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Автономные походы в Тянь Шань 

 
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To the Khan-Tengry following the steps of
Semenov Tian-Shansky and Merzbacher


Peter Petrovich Semenov Tian-Shansky and Gotfrid Merzbacher - are the most well-known discoverers of the Central Tian-Shan. They tried to reach different aims by different ways but their main task was to discover and explore the Central Tian-Shan. P.P.Semenov - geographer and geologist, botanic and entomologist, economist, traveler, organizer and historian. In summer 1856 he accompanied by a small team of Cossacks, started from the town of Verniy (Almaty) for expedition to the Central Tian-Shan, as a little-known member of Russian Geographical Society, but in 1857 he returned as a worldwide well-known scientist. P.P.Semenov was the first European who has reached the Northern Tien-Shan. The results of his explorations disproved all popular A. Gumboldt's hypotheses. Semenov proved that there are no volcanoes in Tian-Shan and all the main ranges have latitude direction. He was the first to describe the alpine glaciers and to refuse the opinion that the Chu river flows out of the Salt Lake (Issyk-Kul). But most of all the unknown peak of Khan-Tengri, which at that time was believed to be the highest point of the Central Tian-Shan attracted him. At present time there is a car road through the pass (Ak-Tog), which is on the watershed of Terskey Ala-Too range. It connects Karkara gorge with Sary-Jazz valley. The beautiful panorama of Saryjazz range, crowned by separated even higher peaks of Tengry-Tag range opens from here. From about that place in 1857 P.P. Semenov saw an unforgettable view of enigmatic Central Tian-Shan. He described it with such words: "... Directly to the south from us the most majestic mountain range I had ever seen towered. All it from the top till the bottom consisted of snow giants, there were about 30 of them from both sides. The whole range together with the mountain giants was covered by unbroken blanket of eternal snow. Right in the middle of these giants a snow-covered sharp pyramid towered that seemed from the pass to be two times higher than the other peaks..." "It is a Khan-Tengry!" - he exclaimed and ... made a geographical mistake that is still not corrected. In vain local Kyrgyz told him that they called that peak Kan-Too (Kyrgyz name - Bloody Mount). Being blinded by an unexpected view P.P. Semenov did not hear him. P.P. Semenov got his geographic knowledge about Tian-Shan from the works of K. Ritter and A. Gumbolt and they, in their turn, leaned that information from Byzantine missionaries and Chinese sources. Knowing that the highest point of Tian-Shan was Khan-Tengry, P.P. Semenov called without any doubt the same name a dignified pyramid dominated among the snow giants.

 

Khan-Tengri peak (7010m)

Discoveries made by P.P. Semenov were marked not only in science but also in high political circles. He was rewarded with a gold medal IRGO and order Vladimira 4-th degree besides, he got an addition put to his name by Tsar's order and became known as Semenov -Tian-Shansky. The description of Khan-Tengry made by Semenov-Tian-Shansky has been interested a famous German mountaineer and geographer Gotfrid Merzbacher so much that he decided to find out the exact location of this peak. As a result of two expeditions in 1902-1903 and 1907-1908 he managed to reach the foothill of a legendary peak and to make a detailed map of the Tengri-Tag ridge. The route of the second expedition lay from the Saryjaz valley through the pass of Tuz ("Straight") to the Inylchek Valley. Going up the glacier of South Inylchek, Merzbacher didn't realize that he just discovered one of the biggest high-altitude glaciers on Earth (its length is 59km). Having pitched the camp on one of the slopes covered with the green grass (left side of the Shokalsky Glacier - Merzbacher's Glade), Merzbacher saw for the first time and then described a high-altitude lake (later it turned out that there were two lakes). The lake with floating ice blocks was named after him then. From the same place he saw the purpose of his expedition - the Khan-Tengry Peak. It took them much effort yet to reach the foothill of a huge white pyramid. Its predominant position and a reputation for being the highest peak in the region didn't let Merzbacher notice another higher neighbor peak. It was a pity especially as the second summit could be clearly seen on panorama of the Kokshaal-Tau ridge that he presented to the Russian Geographic Society. That peak was later "discovered" by the Soviet topographers and was named Pobeda ("The Victory") Peak (7439 m).

