires of Assan Ussan, Aksu East and peak Forty-eight Ten. Everyone else sat around on the saddle taking photos and admiring the views. I, however, took one look down the other side of the saddle and froze in fear. A very steep descent (Rob called it a “sharp” descent) on scree. Told Rob that I couldn’t stand here and look down but had to start making a very slow descent before fear froze every muscle in my body. It took one hour of itsy-bitsy little steps before I could breathe a sigh of relief…

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views from the Kosh-Mainock pass in Kyrgyzstan

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