Kolsai Lakes – Kazakhstan

After an early breakfast of fried eggs, bread, Baursak, jam, Hvorost (fried dough squares covered in honey and poppy seeds – very similar to the typical Kazakh sweet Chak Chak), and tea of course, we set off in the car to the first Kolsai Lake – altitude 1,818m.

Hvorost as part of Breakfast - Kazakhstan
Hvorost as part of breakfast – I like this idea!

A half hour up a bad road saw us overlooking a gorgeous scene of turquoise water nestled in between pine-covered hills.   Unfortunately, it was very overcast again, so the pictures don’t really do it justice.  

First Kolsai Lake - Kazakhstan
The first Kolsai Lake is accessible to everyone

From there we started the hike up to the second Kolsai Lake.   Trust me – the map at the entrance is not to scale!

Kolsai Lakes Map - not to scale!
Map of the Kolsai Lakes – we were only going to hike to the middle lake in this image. It was NOT to scale!

Of course, I should have looked it up before we left Almaty, but it ended up being a 9km hike one way.  It wasn’t particularly strenuous for the first couple of hours and there were some beautiful views of course.

First Kolsai Lake - Kazakhstan

But then we hit the snow.   This made it infinitely more challenging – partially just in trying to keep footing and partially because it ended up obscuring the path at a really critical point.

Hiking from first Kolsai Lake to second Kolsai Lake - Kazakhstan

Yes, we “took a detour” which ended us up in thigh-deep snow with absolutely no idea where the path had disappeared to (the National Parks service really needs to put some decent signage up.  The sparsely positioned blue arrows weren’t quite enough!)

Stuck in the snow - Kolsai lakes - Kazakhstan

In the end, after bush-bashing up the river for a bit trying to regain the path, and several shoes-full of snow later, we decided that we had to turn around.   Fortunately, it was only about 2 minutes into our retreat that we stumbled upon the trail again – so we resumed our push through the snow and mud for the second lake.

Hiking from first Kolsai Lake to second Kolsai Lake - Kazakhstan

The last hour up to the second lake is steep and, given this was Emil’s first time to the second lake, we had no idea how much further we had to go.  In fact, we had no idea if this really was the path to the lake, or a path used by illegal immigrants coming over the border from Kyrgzstan…   But eventually it flattened out into a saddle, and then we’d finally made it.

And it was totally worth it!

Second Kolsai Lake - Kazakhstan

The second lake is at 2,252m, and was still mostly frozen.   And apart from a couple of large ducks/geese, we were the only ones there.  

Second Kolsai Lake - Kazakhstan

Absolute tranquility surrounded by conifer-covered mountains – perfect place for a well-deserved lunch.

Lunch at second Kolsai Lake - Kazakhstan
Lunch at second Kolsai Lake – lots of carbs, and an Easter egg provided by our driver

We hung out up there for about half an hour admiring the view, before an increase in wind heralded a turn in the weather, at which point we decided to beat a hasty retreat.  We did not want to get lost in cloud coming back down!

Second Kolsai Lake - Kazakhstan
Yes, the lake was still frozen!

Eventually made it back down through the snow without major incident – loving the Salomon hiking boots I bought back in Australia – great grip on some dodgy surfaces!    And enjoyed the stroll back once we’d gotten past the snow.

Lots of fir trees in this part of Kazakhstan
Lots of fir trees in this part of Kazakhstan

Came across these blokes fishing back at the first Kolsai Lake, which again was just gorgeous in its tranquility.

First Kolsai Lake - Kazakhstan

Then it was back in the van for the slow trip back to Saty village.  Dinner was Lagman, an Uighur national dish adopted by the Kazakhs.  Noodles, vegetables and a little meat in a broth … with dill of course!

Lagman - Uighur national dish - Kazakhstan

Although I was far more interested in visiting Lake Kaindy, this turned out to be a really awesome hike with some great views, even if a bit hairy at times due to the snow!  Really recommend it!


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