Tian Shan: No place for an old man – besides Merzbacher.

Inylchek Glacier is 60 kilometers long, which, for the average normally-office-bound tourist is plenty enough :).

During our Tian Shan expedition, our general direction was steadily up the right-hand slope of the southern sleeve of the glacier. But there were exceptions – one having been our one-day march across the glacier to Merzbacher Lake. And, oh, what a splendid march it was!

It was here where we touched for the first time genuine glacial ice – with both hands and feet:

Dotted across the surface of the glacier were ‘stone mushrooms’. These are formed by the sun not being able to reach – and melt – the ice underneath certain boulders, while it melts quickly all the rest of the (uncovered) ice. Intriguing:

The ice became thicker and thicker. And then we started seeing streams and rivers chiseling out deep twisting and turning streams to make up a glacial aqua park. Awesome! And when the sun came out – 4000 meters above sea level, it all became yet more awesome!

The awesomeness is difficult to express in words: it’s such a magical experience. High up in the mountains, standing on a glacier, in among such breathtakingly beautiful natural woah-ness, and in super company. I thought nature-tourism couldn’t get any better as I’ve been lucky enough to have seen so many outstandingly amazing natural tourist spots around the globe… and then I came here and BOOM!

Got your reading specs on? Good. See the tiny smudges of yellow on that there glacial soccer pitch? Yep – our camp on Merzbacher’s Field. Apparently it was banya day today ).

Here’s ‘Mr. Den’ showing off his prized Ust-Bolsheretsky flag to the locals. As you do – 4km above sea level on a glacier :).

And here’s our destination: Lake Merzbacher!

Now, I use the word ‘unique’ rather a lot in my blogposts. Can so much stuff really be sooo unique? Well, I say yes, of course; but this here glaciological specimen is, like, TOTALLY unique! Here’s how:

Melting ice forms the lake, with the water being kept in place by an ice dam. It rises and rises, and then, twice a year, eventually a hole is formed in said dam and – just like a man-made dam when they open up the floodgates – whoosh: out it all pours; megatons of the stuff! Like a huge bath being drained once the huge plug is pulled. Incredible. And REALLY unique :).

Alas, we weren’t there when one of the biannual bath-emptyings took place. What a shame. One had occurred only two weeks earlier. Accordingly: an empty Lake Merzbacher:

Here’s the lake not long before a disemboweling:


But now, waterless – it’s dotted with scientific devices:

And that was that. Lake Merzbacher. Next up: back to camp for dinner and an early night to have energy for the following day’s glacial tourism instalment!…

Back soon folks!

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