There isn’t a lot of opportunity to get off campus because of the tight schedule and some local tensions, so when four of us got permission to get up early and try our luck at hiking up one of the mountains that surround the campus we jumped at it!
We set out at 6am after getting special permission from the university security to leave campus so early. It doesn’t get too hot here, but the air was so fresh and clean before the sun rose and it was the perfect weather for a hike. We’ve been admiring these mountains for the last few days but the idea of climbing them was a whole different story. Not only was it difficult to gauge how steep the hills were, but there was also no clear path other than some small spots that had been cleared from cows walking on them. It also rained yesterday, so the ground was unstable and incredibly soft, which, besides ruining my runners, made it extremely difficult to get any solid footing.
We started up the hill in an area that seemed like it had a bit of an obvious path to follow, but that disappeared pretty quickly! There were a lot of thistles to side-step and we had to be really careful about where we were stepping because the rocks and the dirt were all pretty soft. On the flip side, the fact that everything was so loose meant that if someone fell it wouldn’t hurt at all. We alternated going straight and zig-zagging our way up, but it was pretty exhausting both physically and mentally because we constantly had to be thinking of our next steps. I was by far in the worst shape – which I’ll blame on the concussion as well as the high altitude (2120m!) – so I was begging for breaks as we went up.
At one point we were basically going straight up so we had to use our hands to keep steady. There were some really strong tufts of grass that we could almost use as ropes to help steady ourselves, which was really helpful. We also had to work together a lot to figure out where to place our feet. We had our eyes on this ledge that seemed to flatten out a bit, but even then I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. After lots of encouragement and a few extra breaks we did make it to the top of the ledge, where there was a little pole and a spot to rest.
The view was incredible. We could see the campus and then down into Naryn, which is the town a few km away. The other way we could see all the way through the valley, where the two mountain ranges on either side meet. The sun was just coming up so the light was really beautiful too. Bonu, Sana, and I decided to stay at that point while Davis kept going to the next ledge, which was quite a bit higher.
Going down was an even bigger adventure because the ground was so unstable. We had to step so carefully and help each other out a lot so that we wouldn’t fall. There were a few stumbles along the way, but overall we all got to the bottom in one piece, with only some scratches and sore knees to show for our work.
Even though I’m exhausted now and ready to go to bed at 9am it was such a great way to start the morning! Once we got back to the bottom I looked back up and felt like I wanted to go up again. Somehow in going down I forgot how hard it was going up. But it was so nice to get off campus and get moving first thing, and we’re hoping to get permission to go for longer next time so we can take