Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ak Tash

My imagination was spurred in June during a trip to Tash Rabat, located in the southern portion of the At Bashy Range, for the climbing potential of the area. Tash Rabat is an ancient stone structure dated to the 15th century that was used during the height of the Silk Road. Today, local and international tourists travel to the area to visit the stone structure with its beautiful dome that still remain tucked safely in the mountains.

Ben and I traveled to the area following our mountaineering trip in the northern portion of the range looking for rock climbing, rest and relaxation. The impressive overthrusts of the limestone cliffs are incredible aesthetic and from a distance it appeared that climbing and exploration would be abundant. Dozen of eagles continually soared above us riding summer thermals only disappearing when returning to their nests in the cliffs.The area we were in is know as Ak-Tash which means white rock. However in three days of exploring we were unable to find routes with protection opportunities with traditional climbing gear. We also struggled to find any top roping locations. The climbing potential is incredible and many walls looked like they could hold dozen of sport routes. However I would hesitate to promote bolting in the area given the remote location of the area and the abundant eagle nesting.

As our original intentions changes we started spending more time with my local friends from a previous visit who run on of the yurt camps in the valley for tourists coming to Tash Rabat. Sabyrbek and his family allowed us to live in one of their yurts and I took to helping them cook, clean and do chores. The few tourists that filtered through during the week seemed to think it strange that an American was "working" in such a remote place. I have found that helping is the quickest way to peoples hearts and the best way to understand the life and intricacies of a culture.

Our week ended on not the best notes as Ben succumbed once again to intestinal issues. We retreated to At Bashy and then to Bishkek. A week of rest and calorie recompensation for Ben has us feeling strong and eager to return. Today we head back to At Bashy for our last three weeks exploring, climbing and sharing life with local people.

ABOUT AT BASHY

This post is intended to provide a more detailed background of the social and physical features of the At-Bashy area...


SOCIAL FEATURES
The At Bashy Mountain Range is located within the Naryn Oblast, one of the seven oblasts that constitute Kyrgyzstan. Although the Naryn oblast covers ¼ of the country’s land area, it only hold 5% of the country’s population (271,280 people) making it the most sparsely populated oblast in Kyrgyzstan. The majority of the oblast’s  residents live in rural villages. The economic and cultural ties to the landscape are reflected by a strong cultural pride. The Naryn oblast is often considered the most “Kyrgyz” in terms of ethnicity and is considered by many to be the Kyrgyz cultural heartland.  READ MORE....


PHYSICAL FEATURES
Located just north of the Chinese border within the country of Kyrgyzstan, the At-Bashy Mountain Range stretches for 160 km (100miles) with peaks in elevation up to 4800 meters (about 15,500 ft).There are over 190 glaciers in the At-Bashy region. In the At-Bashy Range, maximum precipitation and glacier accumulation occurs in the spring and summer when the weakened Siberian high allows for moisture to arrive from the west and north coinciding with maximum glacier melt rates. READ MORE.....


Tradition of Nomadic Pastoralism: The Kyrgyz Herder


The practice of semi-nomadic pastoralism is strongly rooted in Kyrgyz cultural identity as the practice extends regionally back thousands of years. Despite drastic political transformations over the past two centuries, livestock has remained the most important component of rural livelihoods in Kyrgyzstan. Today, pastoralism continues to be the main livelihood for many rural Kyrgyz as topographic and climatic constraints limit crop cultivation. READ MORE....