Hiking in the Chatkal Mountains

Hunter’s Peak in the background

I finally got out of Tashkent for a day in the beautiful Western Tian Shan mountains, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Chatkal Mountains are only 65 km (40 miles) east of the city. It is so nice that they are so close to the city and readers of my blog will be hearing a lot about them.

The steepest part of the hike on Big Chimgan (1950 meters – 6,300 feet)

The hike was led by a retired engineer named Boris. For years he has led hikes for foreigners living in Tashkent. Yesterday’s trek started in the village of Chimgan and headed up towards the Bolshoy Chigan, the central peak of range in Uzbekistan. We climbed over the fine open tops of Big Chimgan and Small Chimgan, walking along ridges. We descended to the Chorvok Reservoir where the van picked us up. Boris is quite the character and we had a good time trekking with his grandson and partner, Vladimir and a couple of fellow expats.

Horses on the descent of Small Chimgan

Most of the hike was following trails through grazing areas. We saw horses, sheep and cows during the day. As in the American West, I wish there were no livestock grazing on such beautiful lands because of the environmental damage they wreak upon the natural flora and fauna. I always wonder what the place would look like without livestock. It makes me want to be a vegetarian. Despite this, the views were striking and this gave me a taste of what more there is to explore. There were a few steep sections on the top of Chimgan peaks (1950m and 1850m) and I slowly and safely scrambled over the rocks.

There are many gorges to explore in the Chatkal Mountains

We had lunch overlooking the Chorvok Reservoir. The lake had a weekend-getaway feel with lots of “dachas”, Soviet-era hotels and Tashkenters driving up for the views. Fortunately, it was peaceful far up above them, but we saw a lot of people on the way back. It is a three-day weekend in Uzbekistan to celebrate 28 years of independence from the USSR.

The ridge between Big and Small Chimgan Peaks

The Chatkal Mountains are the far west of the Tian Shan Mountain Range that goes all the way to western China. The peaks are not as high as in neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, but they are much more accessible and close to the city. The far east of Uzbekistan is a finger between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and we could see the mountains go on across the border. I am looking forward to exploring more of these mountains in the Chimgan Ugam-Chatkal National Park.

The View over Chorvok

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