Tian Shan Mountains

The Tian Shan, meaning the Mountains of Heaven or the Heavenly Mountain, is a large system of mountain ranges in the border regions of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,  Uzbekistan and China . The highest peak in the Tian Shan is Jengish Chokusu, at 7,439 metres (24,406 ft) high. Its lowest point is the Turpan Depression, which sits at 154 m (505 ft) below sea level.

Tian Shan is sacred in Tengrism, and its second-highest peak is known as Khan Tengri which may be translated as “Lord of the Spirits”

Tian Shan and the Silk Road

The Torugart Pass, at 3,752 metres (12,310 ft), is located at the border between Kyrgyzstan and China’s Xinjiang province. The forested Alatau ranges, which are at a lower altitude in the northern part of the Tian Shan, are inhabited by pastoral tribes that speak Turkic languages.

Tian Shan Geography

Tian Shan consists of multiple ranges which are mainly long ridge-like formations running generally west to east and are separated by natural features. How the range is split into subsections varies somewhat between different sources.  We include Kyrgyz Ala-Too with famous Ala-Archa valley in the Western Tien Shan, rather than the Northern Tien Shan it is sometimes classified

The Tian Shan  are one of the longest mountain ranges in Central Asia and stretch some 2,900 kilometres (1,800 mi) eastward from Tashkent in Uzbekistan.  Tian Shan is north and west of the Tibetan Plateau separated by the Taklamakan Desert and  Tarim Basin in the border region of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Xinjiang in northwest China. It extends as far west as Uzbekistan. . In the south it links up with the Trans Alay Range (See our page) and Pamir Mountains and to north and east it meets the Altai Mountains of Mongolia.

In Western cartography, the eastern end of the Tian Shan is usually understood to be east of Ürümqi, with the range to the east of that city known as the Bogda Shan as part of the Tian Shan. Chinese cartography from the Han Dynasty to the present agrees, with the Tian Shan including the Bogda Shan and Barkol ranges.

  • Western Tian Shan Ranges forming Western Tien Shan rise to the north of extensive Fergana valley, mostly in the upper western fork of Kyrgyzstan, more or less along the border of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. By far the best known climbing destination of the area is Ala Archa valley located in Kyrgyzskiy range. It is also the highest part of Western Tien Shan with several peaks above 4500m and culminating at Semenov-Tien Shanskiy (4875m). In other parts of Western Tien Shan, Chatkal peak (4503m) in Chatkal range, Manas peak (4482m) in Talaskiy Alatau and Baubashata mountains (4427m) in the western part of the Fergansky ridge are the highest points of the main ranges.
  • Northern Tian Shan Covers areas north of Issyk Kul lake. The best known peak of the area is Pik Talgar (5020m). This part of Tien Shan is most commonly approached from Almaty in Kazakhstan.
  • Central Tian Shan Consists of the mountain ranges that go from south and east of Lake Issyk Kul. For climbers, this is the most fascinating area in Tien Shan. Eastern part of Central Tien Shan is home to highest peaks, dominated by giants Pobeda peak (7439m) and the fantastic pyramid of Khan-Tengri (7010m). These are the two most northerly located 7000-meter mountains in the world, and they attract mountain climbers from all over the world. But it is really surprising that most of the peaks around them have not even been given a name.
  • Eastern Tian Shan Chinese and Russian parts of Tien Shan. Climbing potential of eastern Tien Shan is largely unexplored. The highest peaks of eastern Tien Shan are found on the Chinese groups, not far from 7000ers of Internal Tien Shan.

The Tian Shan are separated from other ranges by the Taklimakan Desert and the Tarim Basin to the south.

The major rivers rising in the Tian Shan are the Syr Darya, the Ili River and the Tarim River. The Aksu Canyon is a notable feature in the northwestern Tian Shan.


Tian Shan Mountains from space, October 1997, with Issyk-Kul Lake in Kyrgyzstan at the northern end


Western Tian Shan


Northern Tian Shan


Central Tian Shan

Khan Tengri (Lord of the Spirits), is the Tian Shan’s second highest peak and straddles the Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan border and at 7,010 meters (23,000 ft) is the highest point of Kazakhstan. Mountaineers class these as the two most northerly peaks over 7,000 meters in the world.

Eastern Tian Shan

The highest peak in the Tian Shan is Jengish Chokusu (also called Victory Peak) on the border of China. At 7,439 metres (24,406 ft) high, it is the highest point in Kyrgyzstan. 

Learn More

Tian Shan Mountain Climbing – Ari’s Base Camp






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