Ski touring in Kazakhstan: Tuyuk-Su

Обновлено: 8 дек. 2019 г.

Tuyuk-Su is a picturesque alpine region located just a few hours away from Almaty, Kazakhstan. The region is famous for steep skiing and provides an excellent opportunity to extend the season for another month. Ideal time for touring and freeriding here is May and early June. The area is located quite high above sea level, the routes here begin at 3450m, and their endpoint can exceed 4200m, so preliminary acclimatization will not hurt. You also need to remember that glacier travel has its own difficulties and requires a certain level of training.

Those who come here for backcountry usually stop in “barrels” at the T1 glaciological station. They are located at an altitude of 3450m and are surrounded by 4 thousandths and open hanging glaciers. A huge number of potential lines for spectacular descents are perfectly visible from there. Accommodation is pretty simple but it is the only convenient place to start skiing routes.

Getting to the station is easy - it takes two-three hours of walk from the Medeo skating rink, which is half an hour by taxi from the center of Almaty, to the Myngylki weather station and there you can already go touring for the remaining 400 meters of elevation. Depending on the condition of the road, the weather station can be reached with an 4wd car, and a snowmobile can get you higher, again, its availability depends on the current snow condition. The path back on foot takes from two to three hours. It is amazing how fast you can get from snowy glaciers to green and blooming city which has everything you need for a nice relaxing day.

The region is located in the highlands and is exposed to strong winds and low temperatures in winter. Thus, the skiing season begins in the spring, in May, when it starts getting warmer and snow begins to accumulate on the glaciers. At the beginning of the season you can run into problems with snowpack stability - there are problems with depth hoar and wind slabs in the area, but closer to the end of the may due to the active melting-freeze cycle the snowpack accumulates and stabilizes. Despite the fact that skiing takes place almost in summer the snow on the northern aspects often has winter conditions. If there were no precipitation in the area for a long time you will have an excellent spring conditions. Thus, the most favorable time for skiing is the second half of May and beginning of June. Terrain is mostly steep, but you can find a sufficient number of descents with an average slope angle accessible to many riders. Almost the entire ski area, except for several lower valleys, is covered with glaciers, respectively there is a danger of crevasses. Of course, they are incomparably smaller than, for example, on Elbrus, but there still is a risk of falling. Glacier travel equipment is mandatory for this region, especially since belay may be needed to reach some descents.

The ski area begins to the north - Zeleny Kar and the Titova Valley. There are no glaciers there and skiing is possible in mid-May while the snow has not yet melted. The slopes there are easier than in the main part of the valley and are great for warming up. It should be noted that in this part the most picturesque ring routes along the ridges of both valleys with a sufficient number of interesting descent lines are possible. The main area is located south of T1 station - on the Molodezhny, Tuyuk-su, Needles and Ordzhonikidze glaciers. Here all routes pass in one way or another along the glaciers and require appropriate training and equipment. Classic routes - Molodezhny peak, Pogrebetskogo peak, Tuyuk-Su pass. From all these peaks there are a variety of descent lines for every taste and level of expertise.

Regardless of the complexity of the desired lines, the area is demanding on general fitness. Almost any route involves climbing above 4000m. Also often you have to gain a hundred or two meters by bootpacking and with crampons. So it’s worth coming in a good shape, with an active winter season this is not a problem. The requirements for the level of skiing are quite high - confident off-piste skiing in any snow condition, the ability to make closed controlled turns on any steepness of the slopes. Of course, with good snow conditions and the choice of more conservative lines, the level of necessary skills decreases, but in any case, the region is not designed for beginners. It is worth mentioning acclimatization - the region is quite high and accommodation in the skiing area is at an altitude of 3450 m which can cause symptoms of mountain sickness for a person who arrived from the sea level without preparation.

For warming up and acclimatization, the Chimbulak ski resort is excellent. It is located three hundred meters above the Medeo rink in the same valley as Tuyuk-su. Cable cars take you up to 3200m, and from there you can start touring even in the May and climb the surrounding peaks up to 4000m high. It is possible to live on top staion of the cable cars and go for a few days from there and get ready before the serious routes in Tuyuk-su. Also not far from here is the Bogdanovich Glacier, which is replete with interesting, moderately complex routes.

Our company offers two trip options – one for experienced riders who want to try the steepest and most exciting lines, other for mid-level skiers who want to extend the ski season until summer. In the first one we focus on skiing in the glacial part of Tuyuk-su and concentrate on steep glaciers and narrow couloirs. In the second case, we start skiing in the resort area, living in a city or in a hotel right there, acclimatize and run the routes at the top of the resort, and after that we move to the T1 station. There, our attention is focused on the valleys north of the station, but nevertheless we will climb the Molodezhny peak and the Tuyuk-su pass.

Tuyuk-Su is an incredibly interesting region, that is why it is one of our favorite places for ski touring. If you want to visit it with us, join one of our programs! We have two of them: first for intermediate skiers – Tuyuk-Su Light, and second one for experienced skiers – Tuyuk-Su Pro.

If you have any questions or want to join one of our tours, feel free to contact us via e-mail or using the form on our website.

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