This dusty-streeted, one-storey sprawl of mud and concrete houses sits in the foothills of Kyrgyzstan’s tallest mountains, including the gargantuan, 7134m, snow-covered Pik Lenina. The people here herd yaks, as well as the sheep and horses more common in the north, and spend summers in yurts and mud-built farmsteads in the mountains nearby. They are also stricter Muslims than in the centre or north of the country. People will stop and prostrate themselves in the street when the Muezzin belts out the call to prayer from the village mosque and Ramaddan observed in its fullness.
If coming here by road from Tajikistan or from further north in Kyrgyzstan you will need to pass through the town of Sary Tash on the Tajik – Kyrgyz border. A few shared taxis every day do the trip to Sary Tash and Sary Moghul from Osh, further north in Kyrgyzstan. About one every day goes from Murghab in Tajikistan to either Sary Tash or Sary Moghul. Lots of cars go between Sary Tash and Sary Moghul each day. Ask around town to find out when and from where they’re leaving or just stand out on the road and hitch a lift. There is also a possibility to do a multi-day trek through mountains and herders’ pastures from Osh to Sary Moghul. Ask the CBT office in Osh or the CBT homestay in Sary Moghul for details (see main Kyrgyzstan page for an explanation of CBT).
There are a couple of very cheap guest houses in Sary Tash. In Sary Moghul, however, the only accommodation option is at the CBT home stay, which in 2010 cost US$10 with meals. They can also give you information on tracks leading out of town to yurt encampments and mountain lakes and, if you want one, can organise a guide for you. Some English is spoken.
Pik Lenina is said to be one of the world’s easiest mountains to scale over 7000m. It can be done without ropes, the only real problems being altitude sickness and very unpredictable weather. As it involves no actual climbing the only essential stuff to bring is EXTREMELY warm clothing, an EXTREMELY good tent, crampons and an ice axe. Locals even told me of a tourist climbing to the top and skiing back down in one day! Complete novices have even chosen Pik Lenina as their first climb.
The best month to do the climb is August. You can organise it through trekking agencies in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan‘s capital, or just turn up at Base Camp on your own if you are a more experienced mountaineer. Locals in Sary Moghul can guide you there or point you in the right direction or you can hitch a lift with the occasional herders’ trucks and tractors that pass this way.
Having said all this, in 1974 a team of eight female climbers were killed on the mountain by a storm and in 1990 an earthquake caused an avalanche that killed 43 climbers. People also get frost bite quite often, as they arrive inadequately prepared, having been lulled into a false sense of security by tales of how easy the mountain is to scale. Come prepared and you should be fine.
Click here for my blog about the Sary Moghul area with 2364 words and 20 photos.
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