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West Tien-Shan Mountains.

Tours in mountains of the Western Tien-Shan.

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn”

Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Sights of mountains the Western Tien-Shan.

The mountains of the Western Tien-Shan include the Talassky Alatau Range with the Chatkalsky, Sandalashsky, Pskemsky, Maydantalsky and Ugamsky ridges extending from it. In turn, the Chatkal ridge has large spurs - Sargardon, Kumbel and Kuraminsky, Koksuysky departs from the Pskem ridge, and Korzhantau mountains depart from the Ugamsky ridge.
The orographic basis of the region is Talas Alatau, which separates the basins of the Talas and Chirchik rivers. The narrow rocky crest of the ridge has a latitudinal extension. The southern slope is not expressed clearly enough, since a number of powerful spurs depart from it in the south-western direction, of which the largest is Chatkal ridge.
This ridge separates the Chirchik basin from the rivers originating on the southeastern slopes of Chatkal mountains, The high Angren plateau adjoins the southwestern outskirts of the Chatkal ridge, above which the Kuramin ridge rises, reminiscent of the southwestern part of the Chatkal ridge by the nature of the relief.
Almost parallel to the Chatkal ridge from the Talas Alatau, also in the south-west direction, the Sandalash, Pskem, Maydantalsky and Ugamsky ridges depart. Numerous rivers flowing from their slopes supplying the main waterways of the Western Tien-Shan - Chatkal and Pskem.
Chatkal, the main component of Chirchik, begins at the junction of the Talas and Chatkal ranges and upstream runs through a wide ancient glacial valley. Having taken the large tributary Sandalash on the right, Chatkal becomes full of water, and after the river Ters flows into the left, it flows in a gorge and at the village of Burchmulla pours its waters into the Charvak reservoir.
The second component of Chirchik, the Pskem river, begins in the glaciers and snowfields of Talas Alatau. Its origins are Maydaital and Oygaing, after the merger, of which it flows in a narrow gorge through numerous rapids.
In the area of ​​the Charvak reservoir Chatkal and Pskem merge to form Chirchik - the most watery tributary of the Syr Darya. The Ugam River - the largest right tributary of the Chirchik - flows into it below the Charvak hydroelectric station.
It feeds on Ugam springs and streams that escape from the slopes of the Ugam ridge and its spur Korzhantau. The Akhangaran River (Angren) is also formed from streams starting on the southern slopes of the Chatkal Range. In the upper and middle reaches, it cuts the Angren Plateau in a deep canyon.
Here, the river takes a number of right tributaries, which in their upper reaches have formed narrow gorges, on the plateau they have the character of flat rivers, and before flowing into Akhangaran they fall over beautiful waterfalls.
On the southeastern slopes of the Chatkal ridge, many rivers flow into the Ferghana Valley, but often do not reach the Syr Darya, because they can be irrigated. The largest of these rivers are Karasu, Kasansai, and Gava.
The Western Tien-Shan is not rich in lakes. The most famous of them is Sarychelek. Lakes of small size or moraine origin are located in gorges of tributaries of the region’s main rivers. The dissimilarity of the relief of the Western Tien-Shan also gave rise to climatic differences, depending on the absolute height of the terrain, the relief of the given site, and exposure.
The Talas Valley is cool and dry. In the Pskem valley, the climate is warm, mild, with an abundance of precipitation: the mountains protect it from the cold northerly winds, but do not interfere with the circulation of warm and humid air from the west.
In the vast Chatkal valley, the climate is more severe, while heat-loving tobacco, corn, and fruit trees are grown on the slopes of the Chatkal ridge facing the Ferghana Valley. The hottest month in the Western Tien Shan is July, when the air often warms up to 40 °, although the average monthly temperature is almost half as low.
The absolute minimum reaches minus 30 °, in some places and minus 40 °. The frost-free period in most of the Western Tien Shan lasts less than 200 days. The amount of precipitation in winter exceeds 200 mm, and in the upper reaches of Pskem reaches 1200 mm.
In the spring-summer period, especially much precipitation (up to 65 mm) falls in March-April, the least amount of which occurs in July. Snow is from November to March. The amount of water in the rivers forming their runoff in the lower part of the mountain ranges depends on the height of the snow cover.
Very often, such rivers have only temporary runoff - during the melting of snow and the passage of rains. Already the first researchers of the Western Tien Shan noticed the vertical zoning of the distribution of flora and fauna in this area.
In the foothill and mid-mountain parts of the Talas Valley, there is a belt of steppes, above - meadow steppes, less often - meadows. On the slopes of the Talas Alatau wild goats, marmots, stone partridges are found, high in the mountains - mountain turkeys - Ulars.
The southeastern slopes of the Chatkal ridge are occupied by grassy steppes, subalpine and alpine meadows used for pasture. Among the steppe and meadow areas there are massive walnut forests that grow along river valleys and mountain slopes.
In the forests of Prichatkalya, one can find walnuts, wild apple trees, plums, Tien Shan spruce, fir, juniper. The fauna of the mountain forests is very rich. There are wild boars, porcupines, bears, stone martens, woodchucks, forest dormouse, thousands of different birds.
On the floodplains of Chatkal and its many tributaries there are forests of birch, willow, poplar, overgrowth of wild rose, honeysuckle, sea buckthorn, and black currant. Chatkala Valley is a large cattle-breeding area, which is of great importance for the development of livestock production in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
