Lake Merzbacher – The heart of the Tien-Shan


Trekking in Kyrgyzstan

The Central Tien-Shan – there is so much mystery and enigma in these words! From the ancient times people tried to enter this attractive and unexplored region. The legends were created about this place and many lances were broken in scientific battles about its origin. And why to even mention the origin when the location of some dominating peaks was kept in secret.  Only local names of the greatest summits speak for themselves.  First of all it is a legendary Khan-Tengri – the lord of all spirits and the sinister Kan-Too – Bloody mountain. Not for nothing many world scientific expeditions starting from XIX century and till our days aim to open the last secrets of the Tian-Shan heart. These were the expeditions of Semyonov P.P. 1856-57, which was later named as Semyonov Tian-Shansky for his invaluable contribution in Tien-Shan exploring and the expedition of the Italian prince Chezare Borgeze in 1900 and some expeditions of Gottfried Mertzbaher 1902-1903 and 1907-1908 in honor of whom the unique lake at the merge of two glaciers South and North Inylchek was named. And many other expeditions which let to gradually uncover the mystery of Central Tian-Shan.

Lake Merzbacher was uncovered in 1903 year by German geographer and alpinist Gottfried Merzbacher. The lake is located at an altitude of 3304 m above the sea level and covers 4.5 sq. km with the depths of up to 70 meters. It is situated between north and south part of Inylchek glacier, one of the largest in the world. Merzbaher’s shore affords fantastic views of the highest Tian-Shan peaks. The near-surreality the snow-covered giants never fails to leave a strong and lasting impression upon its visitors.
The mysterious natural anomaly repeats itself annually year between July and August, the lake (which contains 129 million cubic meters of water) disappears completely within 3-4 days then fills again when the ice melts. There are several theories attempting an explanation for the lake drainage but exact facts remain scarce. The geologic mystery of the "Hearth of Tien-Shan" is still unsolved to this day!  

The path of our trek goes through the Central Tien-Shan mountain system to the feet of two great peaks with the height over 7000 m. One of them is Pobeda Peak and is the northernmost seventhousender in the world. And the other is the beautiful pyramid Khan-Tengri – the symbol of our country. Going along Southern Inylchek  - the biggest glacier in Tien-Shan (about 60 km) you will be able to see how the height of the mountains rises while coming to our destination point – base camp at the foot of the Tricipital Peak. From here there is an amazing view of the seven thousandth giants – Pobeda and Khan-Tengri summits. But the best picture is at the sunset when their marble slopes burn with fiery-ruby color under the setting sun rays. Maybe this primordial beauty is what attracts hundreds of alpinists and tourist from different countries to come to Central Tien-Shan every year. We invite you to join us in this uneasy trek over the glacier and visit the Mertzbaher lake where you will enjoy the unforgettable views of the landscapes on your way.

On the end of this challenging trek you will have the opportunity to rest, relax and recharge on the shores of the world’s second-highest lake, Issyk-Kul. 

Program: Bishkek-Bishkek
Best time: middle of July-August
Activity: Trekking in Kyrgyzstan (recommended for people in good physical condition)
Duration: 13 days


Days    Program   Accommodation     Meals
 Day 1  Arrival at Manas Airport ( Bishkek ).  Hotel B/L/D
 Day 2  Transfer Bishkek -Karakol.  Hotel B/L/D
 Day 3  Trasfer to the Inylchek Valley, to the At-Djailoo.  Tents B/L/D
 Day 4   Trekking to the Inylchek Glacier.  Tents B/L/D 
 Day 5   Trekking to the Putevodnij Glacier.  Tents B/L/D 
 Day 6  Trekking to the Merzbacher Glade.  Tents B/L/D 
 Day 7  Excursion to the Merzbacher Lake. Rest.  Tents B/L/D 
 Day 8  Trekking to the area of Komsomoletz Glacier.  Tents B/L/D 
 Day 9  Trekking to the Base Camp on the Zvezdochka Glacier (Star).  Base Camp, Tents B/L/D 
 Day 10  Excursion to the foot of Khan-Tengri or Pobeda peaks.  Base Camp, Tents B/L/D 
 Day 11  Flight by helicopter to the Karkara Camp. Transfer to Issyk-Kul Lake.  Hotel B/L/D
 Day 12  Transfer to the hotel in Bishkek.  Hotel B/L/D 
 Day 13  Departure. -------- B/-/-


