Sophie Ibbotson photographs her adopted home of Kyrgyzstan and its primary natural feature: its mountains.
NOMADS STILL MOVE THROUGH the steppe and mountain pastures of Central Asia, but just a few hours’ drive away, billions of dollars of oil and gas money have built extraordinary 21st-century cities, larger-than-life-sized golden statues, and ice palaces.
I arrived here two years ago, almost by accident. The snows came down unexpectedly early, I was snowed in, and what should have been a two-week transit became a permanent stay.
Kyrgyzstan straddles the Tien Shan and Pamir mountain ranges. Ninety-three percent of the country is mountainous, and a number of peaks are over 7,000m. Many have never been climbed, though Kyrgyzstan is gaining popularity as a mountaineering and trekking destination. Skiing is on the rise, but the resorts have not yet been developed. Now is the time to travel if you want to see the country before commercialization and mass tourism take hold.
Tree in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan
Trees only grow below 4,000m, so much of the ranges is barren.
Horsemen lead a calf back to their herd.
Mountains in contrast
The Tien Shan and Pamir ranges have exceptionally low population density -- trekkers should be well-prepared and self-sufficient.