Kyrgyzstan is more than 90-percent mountainous, and despite a struggling economy and a Soviet-era hangover, it has one of the fastest-growing ecotourism systems in the world. High-speed minibuses, Yak tea and Yahtzee in the Tien Shan Mountains.
Words: Anthony Bonello

The skin track up to the high ridge of Alpay Tur—a rugged 11,000-foot peak in the middle of the Tien Shan Mountains of Eastern Kyrgyzstan—is checkered with fresh slides that have peeled off convex rolls to both the left and right. Looking further south the peaks continue to climb, topping out at 17,000 feet. To the north the Kungey Ala-Too Range, delineating the edge of the arable land in the valley, is a sea of summits. Guided by an unseen horseman, a pony silently drags a pile of straw across a white field, muted by the frigid cold that holds the land and people in a brace. Reaching a slight col we are presented with a goliath north face wracked with numerous unskied lines. To the east, a broad spine catches a slivered shard of sunlight beckoning to be skied, and as Izzy Lynch drops, in her contrails billow behind, basking indifferently in the sun. It is a first descent—and feeble progress in terms of the potential in the region. But it is progress nonetheless…

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