The mid-mountain belt of the Akhangaran valley is a forest area where there is a lot of juniper, maple, hawthorn, apple trees, cherry plum, and mountain ash can be found in the side gorges. Scientists believe that before the mountain slopes of this valley were completely covered with woody vegetation, which over time was reduced to nothing.
Now felling trees and shrubs is completely prohibited. In the intermontane valleys of the lower reaches of Chatkal, along Koks and Pskem, there are thickets of thaw, birch, poplar, tamarisk bushes, honeysuckle, dog rose, sea buckthorn, wild grapes, and blackberries.
Below, in the confluence of Chatkal with Pskem, there are many fruit trees: apple, apricot, cherry plum, pear. The slopes of the mountains are covered with thickets and individual groves of walnut, maple, poplar. Three large reserves are located on the territory of the Western Tien-Shan: Aksu-Dzhabaglinsky, Sary-Cheleksky and Chatkalsky.
The isolated position of the Western Tien Shan, especially the upper reaches of the Chirchik, served as the fact that a century ago there was very little information about him. This area, lying away from the large caravan routes, was a kind of dead end, which has always cost both conquerors and travelers.
It is not surprising that we hardly see any mention of the Western Tien Shan among ancient geographers, who meanwhile wrote about the cities of the Ferghana and Talas valleys. As established, the main occupation of the ancient inhabitants of the Western Tien-Shan was hunting.
This, in particular, is indicated by numerous cave paintings of an ancient man, depicting various animals. Such drawings were found on the territory of the Aksu-Dzhabaglinsky and Chatkal reserves, near the village of Khojikent, on the slopes of the peak of Big Chimgan.
Large settlements were usually located in the foothills. So, in ancient times, there was a large city, Isfijab, which in the X century was called Sairam (Turkestan region). The work of ancient miners in the valley of Akhangarap, archaeologists attribute to the X - XII centuries.
Around the same time, cities grew up, the ruins of which are found in the Talas valley. A remarkable architectural monument of the XIIIth century, the Shah-Fazil Mausoleum, is located in the Kasansay Valley. The scientific study of the Western Tien-Shan began at the end of the XIXth century, after Turkestan joined Russia.
The first Russian scientist to penetrate the upper reaches of Chatkal was the zoologist and geographer N. A. Severtsov. In 1866, he crossed the Talas Alatau through the Karabura Pass and explored the upper part of the Chatkal valley.
In 1874, the geologist and geographer I.V. Mushketov began his journeys in Central Asia. He somewhat crossed the Korzhantau mountains, moved from the Pskem valley to Chatkal then to Talas, explored the southern slopes of the Chatkal ridge and the upper Angren.
Five years later, another geologist, D. L. Ivanov, discovered glaciers in the Pskem valley. Among the pre-revolutionary researchers of the Western Tien Shan, one can also name B. A. Fedchenko, V. I. Lipsky, O. A. Shkapsky. However, then travels and expeditions in the Western Tien-Shan were devoid of a system, reflecting the personal desires and tastes of scientists.
And most importantly, many studies were so short-lived and fleeting that scientists sometimes limited themselves to just cursory observations.After the October Revolution, the exploration of the Western Tien-Shan changed radically.
Huge work on the study of the region was carried out by the Turkestan (now Tashkent) State University, formed in 1920. In the first years of Soviet power, geologists, botanists, zoologists, and hydrologists began to work regularly in the mountains.
At that time, for example, special expeditions were created to organize the reserves of Aksu-Dzhabaglinsky and Sary-Cheleksky, minerals were searched for on the southern slopes of Chatkal mountains, in the Akhangaran valley, in the upper reaches of the Chirchik, in the foothills of Talas Alatau.
Now the mountains of the Western Tien Shan serve people. Thousands of flocks of sheep graze on their slopes, various varieties of valuable fruit crops are grown, hundreds of recreational facilities are being built.
Powerful hydropower stations and artificial seas are created on the rivers, for example, the Charvak and Kasansai reservoirs. Following the researchers, attracted by the favorable climatic conditions, the townspeople went to the mountains to rest.
Over time, there were more and more lovers of mountain travel, and at the end of the 50s the first camp site appeared in the vicinity of Chimgan. The Western Tien Shan, located on the territory of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, is convenient for traveling with numerous access roads.
Dirt roads approach almost all gorges of the northern slope of the Talas Alatau, and along the Karabur gorge, the road through the eponymous pass leads to the Chatkala valley, where there are branches to the gorges of the side tributaries.
The same road from Chatkal goes to the Ferghana Valley through the Chapchama Pass, having many routes to the tributaries of Kasansay. Roads are also in river valleys descending into the Ferghana basin. A good highway passes through the Angren Valley before climbing to the Kamchik pass.
There are many approaches to the mountains in the area of ​​Chatkal mountain forest reserve, at the confluence of Chatkal and Pskem. From here, dirt roads lead to the middle of the Pskem valley and up Chatkal.
Ugam is accessible for vehicles in the lowest part, in the middle reaches, where a dirt road passes through the Korzhantau mountains at the Kirkkiz pass. The same roads are laid in the vicinity of the Aksu-Dzhabaglinsky reserve and in the western part of Talas Alatau.

Popov V.N. "Western Tien Shan". M., "Physical Culture and Sports", 1978.

Photos by
Alexander Petrov.