 Pobeda peak (7439m)

On his way back, Merzbacher saw to his surprise that water disappeared from the lake and the icebergs lay on the slopes and the bottom of the drained lake. He couldn't give any explanation to that phenomenon, but soon the mysterious disappearance of water became well known. However neither the expeditions of Semenov-Tian-Shansky and Merzbacher nor the further expeditions till the present time could solve the phenomenon Khan-Tengry (Kan-Too) - Pobeda (Chinese name - Tomur). The region of Tian-Shan is very difficult of access. This fact didn't let for a long time observe the Khan-Tengry and Pobeda Peaks from such a close distance as Merzbacher managed to do for the first time. The latitude location of the Kokshaal-Tau and Tengri-Tag ridges prevents from seeing both peaks at the same time from remote territories. That is from the territory of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan it's possible to see only the peak of 7010m called from the times of Semenov-Tian-Shansky Khan-Tengry. The peak of 7439.3m with the modern name of Pobeda (Chinese name - Tomur) is seen very seldom and only from the neighboring peaks. Because of its "unfavorable" configuration (crowns a huge massive and doesn't have an eminent summit) the Pobeda Peak doesn't stand out against the other peaks, especially the Khan-Tengry Peak. But from the territory of modern China the peak of 7439.3m can be seen very well (the Swede - S. Gedin observed it once) and it predominates over the peak of 7010 m (Khan-Tengry). It was probably a historic phenomenon that two highest peaks located in close vicinity were known for centuries to the different Turkic nations as Khan-Tengry ("The Master of the Sky"). The history of discovering the Central Tian-Shan is not finished yet and probably would never finish. New people strive for visiting this amazing area, to make their own expedition, to make their own discoveries and to get to know themselves. And although their ways differ from the pioneers' way, it is no less interesting and enigmatic. Today it is not necessary to go by camel caravans starting from Almaty. It's enough to fly to Bishkek and continue the way by car to the place where the tour starts - the village of Jergalan. Then following the route of discoverers we pass through the Terskey Ala-Tau range and down to the Saryjazz valley. From one of the passes opens a beautiful panorama of snow mountains that once amazed P.P. Semenov so much. Then through the pass of Tuz cross Saryjazz range and go down to Inylchek valley to the tongue of South Inylchek glacier. Here everything remained the same as it was almost a century ago back to G. Merzbacher. Only some details - the rests of marble blocks, giant stone with inscriptions (Chon-Tash) - memorial to the lost climbers, tractors and cars traces witness about the modern ways of the Central Tian Shan exploration. With some luck, you will become the eye-witness of the mystery that G .Merzbacher couldn't solve - the disappearance of the Merzbacher lake. The mystery (the phenomenon) can be solved by itself if you see the gigantic fountain of water, regurgitating from beneath the tongue of the glacier.


Merzbacher lake

Further the way goes by the left side of South Inylchek glacier moraine, to do that it's necessary to cross the glacier. Step by step, unexpectedly you feel yourself inside the endless area of ice and mountains. At the end of a day walk, the small green glade appears. It is a so called Green Glade. Sometimes it's mistakenly called Merzbacher Glade. At present it's a traditional rest place for the visitors. The real Merzbacher Glade locates near the place of the confluence of Shokalsky and South Inylchek glaciers. At that place the route of modern travelers goes to the central red Moraine of South Inylchek glacier. This is the shortest way to the foothills of Khan-Tengry and Pobeda Peaks of two walking days. It is unknown where the base camp of G. Merzbacher's expedition was. At present, there are 5-6 camps organized by Kyrgyz and Kazakh tour-companies in July-August there where the Zvezdochka and South Inylchek glaciers join. However this fact doesn't prevent us from seeing Khan-Tengry and surrounded mountains the same as Merzbacher saw them. As a rule the way back is made by helicopter. During 30 minutes the modern traveler can see an unforgettable movie about Central Tian-Shan. Then you go by car, and after 4 hours you see another world - warm, blue world of the lake Issyk-Kul ... and everywhere there are mountains and mountains. They escort you till the plane's ladder and then live for a long time in your memory.

Nicolai Schetnikov

 



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