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Tien Shan: a geography

The Tien Shan cover much of Kyrgyzstan and the border between Kyrgyzstan and China runs through this mountain range. Our expedition headed to the range south of Bishkek, known as the Kyrgyz Ala-Too, which are contiguous with the Zaaliyskiy Alatau to the north of Issyk Kul. The beautiful Khan Tengri and its associated peaks lie to the south-east of Issyk Kul, on the border with Kazakhstan and China. The highest peak in Kyrgyzstan, Peak Pobeda 7439m, is in this area, on the Inylchek Glacier

The Tien Shan mountains were formed, and in fact are still forming, from the continental collision of India with Asia, on the Indian and Eurasian plates respectively. This began about 40 million years ago, creating the Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau. The Tien Shan is one of the youngest ranges formed by this ongoing collision, which is useful for geologists as they can go there to learn about the early stages of mountain-building; evidence of this process tends to become lost in the older, more mature Himalayan ranges.
The geology of the Tien Shan has developed over the last 2.5 billion years. Igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rock of all ages can be found in the range. The modern Tien Shan mountains are formed primarily of Palaeozoic basement rocks, formed more than 250 million years ago. Younger rock from the Mesozoic-Cenozoic period predominates in the valleys.
 
Kyrgyzstan’s geology provides it with significant mineral resources including gold, mercury, antimony, other metals, gemstones and rare earth elements. The Tien Shan remain an area of active geological change. Almaty, in Kazakhstan, suffered serious earthquakes in 1770, 1807 and 1865.

The Tien Shan mountains are glaciated, though the glaciers have been retreating in recent years. The most significant of these glaciers, the Inylchek Glacier near Peak Pobeda and Khan Tengri, is one of the largest non-polar glaciers in the world. Several rivers flow from the Tien Shan, the most significant of which, by length and drainage basin, is the Naryn River which eventually empties into the Aral Sea. The Ala Archa river, which flows from the range, forms 100km of the border between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The largest body of water in the region is Issyk Kul, the second-largest saline lake in the world (after the Caspian Sea) and the tenth-largest lake in total.

The Tien Shan span cover much of Kyrgyzstan and the border between Kyrgyzstan and China runs through this mountain range. Our expedition is heading to the range south of Bishkek, known as the Kyrgyzsky Alatau, which are contiguous with the Zaaliyskiy Alatau to the north of Issyk Kul. The beautiful Khan Tengri and its associated peaks lie to the south-east of Issyk Kul, on the border with Kazakhstan and China.  The highest peak in Kyrgyzstan is Peak Pobeda, at 7439m.