1) 26.07 - 7.08.2018
2) 31.07 - 12.08.2018
3) 2 - 14.08.2018
4) 7 - 19.08.2018
Price for group of 4 pax and more:  USD 2,577 per person
SGL supplement: USD 110 per person

Price includes: 

1. Meeting/seeing off in the airport.
2. Accommodation in 3*hotels according to the program (twin accommodation).
3. Accommodation in the guest houses.
4. Trekking tents for accommodation in the Base Camps during the trek.
5. Meals 3 times a day during the program, including trekking days.
6. Transport according to the program.
7. Trekking guide.
8. Porters for carrying of camping gear and client's staff. Porter carries 7-8 kg of client's staff. If you have more luggage, please let us know in advance, so we could hire extra porters.
9. Entrance fee for all excursion according to the program.
10. Border permit.
11. Helicopter flight from the Base Camp to Karkara.

Price does NOT include:

1.International airfare to and from Bishkek.
2. Equipment rental.
3. Excess baggage charges.
4. Cost of visa and consular services (for Russian citizens there is no need in international passport).
5. Personal expences in hotels: bar, international calls, and etc.
6. Insurance.
7. Payment for overload.
8. Any changes in the program.



Trekking in Kyrgyzstan

Best time: July-August
Activity: Trekking in Kyrgyzstan (recommended for people in good physical condition) 
Duration: 13 days

Day 1. Arrival in Bishkek. We will meet you at the airport and bring you to your accommodations. After a rest from the long flight an English-speaking tour guide will lead a city tour of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, with a visit to the main square, “Ala-Too”, a shopping trip to the Osh Bazaar – a vast and lively market where one can find practically anything – as well as many more of the city’s exotic sights. Even if you have been to Central Asia before, your first encounter with Bishkek will undoubtedly be a memorable experience. (B, L, D)

Day 2.  Transfer to Karakol. This route takes travelers through the ever-changing mountain landscapes. We will circumnavigate the world’s second-largest mountain lake, Issyk-Kul, which is 170 km across as its longest point and incredibly deep. Along the way we will take a break to swim in the saltwater lake before arriving to the hotel. 

Day 3. Transfer to the Inylchek Valley. The way along the Terksey Ala-Too mountain range leads to the beautiful Turgen-Aksu Gorge. The road snakes through the Chon-Ashuu Pass where one can already feel the icy breath of the nearby glacier. We will get off at the narrow canyon of the mighty Sary-Djas River and travel further to the valley of the Inylchek. After the border-area travel permit check (permits have been obtained at the beginning of the trip) we make our way onward to the At-Djailoo river where we will make camp for the night. From the campsite one can easily make small hiking trips into the surrounding area.  

Day 4. Trekking to the southern edge of the Inylchek glacier (16 km) is followed by a long hike along the Inylchek river, however the exact route may vary due to actual water levels. This will also be an excellent day for acclimatization. Our campgrounds are located at the foot of the imposing Nansen peak (5,697 m), named after the Norwegian zoologist, arctic explorer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Fridtjof Nansen.

Days 5-6. Two days of challenging trekking on the moraines along the southern part of the Inylchek glacier to the Merzbacher Glade. Along the way we will experience the practically untouched nature as well as fantastic evidence of the geological chaos created by the movement of the glacier. Up close the roaring sound of rushing water becomes apparent when one can see the inner workings of the glacier’s melt-off and resulting underground streams as well as turquoise blue ponds. The Merzbacher Glade is the location where the famous travelling researcher Gottfried Merzbacher first caught sight of the mysterious glacial lake, which was later named after him. We will camp overnight on the Edelweiss-covered grasses of this glade at an elevation of 3,300 meters.  

