Day 2 – Sept 1 – Our first pass

On our original plan, we had added an acclimatization day at the trailhead, because we were concerned about going from sea level straight to a 3200 meter (10,500 foot) camp and a 3700 meter (12,100 foot) pass. Marcia had some problems doing such things in both Nepal and Ladakh, so we wanted to be conservative. But of course, we had done the same thing many times without problems in the Sierras.

We were feeling fine except for minor headaches, so we decided to skip the acclimatization day and go straight over the pass. It was an easy climb and despite some breathlessness, we made it to the pass in two hours.

The terrain in this part of Kyrgyzstan is much less rugged than the Himalayas. The pass was just a rolling summit and the slopes on either side were gradual.

The harder part was actually the descent, because the grasses gave way to weeds that masked numerous animal holes. I took a spectacular spill on one place where my recovering left ankle gave way. Rather than risk a new injury to my foot, I took a hard fall on my body. No harm done, fortunately, but we moved even slower after that.

Hiking in Kyrgyzstan is essentially bushwhacking, with no established trails beyond an occasional faint track. Unlike Nepal or India, the population is low in Central Asia, especially so in the mountains. The few people living here are Kyrgyz horsemen nomads, who do not live in villages. And there are very few visitors. It reminded us of hiking in the Gates of the Arctic park in northern Alaska.

We made it to camp at 2pm just before the first thunderstorm hit. A group of Kyrgyz horsemen came by to show off the marmot they had shot. Our guide warned us to keep everything inside our tent, as thievery is common among poor nomads.

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