Join me on expedition to 4000 m elevation in the Tien Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan for seven days (3 nights in comfortable hotel) and (4 nights in tents). Departing on Sat 20 Jun 2020 and returning on Sat 27 Jun 2020. We will be travelling in two 4×4 automatic-transmission Toyota Land Cruisers, where you have the opportunity to drive if you wish.
Kyrgyzstan is a country located in Central Asia and often referred to as the "Switzerland of Central Asia". Landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the south-west and China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek. The mountainous region of the Tien Shan covers over 80% of the country, with the remainder made up of valleys and basins. More than half the country is above 2,500 m. Steppe and alpine vegetation dominate the landscape; glaciers and eternal snow cover over 3% of the country’s total area. The climate in Kyrgyzstan is continental with a small amount of rainfall. And the people are as friendly as can be.
This is primarily a hiking and birding expedition in the realms of the Snow leopard high in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan. While getting acclimated to the high elevation, for the first couple of days we will be based in a comfortable hotel. From there we will partake in birding day trips, first to the drier desert mountains to search for desert birds, then into the forested mountains for a plethora of different bird species before we head out on expedition about 200 km into the Kyrgyz Ala-Too range to look for the Snow leopard and high mountain birds.
PLEASE NOTE: Itineraries are for guidance only. Programmes may vary depending on weather and wildlife conditions. Flexibility is paramount for high elevation expeditions.
Yes! You'll need a 4-season, winter sleeping bag and a Thermarest-style self-inflating roll-mat. Nights in the mountains will be freezing. I provide the tent so you don't need to bring one unless you want to bring your own (let me know if you do). The down-filled sleeping bags pack-down smaller. You'll find a full kit-list of what to bring in your joining dossier and customer portal. All Nature Expeditions' clients are entitled to 15% discount at Cotswold Outdoor & Snow+Rock.
Yes you can! Bring an International driving licence. I need at least one other driver. We use two, occasionally three Toyota Land-cruisers. These vehicles are 4-wheel drive and although they are automatic transmission are capable of handling the rough roads and river crossings that we will have to negotiate on this expedition. If you are one of my drivers you will be given full instructions for using the vehicles before we leave Bishkek. Multiple drivers will share the driving. Each vehicle is fitted with five seats. There is limited room in the back for all your kit, the tents, tools and food so please pack the minimal amount of personal kit and camera kit. You’ll be able to store some kit in the hotel.
You really won’t want to be carrying too much when hiking. Let me explain the kit I will be using, your kit should not need to exceed that. I’ll have a 24-105 mm zoom, this will give me a wide choice of landscape and general shots. I’ll also carry my Canon EF 400 mm f/4 DO IS USM prime which is relatively light-weight for its size. I'll also have my 1.4x extender. The body I'll take is my APS-C/1.6x sensor format EOS 70D because this will give me greater magnification on the 400 mm and therefore less weight than carrying a bigger lens for the same magnification. So my 400 mm will then become a 640 mm f/4 when attached to the EOS 70D, if I add the 1.4x extender it’ll become an 896 mm f/5.6. I’ll remove the mount off the 400 mm to make it lighter and because I won’t have a tripod with me. I’ll use a beanbag to rest on the car window or rocks (there’ll be lots of birds visible from the vehicles), and have a camera rain coat big enough for the 400 mm. I'll also carry two Peak Design camera carrying clips to make carrying it easier, filters, batteries and other basic stuff. The big lens will have its own soft case, the rest will be in a small soft case carried in my rucksack. I’ve been there and done it! I know you won’t need any more kit than this, trust me!
The age range that I've had join me on this expedition is between 17 and 72, but it's open to anybody who wants to try. A slow walk at high altitudes feels about the same as running quickly uphill at sea-level, consequently running uphill at low elevation is good training for this expedition. In this environment there are always some people who are stronger than others, the more physical training you do beforehand the easier you’ll find it. I lead from the back and the group only goes as fast as the slowest person. This is certainly a challenge but a very satisfying one and I'm sure you can do it if you put your mind to it. You'll have a great story to tell when you get home and this is an excellent way to lose weight.
Ensure you bring good quality footwear. Your boots are the most important piece of kit. Please make sure that they are of a good quality and well worn in so that they will not cause you any discomfort or give you blisters. PLEASE NOTE the grass in June is long and wet, it will quickly take the wax off your boots and allow water to soak in especially when crossing rivers. I might suggest waterproof snow-boots or even Wellingtons worn with thick socks. Day time temperatures can be as high as 30°C, but nights in the mountains will be cold and you should bring some warm clothes for when needed. The weather can, and will change quickly in the mountains. Layers of light clothing that is quick-drying is most suitable. You'll find a full kit-list of what to bring in your joining dossier and customer portal.