Having left the Ricks behind in Sary-Tash, Kit made quick time to meet up with his girlfriend Magda who expected to make it over 3.832m (12,572ft) Kegety pass the same day.
But after two days of struggling to climb 2.600m over 40km on her bicycle, Magda was frustrated to find the pass blocked by heavy snow. Plans were made to meet instead in Kochkor and Magda began her desecent and return towards Bishkek. She would have to take the flatter but longer route around the mountains, towards the great lake Issyk Kul.
Having traveled many hundred kilometers in the last few days, Kit and Magda both rolled into Kochkor at sunset and were reunited at the door to the rugged terrain of Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains. Sweet reunion was made even better by the prospect of 3 weeks of rugged off-road adventure.
The next morning Kit loaded the KTM with extra supplies and as much gas as it could hold. The two planned to pick up their route on the other side of Kegety Pass. Following a track aptly named “Tian Shen Traverse”, their goal for the next three weeks was to get as deep into these mystical mountains as their vehicles would take them.
A long, green valley steadily rose towards their next challenge: Pereval Karakol at 3.485m (11,433ft).
After a quick side-trip to investigate the other side of Kegety Pass (it too was blocked by a lot of snow) Kit waited for Magda at a cross-roads halfway up the valley. Expecting a quiet nap, his reverie was soon interrupted by a young local boy who was curious about his motorcycle. As Magda arrived he was quick to invite us into his family’s summer Yurt for lunch.
Our host (his father was out working their herds) sat us at the table next to his aging but content-looking grandmother. As his mother began cooking the lunch meal we snacked on every cyclist’s dream: fresh bread and butter. A steady stream of children trickled in and out of the hut in curiosity of the visitors and anticipation of the meal.
After a few hours of rest, food and easy conversation between Magda and the matron of the household in Russian, we set out to find a suitable camping spot for the night. Morning and our next pass lie ahead.
Not far from their lunch Kit finds more snow upon the road and decides to find a spot to camp. A fairy-tale carpet of green grass and flowers next to a creek, roaring from a torrent of melting snow, seems an excellent spot. Snow-capped mountains amongst a scene of puffy clouds look down upon the camp in the light of a gentle spring evening.
Following a serene night in our little paradise, we wake up in the morning to find our friends from lunch have made the trip up the valley to meet us.
The kids on their way, Kit hikes up to investigate the conditions near the pass. It appears there is too much snow for the KTM to make it but perhaps Magda can with her lighter bikepacking setup. The two make plans to meet up on the other side and Magda departs to begin the difficult push over the pass. Just after she leaves a sudden snow storm arrives to remind them June at 3.500 meters is no joke.
Though he is concerned for Magda’s situation, Kit has no choice but to stick to the plan and follow the now snow-dusted roads back down the valley. Knowing she will be cold and tired that evening, he must make haste to complete the 400 km loop around the long way.
Meanwhile Magda had made it through the blizzard and dropped back into another stunning valley. This one totally devoid of humanity, the only company the occasional lost goat or horse.
Kit on the other-hand is still stuck on the main road, rushing to make it around before dark. After having issues with his clutch, it is well after dark when Kit arrives at the mouth of the valley, unsure where Magda is or even if she made it over the pass.
Unable to find Magda in the pitch black night, he makes a simple camp and waits to continue the search after dawn. Normally this separation would not be an issue but Kit took most of the sleeping and cooking gear to make Magda’s trip over the snow covered pass lighter. Concern she is stuck in the snow somewhere without proper gear or warm food weighs on his mind as he falls to sleep well after midnight.
At first light Kit packs up camp and heads up the road. Thankfully not 5 km he finds Magda already on the road headed his way. Kit is relieved to find Magda is fine and the two laugh about how close they were to meeting up the night before. Even a couple of cold meals and a night in the rough were not enough to douse Magda’s excitement at her experience the day before.
Together they join the main road in Kojomkul and make haste towards Kokemeren valley. After a long day’s push up a crowded valley the two decide they have earned some of the comforts of civilization. Namely food cooked by someone else, a hot shower and a night in a guesthouse.
Well rested and well fed, Magda and Kit look ahead to climb up to the famous mountain lake Song Köl. A number of different routes exist and Magda wants to follow a locals advice to take her bike up a steep horse trail directly to the nearest pass. Kit on the other hand opts to take the heavy KTM through town to pick up supplies and then climb to the lake on a more developed road.
Summiting the high plateau at over 3000m, magnificent views of shining Song Köl are punctuated by an angry sky. Far from the warm sun of the valley below, lines of rain, hail and blowing snow engulf the shores of the lake almost without warning. In minutes the calm, emerald surface of the lake mutates into a seething grey reflection of the skies above. Then, as quickly as it all began, the snow stops and the sun peeks through the clouds upon the once-again clear jewel of Song Köl.
During the Elysian side of one of these hour-long cycles Kit sets up camp and slips inside just as things begin to slide back towards Gehenna. With the next burst of sun, he heads back out to find where Magda ended up.
Finding her waiting out the weather with some locals a few kilometers away, the two pack up and push to camp during the next break in the madness.
So close to the clouds there is little warning between storms and clear sky. But eventually the two made it back to camp together and hunker down to enjoy views of the awesome landscape around them. From their tent, safe in warm sleeping bags, with a cup of hot tea in hand, of course.