“Tackle a challenging high-elevation trek up and down some of Kyrgyzstan's most scenic (and steep) valleys and passes.”
— Matt Gibson
Hot Spring · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Hike in mid-summer months only, unless you like the idea of scrambling up 40-degree scree slopes in the snow.
For a first-timer in Kyrgyzstan, the Ak-Suu Traverse Trek is much better done with a guide and from east to west. When you approach from the east you cross a series of passes, glaciers, and lakes that all seem to be almost intentionally ordered so that you start off stunned by the beauty of the Boz-Uchuk Lakes, but are then incrementally more awed by the view from the first pass with the yawning valley below, and after that, surprised repeatedly that each pass and valley is measurably grander than the one before it. You're genuinely surprised with each pass you crest until you get to Ala-Kol Pass.
After dragging yourself up the last 200 meters of loose scree, breathless in the thin 3900 meter air, you lurch over this pass and are assaulted by the spectacle of the massive emerald Lake Ala-Kol cradled beneath a raw spine of peaks, and fed by a colossal glacier that seems to be lazily oozing down the mountain into the comfort of its pristine azure bath.
The Ak-Suu Traverse Trek is like a visual symphony with a meandering but seemingly measured build up, and this is the crescendo. It's the bustle in your headrow. Even though we still had three days of trekking left after Lake Ala-Kol, I would have been perfectly satisfied to pack up and go home. It was obvious that nothing could possibly top it.
Need to Know
Both a water filter and steri-pen are recommended. Good map-reading skills are essential and a guide is recommended as the trek is mostly off-trail and markings are inconsistent. Don't forget to stop at the Ak-Suu Arashan hotsprings!
Ak-Suu Traverse Trek is a 93.3 kilometer lightly trafficked point-to-point hike located in the state of Ysyk-Köl, Kyrgyzstan that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until September.
This hike features some of the most scenic passes and valleys Kyrgyzstan has to offer, but they come at the cost of constant climbing and descending steep valley walls punctuated by water breaks on valley floors, most of which are over 3000 meters.
The tread is sparsely marked (and in some places not at all). Good map and compass reading skills are absolutely necessary if hiking without local help. Hiring a guide is recommended.