Two Passes
part 1
bikepacking story
Kegety Pass

I was told: If you ride the Kegety - Shamshy passes, then you can do the whole race. Since then, this circle - Bishkek-Kegety Pass-Shamshy Pass-Bishkek appeared in my list of mandatory passes, especially since the route itself was not far from home, and did not require additional resources.
It was scheduled for the end of July. And before that in early July I cycled a multi-day trip on the route Balykchy-Kochkor-Sonkul-Bayetov-Tashrabat. So the trip to the Kegety-Shamshy Passes was not the first in the history of my multi-day unaccompanied cycling trips. And it ended up being my second solo bike trip after a week-long ride around Issyk-Kul in 2018. Then, after the Issyk-Kul circuit, after that ride with the racks and dangling bags, and the awakened interest in long-distance hiking, I began to discover biking with a more compact and efficient distribution of gear on the bike. Studying websites and watching movies on youtube I came across a video about an American ultra-long distance cyclist, Lael Wilcox, mentioning her plan to come to Kyrgyzstan. Only then did I realize it was about her participation in the 2019 Silk Road Mountain Race. Later, she wrote on her Instagram that she was planning to come a month before the start, in order to scout the route before the race. I asked her about the possibility of joining her at the start, to ride the Kegeti Pass (3770m) together. Lael was fine with that.
We started on July 18, 2019 at about 3:00 pm, myself, Lael, and Rugilee, who was supposed to be photographing Lael's journey through Kyrgyzstan. Our route was to the gorge, along the canal through the villages of Kara-Zhygach, Lower Seraphimovka, Yurievka, Rotfront. Along the way we stopped three times for a long rest, of which two times at the stores to replenish supplies.
The girls did not really want to move in the dark, so we planned to spend the night at sunset, in the place where we would be at that hour.
Having a standard set of bags, the girls surprised me with how much liquid and provisions they could hold, including fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.
In Yurievka, they had managed to unload 5 liters of water into bladders and put them into bikepacks. Some local guy caught up with us and offered us a place to stay with some beekeepers he knew at their shelter, at the entrance to the gorge.
We didn't have time to get close to the gorge until after dark. We never met the man and his beekeeper friends. We camped by the road in front of Kegeti village. The night was warm with a nice fresh breeze and clear skies, and we didn't need to set up our tents.
In the morning we set off around 6:00. We moved slowly. On the way we made a stop at the store near the bridge, in the place where one road goes into the gorge to the lake and another to the Pass.
Further down the gorge, at the waterfall we met a group of three cyclists. Then I met for the first Vlad Podofedov and his friends from Kazakhstan who were touring around Kyrgyzstan. Beside Vlad his two companions walked with bags and racks on their rigs. All had mountain bikes
Vlad Podofedov and then Oleg Sobko were the first people from Kyrgyzstan with whom I had seen a complete set of bikepacking gear.
We all continued to stick together until the "last water." From this point, the crucial ascent of the pass began. Here I saw Lael and Rue for the last time, from that point on they were no longer expecting me, tearing off, tackling the last loops of the serpentine. Vlad and his friends were planning to stay at the "last water" for the next night.
"Last water" is where the path crosses from the Kegeti River springs. Higher up to the pass there is nowhere to refill the water.
I reached the summit at 6:00 p.m. Lael and Rue were already at the very bottom by that point, out on the road and racing away leaving me no hope of joining them in the Karakol River valley on the other side of the ridge.
I'm not very good at MTB downhill and I don't have any skills as such, so I went down the loose slope, along the trail, on foot, taking my time and being careful. Later in August, at the race, the descent from the pass was more fun, I went down pedaling and much faster.
At the crossroads of the dirt roads near the Karakol River, in the narrow valley, I arrived at 8:00 p.m. For some reason I thought the girls would be waiting for me to say goodbye and drive off in opposite directions. But there were none of them down there. The sun had started to settind down. I had to hurry in order to get as far as possible along the Karakol River toward the Kochkor Valley. Uncertainty awaited me ahead, the next 3,000-meter pass and complete loneliness in the mountains.
  • Malik Alymkulov
    bikepacking kyrgyzstan founder and editor
bikepacking kyrgyzstan 2023
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