Kyrgyzstan’s Kol-Tor Lake
The opportunity to get out into this mountains is, without a doubt, one of the greatest things about spending time in Kyrgyzstan.
My initial trip to Kyrgyzstan’s Kol-Tor Lake (in Kegety Gorge just a few hours east of Bishkek) is a great example of what makes the Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan a really useful thing. A quick daytrip where transport was taken car of and a guide kept us from getting too terribly lost, I went along with my friend Kent to this place that several people had mentioned as one of the prettiest lakes in Kyrgyzstan.
Like all of the Trekking Union daytrips I’ve been on, though, there just wasn’t enough time in the day to hike up there and explore properly and still be back to the bus in time to return to Bishkek. So, we simply went back! The weekend before my birthday, to be precise, as an excuse to get away from internet and computer and out onto a trail one last time before leaving Kyrgyzstan for a while at the end of the month.
It was, to put it lightly, a touch snowier than I’d expected. The trail was mostly clear and it was after all just a dayhike, and the snow/ice ended up being a source of lots of interesting textures and no end of amusement.
Mostly, though, I was just excited to get back up to this lake. You know that feeling of finding something really cool, and really wanting to share it? That was me the whole way up. Make no mistake, the hike from trailhead (at the guesthouse, which by the way is decent) to Kol-Tor is a solid two to three hours of pretty steady uphill. With snow and mud, especially, it gets to be quite a walk by the end. The whole time, though, I just had this budding excitement and wanted to say “But wait till you see it!”
The whole thing just WORKS so well! When the light catches it right, the entire lake shines this crazy color of turquoise (from minerals… I wouldn’t drink too much of it) and its nestled among these dramatic peaks and just up another short valley to the south is a full-on glacier that keeps the lake cold even in the warmest part of the Kyrgyz summer.
This, however, was not the warmth of Kyrgyz summer. Even at the best of times swimming here wouldn’t be high on my list of priorities, but in mid-November the option was totally off the table. Instead, I went for a little ice walk to retrieve a pair of sunglasses (ahem… not mine) that had slipped and slid their way well out onto the ice. It was so very thoroughly frozen already, not very deep into winter, that this wasn’t a safety concern at all.
So, not exactly beach weather. But definitely a place to keep in mind for quick weekend trips no matter what the season!
To get to Kegety Gorge on public transport, take a minibus from the East Bus Station towards the village of Kegety (50 som, about 2 hours). Just before crossing a riverbed into Kegeti, get out of the minibus and head down the road to the South. Hitch or hike the 10 k to the end of the road (veer left at the split, rather than taking a right over the bridge) and the TUK-owned mountain hut is just before the end of the road. (If you want to stay at the cabin during warmer months, you’d be well-advised to contact TUK to make a reservation.) If you’re not comfortable hiking solo or just don’t want to figure out the transport logistics, the Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan also visits pretty frequently during summer months for around 400 Som/ person.