Trek to Sary Chelek Lake

Trek to Sary Chelek Lake

Duration:13 days, 12 nights
Season:  June – August
Route: Bishkek  –  Kara Suu village – Aflatun – Uyalma valley – North shore of Sary Chelek – Lake Kara Suu Lake – South shore of Sary Chelek Lake – Arkit village – Bishkek city
Level of difficulty: program is suitable for active people with good health, able to acclimatize on 4000m above the sea level and make hiking passages for 5-7 hours a day. 

Sary Chelek Lake is situated at the south part of Kyrgyzstan at the altitude of 1873m above sea level. It’s the second deepest lake in Kyrgyzstan. The maximum depth is 234m. Sary Chelek is 7.5 km long, in width is from 350m to 1500m. There is big variation of flora and fauna. Many beautiful huge plants, flowers, different kind of birds, mammals such as deer, lynx, bear, fox, even snow leopards are there. Glaciers and permanent ice fields lie on the North slopes. There are several nomad’s settlements on the way, where you can stop and learn more about Kyrgyz nomad’s life.  Reach untouchable North shore of Sary Chelek Lake. Hike along Sary-Chelek river and ascent to Makmal pass. Further descent to Kyzyl-Suu valley. Many bee-gardens are located in this valley. Honey from this place is famous all around Kyrgyzstan, thanks to its taste and healing power. Descent along Kyzyl-Suu and Kara-Suu rivers. Closer to Kara-Suu Lake the valley becomes more open and wider. On the way you meet many nomads with cattle. Strong and high birches and maples grows on this site. Such vegetation is not common for mountain valleys compare to many areas of the Northern and Central Tien Shan, where climate is more severe. Set up tents on the South-East side of the lake in small grove. Ascent to Kotormo pass and descent towards the South side of Sary Chelek Lake. This territory is under protection as belong to Sary Chelek Biosphere Reserve. It was found in 1959. Hike a bit further and stay in tent camp not far from Iyiry-Kel Lake. All summer long this place is buried in verdure and blooming flowers. Hike till next small lakes: Bakaly Lake, Kyle Kol Lake, Chacha Kol Lake. Descent to Arkit village. This hike you would remember for a long time, because you walk through one of the oldest relic walnut forest in the world. Ancient trees cover entire environment around. Its wide crowns guard you against hot Asian sun. And as soon as you enter to this wonder, start to feel natural wealth of these lands. After descent to Arkit village, trek finishes.

Day 1. 
Airport – Bishkek

Meeting in airport “Manas”. Transfer to Bishkek accompanied by a great view to Kyrgyz Ala Too Mountain Range. Accommodation in a hotel in Bishkek, having rest. Sightseeing tour around Bishkek. Visiting Ala Too Square and surrounding parks, main streets of Bishkek, Osh market and souvenir shops. 
Dinner in a restaurant. Overnight in Hotel.
Altitudes (above sea level): Bishkek 700-800m;
Distance and travel time:  Airport – Bishkek 35 km (40 min).

Day 2. 
Bishkek –  Kara Suu village

Leave Bishkek early morning. Drive by a beautiful and breathtaking serpentine road following toward Too Ashuu pass. Great view to Suusamyr valley opens after passing through 2 km long tunnel which leads to the other side of Kyrgyz range. Drive along Suusamyr and get over another pass called Alabel. Descent form the pass and drive along Chichkan river. Deep canyon with interesting rock formations and fascinating nature awaits you there.  Further the way brings you to Toktogul Reservoir, which is the largest one in Central Asia. The rest of the way offers an exciting view to powerful Naryn river with many smaller reservoirs and hydroelectric stations surrounded by huge sheer cliffs and slopes. Road turns away from Naryn river at Tash Kumyr city and follow along low mountains and sequence of small valleys, finally arriving to Kara Suu village.
Dinner and accommodation in a guest house. 
Altitudes (above sea level): Bishkek 700-800m, Too Ashuu tunnel –  3180m, Alabel pass –  3184m, Chichkan gorge – 2200m, Kara Suu village – 1300m
Distance and travel time: 500km (10-12 hours) driving (incl. stops)

Day 3. 
South Aflatun valley

Drive from Kara-Suu village to the beginning of the trek. Start hiking along South Aflatun mountain valley to its upper reaches. Road follows by the river, surrounded by walnut, fruit and coniferous forest. Overnight in tents.
Altitudes (above sea level): camp – 1700m.
Distance and time on the way: 30-35km (1 hour) driving, 18km (5 hours) by foot

Day 4. 
South Aflatun – Uyalma valley

Continue ascent along South Aflatun valley. There are several nomad’s settlements on the way, where you can stop and learn more about Kyrgyz nomad’s life. Turn to the side valley called Uyalma, by the end of the trip. Overnight in tents.
Altitudes (above sea level): camp – 2100m.
Distance and time on the way: 10km, 5 hours by foot. 