Day 7. Rest and recreation day on the Merzbacher Glade with an optional excursion to Lake Merzbacher. Hiking to the lake is for sure-footed hikers only, since the journey crosses the glacier and is very challenging at times. The excursion passes through the frozen walls of the glacier and over a maze of countless streams. The trail is 3 km with constant up-and-down climbing through the glacial masses. For those who wish to void the strenuous hike then staying on the Merzbacher Glade and prepare themselves for an intense upcoming two-day trekking journey. Overnight stay in tents.

Days 8-9. Long trekking along the glacier to base camp of the Khan-Tengri (King of the Heavens) Peak (7010 m) and Pobeda Peak (7439 m).
These two days might possibly be the most difficult of the trip but they will also be the most memorable due to the many ponds and hanging glaciers of the untouched Tien-Shan mountain range which one encounters along the way. We will camp overnight at the point where the Komsomoletz and Inylchek glaciers meet. Camping on the glacier is particularly cold therefore a down sleeping bag is highly recommended. The following day we will arrive to the base camp at Inylchek which is located at the intersection of the southern Inylchek and the Zvezdochka glaciers. From this vantage point one can see the mighty Pobeda and Khan-Tengri peaks. Overnight in tents at the base camp.

Day 10. Rest and recreation day. After breakfast there is an optional excursion to the foot of Khan-Tengri or Pobeda peaks. The snow-white mountains create incredibly beautiful sunsets here. We will overnight again in tents.

Day 11. Helicopter flight to Karkara. The campsite is in Kazakhstan, not far from the Kyrgyz border.
The helicopter ride is one of the most thrilling parts of the tour will bring us to the Karkara campsite, however flights only depart in good weather conditions. During the flight the breathtaking panorama of the Tian Shan, including Merzbacher Lake and many more smaller surrounding glaciers, becomes clearly visible from an entirely new perspective.
In just 40 minutes one is transported from the icy heights of the mountains to the green meadows of the Karkara camp. Transfer to Tamga village located on the southern side of Lake Issyk-Kul. Accomodation this night of the trip will be in the guest house.

Day 12: Transfer to Bishkek via the route running along the southern shore of Issyk-Kul Lake with another opportunity to go swimming before we return to the capital to spend the night in a hotel.

Day 13: Transfer to the airport and flight home.   

Useful Information:

1. Visa to Kyrgyzstan. For information on obtaining a visa in Kyrgyzstan, see our helpful information section.

Gear and personal belongings:
-        toiletries
-        sunscreen (at least SPF 20 or more)
-        chapstick (or equivalent) cold weather lip balm
-        water flask
-        trekking shoes
-        mountain sunglasses with good protection
-        backpack with a minimum of 45-liter capacity
-        backpack for use as a daypack for personal things, approximate size: 25 liters
-        sleeping bag (temperature range -10˚ to -15˚)
-        sleeping mat
-        trekking poles (some hikers consider these to be essential!)
-        headlamp and extra batteries


-        clothes for hot weather, in the valley and for Issyk-Kul lake
-        lightweight shoes for trekking and cities (sneakers, sandals)
-        trekking pants
-        thin thermal underwear or something for sleeping in tents
-        windbreaker or any other thin jacket
-        waterproof jacket (Gore-Тех is preferable) with hood or waterproof coat
-        waterproof pants (Gore-Тех is preferable)
-        T-shirts – (at least two)
-        shorts
-        T-shirt with long sleeves
-        polar jacket or jacket of wind-proof material
-        woolen socks – at least two pairs (for sleeping in tents) cotton socks – at least three pairs
-        woolen or polar cap
-        cap with a brim from sunlight
-        thin gloves during nights and trekking