I (Vadim Timka) have long dreamed of a real mountain bike trip …
In 2013, I had cancelled a trip to Armenia, where I planned to cross the Spitakasar pass (3200 m), and it was very disappointing to me. The bike trip to Georgia, which took place in 2015, can be called a real mountain one with a stretch, since the maximum height of the crossed Zagar Pass was only 2623 m.
Considering that the passage of heights above 3000 m requires serious preparation (in fact, everything is individual), I decided that it’s too early to conquer the Himalayas, but the Tien-Shan mountain system will do just fine.
Route: Bishkek – Koy-Tash – Karagai-Bulak – Kegety pass (3780 m) – Ak-Uchuk – Bagysh – Chilbel pass (3267 m) – Son Kel lake (3020 m) – Kalmak-Ashuu pass (3447 m) – Sary-Bulak – Jalpakbel Pass (3300 m) – Arabel Pass (3839 m) – Barskaun Pass (3754 m) – Issyk-Kul Lake.
Participants: Left to right: Raf (St. Petersburg), Vadim Clopgovorun (Penza), Mikhail (St. Petersburg), Andrey A.K. (Penza), and Vadim timka (Penza)
It was decided to go to Kyrgyzstan in July 2017. This month is considered the most suitable time for a trip there. Well, and of course, where without the team of like-minded people who were tried and hardened by many trips? I know these guys for a long time, and I know that in any difficult situation they will not let you down.
Equipment was selected carefully, taking into account sharp temperature changes. A July rain at an altitude above 3000 m is not a warm July rain in the Volga region. It can be a hail with a strong wind and a temperature of about 4C, so you have to be prepared for this too. Bicycles also need to be carefully prepared: pick up the tires correctly; the trunk must be sturdy; there must be a helmet on the head and the first aid kit in the backpack for any troubles that may happen.
We, kind of like experienced tourists, of course, knew about all this, but there were shortcomings.
For example, I hoped for a “maybe” and went on not quite suitable tires Continental Race King 2.0, and as a result I heavily cut the tire against the stones. Alexey and I had problems with the trunk. Vadim (clopgovorun) had the bearing crumbled in the rear bushing. In general, there were enough problems. I will write more about this in more details.
We got to Bishkek by plane. Bicycles in the bags flew in order. However the flight was delayed for 5 hours, and we did not even hear any apologies from the representatives of the airline.
Day 1 (July 10): Bishkek – Karagai-Bulak : 46 km, ascent 1130 m
Around 8 a.m. the plane landed at the Manas airport in Bishkek. Due to the fact that our flight landed 5 hours later than planned and the day was ahead, we decided not to waste time and go to Bishkek by taxi. In the city we met Raf and Michael. They arrived from St. Petersburg by other flights a few days before us. Six bicycles and people somehow arranged in two cars: bicycles and Alex in one car, all the rest – on the other.
The driver was rabid and impudent. There was no reason to take risks. I modestly announced it. But this did not help. It was necessary to hold on tight and to protect a head at sharp braking. As a result, we dashed away from the second car and lost sight of bicycles with Alex. On the way we stopped at a Currency Exchange and exchanged rubles for soms. Then the driver got lost. Fortunately, the city is not big. I turned on my GPS, and showed where to go eventually. The car was very old, and her fate apparently was unenviable with such a driver, as evidenced by numerous marks on the body. The car could not stand it, and for about a couple of kilometers to the destination, the automatic transmission died. Somehow, on the blocked third gear, we were slowly taken to the meeting point with Raf and Mikhail at the Botanical Garden.
We went on bicycles from the city and with a constant smooth climb set a course for the village of Koi-Tash. This road is unpleasant – heat, hot asphalt, and traffic. We just had to endure these unfortunate 15 km. In the village of Koi-Tash we bought food for dinner and breakfast. Then we turned at the fork to the left, to the west – and immediately it became easier to go. The height was already 1300 m, and not 900 m, as in Bishkek – it’s not so hot. The traffic reduced, and the foothills of the mountain system of the Tien Shan were around.
We took a small local pass of 1700 m and effortlessly slid down to a height of 1600 m to the Issyk-Ata river where we stayed overnight in the fishing camp site.
Day 2 (July 11) Karagai-Bulak – river Kegety : 50 km, ascent 1297 m
On the way to Roth-Front village we noticed wild apricot trees, and picked up plenty of apricots.
The village of Otogon is the last big village before entering the Kegety gorge. (There is also the village of Kegety, but it is far from our track.) A couple of days of autonomy are ahead, so buy food you need here. After the village to the left of the road, several apiaries were observed. And we bought few liters of honey. Next began the beauty – we are riding along the Kegets gorge.
At an altitude of 2200 m, thunder rumbled into the gorge, and the sky was clouded. We put a tent on the flat clearing that has turned up in time. Spring water is near. We have on our way the Kegety pass, which is 3780 m high, and this is serious.
Whatever one may say, hygiene in the campaign is important, so under screams we plunged into the chilling mountain river of Kegety, which numbs limbs instantly. Few decided to dive headlong.
Day 3 (July 12) river-Kegety – river Karakol : 32 km, ascent 1687 m, descent 1128 m
In the morning the sun was shining, and it was pretty cool. At breakfast, Alexey, as a field doctor, asked everyone how he/she slept. It happens that already with 2500 m the signs of a mountain sickness begin, but our team felt cheerful.
While breakfast was preparing, we decided to see what was there with Vadim’s bicycle. A cursory examination made a verdict – the bearing of the rear bushing fell apart. There are spanners for repair, but there is no spare bearing of necessary size. What to do? It seems that he still can go. We decided: let it be what will be; may be it will be alright till coming to the next village, where we might be able to repair it.
At an altitude of 3150 m it was decided to arrange a dinner before conquering the Kegety peak, which was 200 m higher.