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Trekking around Tash Rabat

The 4,000-metre At-Bashy ('Horse Head') range, which runs parallel to the road between Naryn and Torugart, makes very good hiking and horse trekking country and offers prime access to the Ak Sai plateau (see below). A local guide and adequate fitness are imperative here since maps of this area are not up to date, the landscape and climate can be treacherous and the cattle trails are often washed-out. The season is from early July to mid-September.

The caretaker at the caravanserai can help organise horses and act as a guide for trekking (price negotiable). Area is great for local flora & fauna sightseeing, you can have an opportunity to see the elusive ibex, a species of wild goat with huge curving spiral horns more than one metre long, which lives among crags and rocky slopes, usually above the snowline. Also most likely you'll see a lammergeier, a rare species of vulture that looks like an eagle but has a three-metre wingspan.

One good day trek from Tash Rabat is to head up to the 3,968-metre Tash Rabat pass with its views to Lake Chatyr Kid and the Chinese border. Start by going further south into the valley, crossing over the river at the caravanserai and following it upstream for an initially easy walk on springy turf amid rolling velvety hills. After about two hours the valley forks. Take the right fork for the pass or the left for an easier walk.

The route to the pass is long and strenuous, made more difficult by the altitude, and not suitable for horses, but is very attractive with dramatic limestone and quartz crags rising like dragons' teeth, and silver grey rocks covered in orange lichen. After the fork, the path immediately begins to climb steadily above the narrow gorge. After about an hour's walk, you have to decide whether to cross a small stream and bear left, or continue upwards towards the broad ridge. If you go left, there is another three hours of even steeper climbing over mossy, squelchy banks and dozens of tiny rivulets from the rapidly melting snow caps above, before you reach the boulder-strewn pass. Allow a minimum of six hours up and three hours down.

This walk can be extended to a four-day round trek via the Ak Sai valley, camping at jailoo on the way. The route is amongst stunning surroundings but the frequently narrow and steep zigzag track is not an easy jaunt, and for this you will need a guide.

Permits are needed for the Ak Sai valley. A border zone (military) permit can be obtained with the help of travel agencies, giving them at least four weeks' notice.


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