Two trekkers walking up the trail

Toguzak 2023

A summary of last summer’s Alatau Guide expedition to climb new routes on long-forgotten mountains of Ile Alatau.

Last August (2023), Kirill Belotserkovskiy, with his friends and clients Geri and Traudl, hiked a wonderful route from Big Almaty Lake to Toguzak Glacier to Shymulak ski resort. Along the way, they climbed two rarely visited mountains by new routes.

A car left them at the hut in upper Ozyornoye Gorge, a few kilometers up the valley from Big Almaty Lake. They waited out a heavy rain and took a trail to Kyzylsay Valley. In a couple of hours, they reached the rescue hut, conveniently located just shy of their first objective — Molodaya Gvardiya, 4398.

Molodaya Gvardiya from Kyzylsay Valley
A. Sovietskih Alpinistov, 4378m; B. Chetyryoh Pass; C. Molodaya Gvardiya; D. Timofeyev Glacier
1. From Chetyryoh Pass, 3A; 2. Kirill and Traudl’s route; 3. West Ridge (Normal route)

Molodaya Gvardiya, 4398m AI1 400m

The next morning, Geri felt unwell, so he decided to stay in a hut to recover. Kirill and Traudl crossed the moraine, hopped onto Timofeyev glacier, and dodged between crevasses to get to the bottom of their line. They took an almost direct line from the bottom to the top, following an obvious couloir in the center of the face. Ice never was steeper than 60 degrees, so climbing was technically easy, but due to the size of the face, it was pretty tedious. When Kirill asked if Traudl wanted to lead (she definitely could do so), she answered that when they started to climb rocks, she would take the sharp end. Still, before that, she’d prefer to second. The view from the summit was as stunning as it could be in the mountains in clear weather. Molodaya Gvardiya is higher than its neighbors and stands separately from them, so one can see many kilometers from the top. They even identified their next objective—Muryn-Tau.

Kirill and Traudl at the summit of Molodaya Gvardiya
Kirill and Traudl at the summit of Molodaya Gvardiya

For the descent, Kirill and Traudl took a couloir to the left from the one they just climbed. Making six rappels on Abalakovs, they reached a moraine in the early afternoon before rocks started to melt out of the ice and roll down the face. Back in the hut, Geri looked much better than in the morning.

During the next two days, they crossed Tourists Pass, hiked down to Left Talgar Valley, waded Left Talgar, and scrambled up to the meadows next to Toguzak glacier.

There are many long-forgotten mountains in Toguzak Valley. Moreover, there are a couple of accessible, unclimbed mountains. The goal was to climb something new and memorable. Here in Ile Alatau, we have plenty of space for new routes, as most of the valleys are almost undeveloped in terms of alpine climbing. Most of the mountains have been climbed by snowy ridges, while ice faces are untouched. The plan was to touch some of these.

For three days, they were waiting for the weather to improve. During short breaks in the rain, they made short blasts up the moraine to glimpse the surrounding mountains. And what views they got! Huge ice faces, glacial lakes, and surreal glacial rivers were just for them, as the only living creatures around were little birds, marmots, mountain goats, and a family of mudflow observers.

Muryn-Tau and surroundings
A. Toguzak Pass; B. Toguzak Central Pass; C. Muryn-Tau, 4510m; D. Dzhusandy Kungey, 4543m; E. Toguzak South; F. Toguzak, 4444m; G. Right Toguzak Glacier.
1. From Toguzak Pass; 2. Kirill, Traudl and Geri’s route

Muryn-Tay, 4510m AI1 300m

August 9, Kirill, Geri, and Traudl start early to climb the north face of Muryn-Tau—a mountain at the upper part of Right Toguzak glacier. Until mid-way, the glacier was snow-free, and no crevasses were seen around, so the team moved unroped. As soon as the snow covered the ice, they roped up.

Their chosen route follows the line between the prominent rock outcrops on the left and an icefall on the right. Most of the time, the ice was 40–50 degrees steep, but the crevasses they had to cross added some spice to the climb. Luckily, a thick fog covered everything, so the view of crevasses at the bottom of the route almost didn’t disturb anyone. They got to the summit in the full whiteout conditions. Waiting for the window in the fog, they spent half an hour at the summit, but the mountains around never opened fully.

Kirill, Geri and Traudl at the top of Muryn-Tau
Kirill, Geri and Traudl at the top of Muryn-Tau

To get down, they went to Middle Toguzak Pass. From there, rappelling on Abalakovs in seven pitches, they got down to the glacier in perfectly sunny weather. Well, sometimes we got views from the summit, sometimes we got the views of the summit. In the late afternoon, they got back to the tents.

A man with a pack crossing mountain river
Geri wading Tourist creek

The following two days were a mix of hiking down idyllic Left Talgar Valley, bushwhacking in the dense forest because the trail was swept away by the recent mudflow, and climbing up the steep and humid Talgar pass. After descending from the pass, they rolled into a fancy cafe at Shymbulak Resort to round up this beautiful trip.