Eternal glaciers within the precincts of Almaty city

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Residents of the south capital of Kazakhstan Almaty, who wish to visit eternal ice, have two alternative ways. Either to go as far as a few thousand kilometers to Novaya Zemlya in the Arctic Zone (its glaciers are the closest), or to climb a few kilometers up to the mountains of Zailiyskyi Alatau, to the glaciers at the upper reaches of Malaya Almatinka river.     

We know that the first European explorers of Tien Shan in the middle of the 19th century expected to find there a lot of volcanoes, but it was a great surprise for them to find glaciers. Such confusion was the result of theories of the great Germans, Humboldt and Ritter, who in their turn relied on half-magic Chinese sources. Somehow or other, the famous Semyonov-Tien-Shanskiy in his travels initially refused pointblank to see local mountain glaciers and took the eternal ice for ‘snow clusters’.

But now we know that all more or less great rivers of Semirech’ye are thoroughly replenished from the melting mountain ice. As a rule, glaciers get their names from a peak which slopes they slide down. Thus, among Malaya Almatinka glaciers that can be seen from streets of Almaty there are glaciers of Orjonikidze, Tuyuksu, Pogrebetskiy, Molodezhnyi, etc.

One of the Zailiyskyi Alatau glaciers has the name of the specialist in local history Dmitriyev. It was he who first explored glaciers of Zailiyskyi Alatau. In the ‘Proceedings of the Emperor’s Russian Geographical Society’ as of 1907, the specialist in local history S.E. Dmitriyev described the experience he had had during his expedition to Malaya Almatinka glaciers in the late summer of 1902.

At that, no one had ever provided Dmitriyev with any ‘grants’ for his research, and no one even had asked him to do it. All his explorations are just his personal initiative for the study of the surrounding world. The following facts expressively speak about many unknown and unexplored things of those years. Glaciers that were described by the amateur glaciologist hundred years ago were one and all untitled. They were not even registered on the three-verst scale army topographic map of that period.

Dmitriyev’s studies continued for several years, being very occasional, though. He measured the glaciers by eye and by steps, and, what is more, he built the first weather shelter here and also tried to answer such questions as what was happening to glaciers. What speed they move at? Does the ice swarm decrease or increase? Those who are eager to know that can read this information in his works and reports.

Residents and visitors of Almaty may escape studying all the facts of the secret activity of glaciers. They have a unique opportunity of waking up in the morning in their warm cozy beds, climb up to the real ice tongue (Arctic!), have a lunch out in the fresh frosty air, and come back home for dinner. Personally, most of all nearby glaciers, I like a walk towards Molodyozhnyi (‘of youth’) glacier (somewhere around there stood Dmitriyev’s weather shelter). This glacier looks like a huge wall of ice that covers up half of the sky.

If you find yourselves here at the end of August you may see everything sparkle in thousands of streamlets in the last summer sun, sing in dozens of clear voices, savoury crisp in azure granular snow, or firn, under your feet, and excites with its unmatched cool fragrance. And in case you reject any transport and come here by foot, you will add to all this the feeling of self-esteem, which will grow right before your eyes!  

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