Devil gorge hiking

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There's a nice gorge near Almaty with an eerie name - "Devil's gorge".

Wonder why it is called that way? Well, I know two versions.

The first is pretty eerie - because quite a lot of people have died in the gorge.

In winter and spring time the place is extremely avalanche prone and in the past a couple of mountainnering groups have died there, under avalanches. There are commemorative plaques in the beggining of the gorge, that remind of that tragedy.

The second version is pretty simple. The trails in the gorge and all rocky and not very comfortable (I've torn two of my boots there). Russians have an idiom for such places - "черт ногу сломит" (chert nogu slomit), which means "even devil will break his leg", hence the name.

Чертово ущелье

The place itself is really nice - one of my favourite (not in winter time).

Reasons to go

In July there is an annual mass ascent to Komsomol (Nursultan) peak (4 376 m), called "Alpiniada".

Local government together with mountain climbers and government rescue service organize a safe ascent to the summit of the peak for several thousand people. During the event Shymbulak's cable car is free of charge, so ski-mountaineers usually take advantage of it to ski from Karlytau peak (4 100m).

I wanted to check whether snow conditions were good enough for skiing, so I needed to get to Bogdanovich glacier where the route to Komsomol and Karlytau peaks lies.

Ледник Богдановича - июль.jpg

Bogdanovich glacier in July

From Devil's gorge you can get to Bogdanovich glacier by passing Abay pass (~3 600 m), so it was a nice opportunity to do the hike.

The hike

From Medeu skating ring I took a taxi to Tuyuksu and went straight to Devil's gorge.

The week before we've had quite a storm in the mountains, so the path was blocked by a fallen tree.

Чертово ущелье - упавшее дерево

The fallen tree

After the tree I've a lovely hike up to a great alpine meadow, with a mountain spring, a bench a great views. Love the place.

Had a lunch there and continued my journey.

What I love about the Devil's gorge is the absense of people. Only mountain climbers walk here. You won't find hikers here even on Sunday and it's great!

I am not planning on translating the article, so the gorge can remain in its calm, quiet state...

Чертово ущелье

The alpine meadow.

On my way to the upper part of the gorge, I've met a group of mountain climbers led by my friend Kirill.

Haven't met anyone afterwards, complete solitude. At such times you can fully connect with the nature, with no interference.

The trail went from alpine meadows to moraines and then I've reached the Abay glacier.

I've always thought that the glacier had melted, but luckily it still exists.

Пик Абая 4010 метров

Abay peak and glacier.

The view is absolutely stunning. Awesome place.

I really started to think why the place is so rarely visited - it's so great, yet unpopular. Good for me though :)

The trail ceases to exist at the glacier, so you either have to walk on the glacies, or on huge unstable rocks to the sides of it.

At first I was walking on rocks on the left 'bank' of the glacier, but I needed to cross the glacier to get to the Abay pass.

Traverse the glacier, alone, with no crampons... an unexpected development for me. I mean it's a dangerous thing to do - what if there are creavasses?

Ледник Абая

On the glacier.

Found a good spot for crossing and crossed it. Luckily there was enough snow for walking without crampons, but not enough for hiding crevasses, so I safely crossed it.

Ледник Абая

Abaya glacier, luckily no crevasses.

Abay pass

After crossing the glacier I think I understood why Devil's gorge is a Devil's gorge. The slope leading to Abay pass is horrible and dangerous.

Unstable rocky slope, mixed with snow and rocks falling from the cliffs above. At one point I almost broke my leg. Nasty place.

In July there is still quite a lot of snow above 3500 meters, so after crossing the rocky slope I've reached a snowy slope (with rocks underneath). The depth of the snow was from 30cm to 1 meter.

The snow was not the problem, the problem was that I could not locate the pass. I've always ascended the Abay pass from the other side, never from Devil's gorge, so I was a bit lost.

Being lost made me walking closer and closer to the Abay peak itself. Sometime later I've found some old ropes, which we have placed in 2015 for a mass ascent to Abay peak, so I've found my way to the pass.

Ущелье ледника Богданович.jpg

The view to Bogdanovich glacier gorge from Abay pass.

Had some rest and some food at the pass and moved on.

The descent to Bogdanovich glacier is not very pleasant, takes quite some time.

The glacier

Drank some tea, had some snacks, met some friends, who were organizing "Alpiniada" and went back.

My plan was to get to Talgar pass (3 200 m) and descend on Shymbulak ski resort's cable car.

Well I did descend to the pass, but the cable car was not working. Ha-ha.

Вид с Талгарского перевала.jpg

Talgar pass

Cable car doesn't work? Not a big deal - walk!

There is a big downside to walking on Shymbulak ski resort's slopes - erosion. When the ski resort was refurbished in 2010, the government gave money for planting of greenery to the ski slopes, well the money were robbed.

Kazakh corruption has destroyed once beautiful alpine meadows.

On my way back I've visited my friend who works in ski patrol at the resort.

From there I had to run down to Shymbulak hotel, otherwise I could miss the bus down.

Luckily there's an alternate trail that goes down on a ridge. No rocks, just grass - a pleasant run.

Спуск с конуса
Спуск с конуса

Nice place to run.

When I eventually reached Shymbulak it turned out that there was still about an hour left till the last bus, so I was on time. Great!

The bad part was the queue, it was so big that I've decided to walk down to Medeo by foot.

About 30 minutes later, whilist I was still walking down the road the whole queue drove past me, screaming "Ha-ha".


It took me about an hour to get back to Medeo. Overall I've walked about 21 km. Good training.

Well, overall, the day was great. I've walked the route that I wanted to walk for a long time, met friends and took some nice photos for Instagram.

If you like the article, please share it.

P.S. If you want to go hiking/climbing/mountaineering in Almaty - write me.

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