Big Almaty Lake is located 2,510 m above sea level. It was formed by the moraine (glacial drift) of the large glacier that blocked the gorge in course of the Great Glacial Period.
The length, width, and depth of the lake depend very much on its level, and its level is dependent on the water-power engineering status and on urban residents’ thirst. Because BAO is almost a water storage basin already. The natural dyke of the lake is supplemented with the artificial one. And packed into concrete. The result is something like a huge bathtub with a plug; if you pull this plug, all the water could be drained. Thus, the lake spills out through the hole and travels down this famous pipe to swing something, and to water someone (and to feed someone, too).
That is why it is rather hard to define dimensional characters of BAO. However, its surface area is 0,42 sq. km, and the body of water equals to 8,3 mln. cubic meters, and it is around 40 meters deep. The water temperature is never more than 13ºC.
The water is usually opaque, with the very changeable colour dependent on weather. When high-altitude snow stops melting, the lake becomes as crystal clear as a virgin’s teardrop. If in this period frost comes, and the skies are clear, then you may watchfully step on the pure ice and as if hang above the abyss (this is an unspeakable feeling).
In the south, behind the lake, the gorge is locked with a snow-white Peak Ozernyi, which means ‘laky’ (4,110 m), and a bit eastward, behind the destroyed ridge, there is Peak of Soviets (4,100 m). At least it seems to be this way. But actually, they don’t lock anything: higher along the gorge there is the whole world of alpine meadows, moraines, glaciers, and four-thousand meters high tops. (But it is quite difficult to get there today, for the valiant border guard of RK decided that tourists just don’t belong there and blocked the way.)
Yet, behind the lake, there are plenty of pretty simple but beautiful alpine peaks there, located in the upper reaches of rivers Ozernaya and Kyzyl-sai. And among them there are such as Molodaya Gvardia (4,394 m high), of Sverdlovsk University or SGU (4,522 m), Sovetskih alpinistov, or of Soviet climbers (4,379 m), and Leninskaya smena (4,210 m).
Not far from Big Almaty Lake there are a few more objects of the scientific purpose. You can reach them by the road that turns to the right before the lake. There is an astronomical observatory that has still operating captured Carl Zeiss telescopes. Astronomers explore not only stars in this place, but the Sun, too. And still higher, at the mountain pass Zhossalykezen (3,336 m) there is a high-mountain laboratory of physics called Cosmostation, where during a few decades physicists have been trying to catch mysterious cosmic rays.
Right here there is one more tourist attraction, which is well seen from Alma-Ata. This is Big Almaty Peak. Its proud name is one more toponymic mishap, because this peak is just 3,681 m high (however, you well may run into such numbers as 3,684, 3,700, etc.). But it is just this mountain looking like a regular pyramid if you observe it from the downtown that spices up the city landscape and makes delicate-and-nervous female adepts of feng shui ecstatic. But they are unaware that from the other side the pyramid is basically just a meaningless destroyed ridge.