Day 5. 
Kuldanbes pass – Sary Chelek Lake

Hike over Kuldanbes pass and descent to the North Shore of 
Sary Chelek Lake. Camping straight by the lakeside. Overnight in tents.
Altitudes (above sea level): camp – 1800m, Kuldanbes pass – 2800m
Distance and time on the way: 10km, 6-7 hours by foot.

Day 6. 
Radial hike

Stay all day by the lake. Radial hike along Kara Toko valley or ascent along the North-East slope to get panorama of the lake.  
Dinner, overnight in tents.
Altitudes (above sea level): camp –  1800m.
Distance and time on the way: it depends on what you choose, either 8-10 km, either 4-6 km.

Day 7. 
Makmal pass

Hike along Sary Chelek river and ascent to Makmal pass. Further descent to Kyzyl-Suu valley. Many bee-gardens are located in this valley. Honey from this place is famous all around Kyrgyzstan, thanks to its taste and healing power. Don’t miss a chance to get some of it from local bee-keepers! Set up a camp at confluence with Korumdy river. Overnight in tents.
Altitudes (above sea level): camp – 2000 m, Makmal pass – 2655m
Distance and time on the way: 13km, 6 hours by foot

Day 8. 
Kara Suu Lake

Descent along Kyzyl Suu and Kara Suu rivers. Closer to Kara Suu Lake the valley becomes more open and wider. On the way you meet many nomads with cattle. Strong and high birches and maples grows on this site. Such vegetation is not common for mountain valleys compare to many areas of the Northern and Central Tien Shan, where climate is more severe. Set up tents on the South-East side of the lake in small grove.
Altitudes (above sea level): camp – 1800m.
Distance and time on the way: 10km, 4 hours by foot

Day 9. 
Kotormo pass – Sary Chelek Lake

Ascent to Kotormo pass and descent towards the South side of Sary Chelek Lake. This territory is under protection as belong to Sary Chelek Biosphere Reserve. Hike a bit further and stay in tent camp not far from Iyiry-Kel Lake. All summer long this place is buried in verdure and blooming flowers.  
Altitudes (above sea level): camp – 1800m, Kotormo pass – 2446m
Distance and time on the way: 17km, 8 hours by foot 

Day 10. 
Sary Chelek 

Walk to the South shore of Sary Chelek Lake. As an optional excursion, you can take a boat trip around the lake from there. Then hike till next small lakes: Bakaly Lake, Kyle Kol Lake, Chacha Kol Lake. Overnight in tents.
Altitudes (above sea level): camp – 1800m.
Distance and time on the way: 6-7 km, 4-5 hours by foot

Day 11. 
Sary Chelek – Arkit village 

Descent to Arkit village. This hike you would remember for a long time, because you walk through one of the oldest relic walnut forest in the world. Ancient trees cover entire environment around. Its wide crowns guard you against hot Asian sun. And as soon as you enter to this wonder, start to feel natural wealth of these lands. After descent to Arkit village, trek finishes. Accommodation in guesthouse.
Altitudes (above sea level): Arkit village – 1200m.
Distance and time on the way: 10km, 4-5 hours by foot

Day 12. 
Arkit village – Bishkek city

Start long drive to Bishkek by the same road like as arrived here. You have possibility to observe this wonderful way one more time. And probably discover anything new, because you watch it from the other side. Late arrival. Farewell dinner in traditional Kyrgyz restaurant. Accommodation in hotel.
Altitudes (above sea level): Kara Suu village – 1300m, Chychkan gorge – 2200m, Alabel pass – 3184m, Too Ashuu tunnel – 3180m, Bishkek 700-800m
Distance and travel time: 500km (10-12 hours) driving (incl. stops)

Day 13. 
Bishkek – Airport (35km)

Drive to airport. Departure home.
Altitudes (above sea level): Bishkek  – 700-800m;
Distance and travel time:  Airport – Bishkek 35 km (40 min).

 

Recommended clothing and equipment:
Sunscreen (at least 20SPF);
Chapstik or equivalent lip balm;
Sunglasses with UV protection;
At least a 25 Liter backpack for personal items;
Sleeping bag;
Sleeping mat;
Telescopic trekking sticks poles (optional);
Head lamp (eg Petzl) spare bulbs & batteries; 
T-Shirts, long-sleeved T-shirt, shorts;
Trekking pants;
Underwear;
Fleece jacket or pullover; 
Fleece Wind-Stopper jacket (optional);
Down vest and/or jacket (optional);
Waterproof jacket (Gore-Tex);
Waterproof pants (Gore-Tex);
Thick, warm wool hiking socks - 2 pairs (for sleeping in tents cotton socks - 3 pairs);
Thin gloves for trekking and overnight;    
Sun hat or scarf;
Warm fleece hat or light balaclava; 
Trekking/Hiking boots with spare laces; 
Footwear for around camp, eg running shoes and/or sandals.