Beldersoy Mountain Climb

Oliver resting with Beldersoy Ski Resort Piste in the background

This past Sunday, Owen, Oliver and I went hiking in the Ugam-Chatkal National Park. This was my second visit to the park and we were led by the famous guide Boris. The Chatkal Range, part of the western Tian Shan Mountains, covers “the finger” in far Eastern Uzbekistan. It is only about a 90-minute drive from Tashkent.

We climbed a steep ridge running parallel to the Beldersoy Ski Resort to begin the hike. The ski piste and hotel was below as we scrambled over rocky outcrops. Boris is known for not using trails, instead going for more difficult routes and he didn’t disappoint. We made it to the top (2,000 meters / 6,500 feet) of Beldersoy and had gorgeous views of the Beldersoy River valley and several peaks. After a rest, we walked through the Urttakumbel Pass down to the Marble River. We had lunch along the river and surveyed a 30-meter waterfall in the narrow canyon.

Big Chimgan in the background

Walking back up a side trail we saw hundreds of fossilized cockle shells. It is awesome to think about geological time scales. Those shells were once living mollusks living on the bottom of a sea and today they are found on a mountain in the middle of a double-landlocked desert nation of Uzbekistan. I collected a bunch of nice specimens to display in my office.

Cockle Shell Fossils in the Marble River Canyon

We finished the hike by going over to a “solar glade” an open pasture on the way back to our car. The glade reminded me of a desert Sound of Music mountain meadow. It would also have been a great place for a medieval battle scene. Oliver is reading Game of Thrones and is re-watching some of the later episodes. It would be a perfect spot for filming.

The “solar” glade

Of course the best part of any hike for me is spending time with my family. Being able to talk and explore with my sons gives me so much pleasure. They are two really good guys and we enjoyed each other’s company, despite the early start on a Sunday morning.

The initial ascent from the parking lot

The one aspect of hiking in the park that bothers me is the ubiquitous livestock grazing. We didn’t see any horses, cows, sheep or goats on this walk, but we did see plenty of evidence (feces) of ruminants. I wonder what the mountains would look like without the pressure of grazing? I know people have to make a living, but it makes me want to forgo meat all together when I see the impact of livestock on the environment.

I am looking forward to seeing the mountains change as the seasons change. My two hikes so far were during the driest part of the year.

Marble River Canyon

Owen & Ollie’s Grand Hiking Trip



On Saturday I took Owen and Oliver with me on the CAS hiking trip. CAS stands for Creativity, Action, Service and is part of our International Bacchlaureate program at our school. One of the seniors, Luka, is an avid hiker and he planned out a great route for us. The trail is part of a larger system of trails in Serbia and there are hiking clubs here. Trying to find basic information about them is difficult and I haven’t seen any maps. Because of Serbia’s isolation for many years, these types of things aren’t developed yet for tourists.

The hike took place outside of the village of Slavkovica, which is located north of Čačak. It is part of the central Serbian region known as Šumadija (Wooded Land). The land of Sumadija is a mix of rolling hills, pastures, pine and deciduous forests, villages, and orchards. The hike contained all of these and was a very pleasant day. This specific hike and village are not mentioned in the Bradt guide to Serbia. The route began at a restaurant, and it was under 2 hours from Belgrade.

The high school students were patient and kind to the boys and they loved hanging out with the high schoolers. I had to carry Oliver in some of the parts, but both of them did very well. We hiked from 10:30 AM until 5:00 PM and they kept up the entire way.


Owen Overlooks a Beautiful Wooded Valley
Owen Overlooks a Beautiful Wooded Valley

Šumadija being central Serbia, was and is the most “Serbian” part of Serbia. The two uprisings against the Turks started here as well as resistance to the Nazis in WWII. It was the center of the Belgrade Pashalik in Ottoman times. I think at its heart, Serbia identifies itself with the small family farm. Although Belgrade is cosmopolitian, many Belgraders have relatives still living in the countryside. 


Vrh Suvogora (Dry Hill Peak)



The trail is well marked, although there were several trails intersecting that might be confusing. Red and white circles and signs (above) guide hikers. You need to read Cyrillic and the top sign indicates the direction of our goal. A WWI battle occured at Suvagora Summit between the Serbs and the Austro-Hungarians. There were several parties of hikers and there is the occasional farmer or local that you can ask if you get lost. We spotted some hang gliders on the way back.

And with many of my hikes with Oliver, it ended up with him falling asleep on my shoulders as we headed down the final decline to the car. 


Hitting the Wall We Made It!
"Hitting the Wall" We Made It!