kyrgyzstan by Retlaw Snellac
kyrgyzstan, a photo by Retlaw Snellac on Flickr.

Flight by helicopter (of the Kazakh army) around the highest peaks of theTien Shan mountains in the east of Kyrgyzstan, near the border with China and Kazakhstan.

The Tien Shan Mountains – is the largest mountain range in Asia, in surface area; length (2800km); and width (at one point reaching 800 km wide) – with a total of 40 peaks over 6000m.
It stretches across several countries and about much of the system lies in the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic . Extending over 2800km from the Chatkal range just East of Tashkent to Urumchi, (beyond which it rises again as the Bogdo Ola Range), they are usually described as being divided into Northern, Western, Eastern, Central and Inner ranges and most of them exhibit typical “alpine” features. It is the central portion, south-east of Lake Issyk-kul which contains the very high mountain peaks such as Khan Tengri and Peak Pobeda, closely grouped together along ridges that stretch east-to-west. The area surrounding the Enilchek Glacier has two peaks over 7000 meters, Pobeda and Khan Tengri – more about them is later), 23 higher than 6000 meters including 3 virgin peaks – and 80 more peaks between 5000 and 6000 meters including 14 virgin peaks. The range is made up of sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks. The existence of this great range, (also known as the “ Celestial Mountains ”), has been known since ancient times. Despite the records and observations recorded by many early travellers, however, until the expeditions of the Russian geographer and explorer Peter Semyenov in the mid-nineteenth century, the Tien Shan Mountains remained “more legend than fact”. (Semyenov was granted the honorary title of “Tienshansky” by the Tsar for his exploits), In fact the southern fringes of the system were first described by the Buddhist monk Hsuan Tsang in the seventh century BC, who wrote of 'encountering nothing but ice and snow. The snow falls both in summer and springtime. Night and day the wind rages violently'. They also would have been visible to Marco Polo who (if we believe his account) travelled in along this route in 1273, with his father and uncle.
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