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Issyk Lake North Tien-Shan.

Hiking on high-mountainous lakes of Southern Kazakhstan.

“Lake Issyk is amazingly transparent and beautiful with its blue and green peaks. Surrounded by mountains, it is mysterious and cozy. And it’s scary on its deserted, uninhabited shores and surprisingly good. It is not for nothing that almost all Vernets make a pilgrimage to its beautiful shores, live for weeks in tents and yurts, admiring the beauty of Lake Issyk. 
Enclosed in a frame of blue sky, silver snow mountains, dense coniferous forests, like a mysterious emerald, Lake Issyk quietly sleeps, little known, little explored, difficult to access. This lake is a fairy tale. Only our prosaic age has not populated this quiet, beautiful lake with mysterious creatures; this is where the palace of the princess was supposed to stand, to whom Ivan Tsarevich flew on a magic carpet, these are the mountains that the dragon should guard! ... bare gray rocks, descending in three sheer cliffs to dark green water, the color of dark chrysoprase, water that constantly changes color depending on the lighting"

P. Kraskov “Trip to Lake Issyk” 1911.

Journey Wilderness Adventures North Tien-Shan Kazakhstan.

Fresh, flowing Lake Issyk is located at an altitude of 1706.8 meters above sea level, located in Issyk gorge in bed of river of same name, on northern slope of Zailiysky Alatau ridge, on territory of Ile-Alatau natural park, in Enbekshikazakh district of Almaty region. 
Lake Issyk belongs to the dam-dam type of high-mountain lakes. It was formed as a result of a mountain collapse that dammed the valley. Gradually, the Issyk River filled the resulting depression, as a result of which this “diamond in a granite frame” arose, as the locals called the lake.
Lake Issyk was truly a perfect work of nature and everything suited the taste of the most sophisticated connoisseur of mountain beauty: a malachite-colored mirror of water, reflecting humpbacked hills overgrown with dense spruce trees, steep slopes going into the lake, completing the panorama with two pointed mountain peaks (Kyzy-Imchek - maiden breast).
The area of the lake is 240,231.18 square meters, the length of the coastline reaches 2,742.99 meters. The length of the lake is 908 meters, the greatest width in the eastern part of the lake is 408 meters, the average depth is 17.5 meters, in places from 50 to 79 meters.
Due to cold water, the temperature of which did not exceed 8°C. From the village of Issyk (former village of Nadezhdinskaya) to Lake Issyk is 14 kilometers. On the downstream side, the river made its way among the rocks, and below, under a natural dam, another lake formed - Maloe Issyk, or Krugloye Lake.
From there, the mountain river cascaded down into the valley, gradually slowing down, and eventually flowed into the Ili River. There were never any fish in the lake. But the surrounding forests of Tien-Shan spruce were full of animals - argali, mountain goats, bears, snow leopards.
On this deserted lake, far from trade routes and caravan trails, there have never been human settlements, only a rare hunter wandered here in search of unafraid game. Different visitors had different opinions about the color of the water: some called the water turquoise, others - azure or aquamarine, or emerald.
More precisely, the indescribable color of Lake Issyk can be compared with chrysoprase. There is a semi-precious mineral that combines the colors of malachite and turquoise. The green color of malachite was given by the spruce trees looking into the lake, and the turquoise was given by the crystal waters, carrying a milky admixture of glacial lakes.
Once upon a time, 10 thousand years ago, and, most likely, more than that, a grandiose landslide blocked the gorge, forming a dam. The resulting bowl was filled with the waters of a noisy glacial river. Over the years, the water found its way out, washing through the cracks and outlets at the base of the dam in the body of the natural dam.
But this happened in winter, autumn and spring, and in the summer, when the snow was rapidly melting in the mountains, the water overflowed the lake and rushed down over the rubble, which by that time was already densely overgrown with forest.
It was a grandiose cascade of waterfalls at least five hundred meters high. A narrow path wound along a mountain stream rumbling in the frantic noise. The amazed travelers, who saw this mesmerizing sight for the first time, could not take their eyes off the wildly rushing, jumping, jumping water over stones and rocks.
All white with foam, like a snowy waterfall, it beat and rushed among the fragments of rocks, sandwiched by the banks, and a rainbow sparkled in the water curtain above the stream. It was like this for centuries, and nothing disturbed the rhythm of the lake, nicknamed by the Kazakhs Zhasyl-Kol (Emerald Lake), until a terrible mudflow in the summer of 1963 destroyed the natural dam, which seemed unshakable.
The lake, the real pearl of the Trans-Ili Mountains, was gone. Instead of a beautiful cascade of waterfalls An ugly ravine gapes like a torn, unhealed wound. Only in the memory of old-timers of Almaty and guests of the Kazakh capital did Issyk-Zhasyl-Kol remain, and even in the stories of travelers and photographs, mainly on black and white film. 
Geographic coordinates of Lake Issyk: N43°15'13 E77°29'05

The guidebook across Kazakhstan . Authors Dagmar Schreiber and Jeremy Tredinnick.   Publishing house "Odyssey".2010 and the material for this page is taken from the printed edition.

Photos by:
Alexander Petrov.