I realized after a day and a half that I’d seen what there is to see in Bishkek so I spent last night scrambling to find a guide to get me out of town today.
Got lucky and got connected to my man Azim who offered a day of mountain treking in the Tian Shan mountains. I should have realized I was in over my head when Azim said “mountain” treking.
We drove an hour and a bit south of Bishkek to the Ala-Archa Gorge, strapped our packs on and headed up.
And up and up… I am in better shape than I have been in years and I’ve been a walking machine for 6 weeks now so I figured I was adequately toughened… nope.
Bishkek is at about 1500 feet, I’m not sure how high we drove before hiking but after hours of up we topped out around 9350 feet, likely the highest I’ve ever been. My legs really are tough lately, it was more about the struggling to breathe.
Azim was a great guide, he realized I was not quite the mountain goat I appear to be and was encouraging, plus we took lots of breaks.
Not to be dramatic but I honestly think this may have been the hardest I have ever pushed myself, convinced that I wouldn’t make it to the waterfall at the end of the trek but just taking step after step and trying not to puke.
Weather was amazing, blue sky, a couple tiny splashes of moisture from the clouds that streamed by so quickly their shadows on the trail made a cool strobe, or that could have been just the altitude sickness.
We had a nice picnic at the top, a nice rest, and started back down. As steep as the trail was I found the way down wasn’t all that much easier than the way up, just traded lung pain for knee pain and trying not to slip off the edge of the trail.
Lunch! I asked Azim how many times he climbs this trail, he laughed and pointed to a peak way above us and said he climbs that one 50-60 times a season, yeah he didn’t break a sweat all day.
Azim dropped me at the airport after and I’m there now writing this and feeling pretty darn pleased (and sunburned), this trek was tough and I’m thrilled and surprised to have made it up and down again.