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December 2011
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A Great Winter (or Summer) Hike

Incredible Mountains - A Kyrgyz Specialty

One of the easiest places to go from Bishkek to get away from it all is Alamedin. And though it is a nice trip any time of year, there are reasons why it is an especially good place to go in the winter.

Playing in the Snow

Alamedin Canyon has many advantages. Only about 40 minutes from downtown Bishkek, there are at least two good hikes to take up the valley itself. There is also the side road across to Ala Archa, which makes a great drive in the summer. Then there is the 12 Chimneys restaurant and cottages. Finally, and what makes it a bit magical in the winter, there is the hot spring-fed swimming pool. There is nothing better than coming in out of the cold after a chilly hike and jumping into the hot water!

The route to Alamedin Canyon could not be simpler. Just take Shabdan Baatyra Street (more often called Almatinskaya), south towards the mountains, and keep going. Don’t hesitate when the main road turns left towards Issyk Ata, just keep going straight south. About 15.5 miles from the intersection with Akhuhbayeva, you reach 12 Chimneys. It’s a good place to have lunch, but maybe that should be on the way back down.

Map Up the Canyon (click to enlarge)

Tyoplie Klyuchi Sanatoria is about another mile down the road. It sits well below the road on the right hand side, a fairly large, rundown looking building. Tyoplie Klyuchi is one of those wonderful post-soviet remnants. It was intended as a health spa, but it is mostly falling down, now. After the 2010 revolution it closed, apparently taken over by the new government. Whoever took it over apparently gave up on it soon afterward. Though the sign outside said it was under repair for some months, when it opened up again absolutely nothing had been repaired.

Tyoplie Klyuchi - Twice Hot

There are apparently curative baths you can take in the rooms down the right corridor, but that doesn’t really interest me. What I like is the swimming pool. Down the left corridor, and through an underpass under the changing rooms (or through the changing rooms themselves) you come into an incredible enclosed grotto with a large swimming pool. The murals and other decorations are a wonderful cross between 2001: A Space Odyssey and 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea, all run through some kind of soviet science fiction art convention.

And the water is hot. Twice Hot. Not only is it coming straight out of the rock (well, though a series of pipes, of course), but it is coming out laced with radioactive radon. One website I’ve seen suggests that you not spend more than 20 minutes in the radioactive water.

It's a spectacular place

Beyond Tyoplie Klyuchi, it is only another ¾ of a mile to the parking lot. Parking here is intended for the cottages which used to make up the resort. I just use it as a trailhead for hiking on up. This is definitely where you want to stop if you don’t have a serious SUV, but if you do have a serious vehicle, you can continue on up the road for probably another half-a-mile to an area which was been affected by a landslide.

I’ve attached a .gdb file which you can use to find your way. You can use it in Google Earth or your GPS.

Map of the Hike (sorry about the clouds)

The Hikes

There are two ways to ascend Alamedin Valley, depending on the side of the valley you want to climb. I haven’t been far up the valley (as the maps show), so I can’t say which is better overall, but for a simple day hike, the waterfall, up the right, or west, side of the valley makes a nice destination. It’s about a four mile hike, one way.
The one challenge here is the bridge. It is pretty scary, with a swinging cable to hold onto to keep from toppling over into the stream. I have not done this in winter, but I imagine that the ice makes it no easier.

Alamedin can be beautiful even when it is not cold

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