For many years now rock-climbing has been becoming more and more popular recreational activity around the world as well as in Kazakhstan. Like in Europe, here in Kazakhstan the sport is growing every year thanks to the quantity of the routes. Free climbing “live rocks,” attract both - professional sportsmen and sports’ fans.
If you have never heard about rock climbing in Kazakhstan or you are just a traveler and want to get a full sense of what it is like to rock climb, you can go to the sport centers here that have rock-climbing walls for recreational fun or for sport.
The staff at these centers will show you all the interesting locations to climb, help you find partners or even a trainer if needed. We’d say that a lot of the routes are created by rock climbers at the centers, to create better real life scenarios for gaining experience. For example, there is the candidate for master of sport in rock-climbing, trainer and one of Almaty’s club route creators - Valeriy Alekseyev who has been interested in the promotion of rock climbing for the past 10 years.
– Knowing that Europeans are independent, - says Valeriy, - and like to travel rough, we would like to recommend that folks get information in advance and not only about the rocks, but about the transportation logistics and the destination, since most of our country’s infrastructures are far from the beaten path. As a rule, the rocky regions are far from civilization, cafes, hotels and all other things related to lodging or infrastructure. However, if a tour is properly organized, tourists-rock climbers will definitely have a long lasting impression from the nature itself.
The most popular and accessible rocky regions are the mountainous area close to Almaty.
Here are three big sites for climbing: Ile Alatau: Butakov waterfall, “Mektep rock” on Tuyuksu and a bastion of the Oktyabrenok peak.
On the rocks of Butakovsk waterfall climbers could only use top roping style, but thanks to Valeriy Alekseyev for about the last 10 years lead climbing has been used in 12 climbing routes. The routes are quite challenging and not suitable for beginners: from +6b and higher. According to Valeriy, the potential of the region to develop into a great rock climbing site is high, not to mention that after a while there will be new routes as well.
Russian alpinist – Aleksandr Klenov for more than 10 years has been working on “Mektep rock” sector on Tuyuksu. He has made 5 tracks for beginners from 5c to 6c of the complexity category. But all in all the routes are good for working on climbing techniques.
Then there is the Bastion of Oktyabrenok peak from the right side of “Mektep Rock”, which has 7 multi-pitch climbing routes of different levels of complexity: from the easiest 5c to 8a. By the way, the last route is the most complex route in Kazakhstan. Type of rock here is good for climbing: there is neither snow, nor ice.
The best season for climbing is in July-August, when the whole country is almost there in the stifling heat, right then and there you can comfortably scale these rocky routes in the cool shadows. Whereas, in September and October, you have to follow the weather forecast because the weather can change in a heartbeat.
Bouldering on Big Almaty Lake is also worth mentioning. The tracks are located on the absolute height of the lake’s level: accompanied with panoramic breathtaking views, with alpine glades. The routes are quite suitable for advanced levels.
Tamgaly-Tas rocks on Ile River
One of the most famous and the oldest places for rock climbing in Kazakhstan, sits roughly 110 km from Almaty in the canyon of Ile river, – rocks of Tamgaly-Tas. In 1970s alpinists and rock-climbers have set their heart here. Because those days, as you know, climbing was only a necessary part in the preparation of alpinists, and was not a separate sport. At that time the sportsmen used only top roping while climbing the Tamgaly-Tas rocks. But since then times have changed, and over the last 10 years, lead climbing has become a more viable method of scaling mountains.. Today there are more than 50 routes and most of the modern equipment is used for climbing. Since 2013 and every year since then, alpinist Kirill Belotserkovskiy has been opening new tracks. The routes are here from the easiest till 7c, 7c+, which is good for beginners.
The region is remote, and you can reach the last point only by car. Shops and hospitals are in Kapshagai, a town which is located roughly 40 km from the climbing site, even mobile services are accessible only on the highway. You will have to sleep in tents, since you will be so far from any luxuries like beds and showers. The most comfortable season for climbing starts from March till May and from September till November.
Bektau-ata is an ideal place for bouldering
Bektau-ata is a mountainous area near the Kazakh steppe, in 70 km to the north from Balkhash town. This “yellow flapjack” can clearly be seen in pictures taken from outer space. There are boulders and rocks with the right height – up to 5 meters along with frozen rocks that are perfect for bouldering. The areas for climbing and descending are flat and steady granite rocks.
“From the main campsite, wherever you fix it, the rocks or climbing site will be easily accessible, - says Valeriy Alekseyev. - Just 5 minutes – and you are under the routes. It takes us about 40 minutes to reach the farthest sectors. More routes in “Bektau” are appearing every year and today there are at least about 50 bouldering tracks, which we have opened, cleaned and climbed. The territory has great potential for bouldering, climbing, hiking, and even crack climbing. There are a lot of different activities that are available for you there! The season starts in April and lasts till the beginning of June, just get there before the mosquitos start to come alive. Not to mention that it gets hot and uncomfortable in summer. But you can always come back to “Bektau” later in September, because the golden season lasts till the end of October.
In conclusion, we can say that the climbing season is quite long in Kazakhstan, in the summer, it becomes hot in the steppe so you can switch and head to the mountains and in autumn you can bounce back to the steppe.
Apart from the places mentioned, it is worth taking note of Burabay resort (3 hours drive from Nur-Sultan). Here you can find 10 different climbing routes. Another interesting climbing site is in the Mashat canyon, in the mountains of the Sairam-Ugam range, which sits in the Turkestan region. No climbing routes have been built in this region yet, but there is great potential.
In the off-season, there is an opportunity for sportsmen and amateurs to train on the rock-climbing walls at the sport centers in cities like Nur-Sultan, Almaty and Karaganda. You can also find rock climbing walls in the state sport centers of other towns, where you can train. And when the weather permits, that’s when you can go climb the real deal straight away. Because climbing is not only about a strong grip and plasticity, but it is a perfect way to get in touch with nature, to test your strength and the opportunity to be surrounded by people that share your views and interests, trying to enjoy life and nature.