Day 19: Greater Chimgan

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At 3309 meters, Greater Chimgan is one of the tallest peaks in eastern Uzbekistan

Charvak is a great place for a lake holiday, but if you continue a bit further up the twisting mountain roads you’ll eventually meet the tallest point in eastern Uzbekistan, the 3309 meter (10,856 feet) Chimgan peak. Snow capped until early June, with snowfields preserved on its northern slopes year round, this mountain retreat serves as a ski destination for the winter months until early spring, and then as a weekend getaway from the scorching 40 to 45 degree heat of Tashkent summers. The temperature at Chimgan is consistently 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the city, making a mountain escape the ideal weekend getaway.

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the Chimgan ski lift takes visitors 800 meters up the side of the mountain

Catering to the crowds who aren’t lucky enough to own their own mountain dacha, several mountain “resorts” are also available at reasonable prices. From Soviet era sanitariums to “modern” Uzbek hotel/cottage complexes, there are accommodations for every budget. Archazor is perhaps the best option located within walking distance of the ski areas. We stayed here with friends in April 2018 for a quick weekend getaway renting out an entire cabin with room for 10, but with just six of us in total, giving our group room to comfortably spread out.

The Soviet era ski area features a chair lift taking visitors 800 meters up the side of Chimgan to a trailhead that was unfortunately still snowed in during our last visit in April.  Navruz crowds enjoyed the crisp clean air, and paid tribute by tying ribbons and bits of cloth on the safety fence, a tradition that carries over from Buddhist times in the 1st to 8th century.  From the upper lift station the mountains of Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan are clearly visible well above the dust and pollution of the Chirchiq river valley.  Other than skiing, hiking and trekking opportunities are plentiful.  Ski lifts operate year round even for mountain biking for those who are more adventurous.

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Soviet ski monument on the roadside at the Chimgan ski area

Chimgan is also easily visible from Tashkent on clear days even 85 kilometers from the city.  Rising with a prominence of 1689 meters above the surrounding countryside, the mountain complex known as Greater Chimgan in the Chatkal Range of the western Tian Shan serves as a constant reminder to the residents of Tashkent of the geological forces still hard at at work in this part of the world as the Indian subcontinent continues to push northwards deeper into Asia causing intracontinental deformation of the Earth’s crust over 1,000km from the nearest plate boundary.

The serene alpine landscape of the Chimgan area provides a stark contrast from the modern center and industrial outskirts of Tashkent and the Chirchiq river valley.  The further up the valley you travel towards lake Charvak, the less populated it gets.  This route was also taken by the anti-Soviet Revolutionary Konstantin Pavlovich Osipov during what became known as the Osipov rebellion in January 1919.

Osipov and his group of revolutionaries were driven from the city and into the mountains by the Bolsheviks.  Osipov hid out until April when he made his way to Kokand where he served as an advisor for the short-lived Kokand Autonomy.  Osipov was then offered protection from Emir of Bukhara Mohammed Alim Khan.  Bukhara fell to the Bolsheviks in September 1920, and Osipov was killed making his way to the Azerbaijani front.

Full of history, recreational opportunities, and scenic alpine beauty, Greater Chimgan has something for everyone.  As an ideal getaway for both weary Tashkent residents and anti-Soviet revolutionaries, there’s a good chance you’ll find what you’re looking for.

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views towards Tashkent, on this day obscured by pollution of the Chirchiq river valley

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