Co-organized by the Turkmen State Information Agency (TDH) and the Executive Committee of the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, a climbing expedition is now well underway and is progressing. The sporting and patriotic event was launched to celebrate State Flag Day of Turkmenistan and the Year of Health and Inspiration: a national flag and a symbol of the 2017 Asian Games would be planted on the country's highest peak - Airybaba.
The first stage of the ascent marked a height of 2,000 meters above sea level. Another stage that will bring the climbers closer to the summit is 500 meters long. It would seem not too long, but the higher the mountaineers climb, the harder it is for them to struggle through the soft snow.
To keep up a pace, it is necessary to walk through the snow while packing it to make it more secure. The climbers have to wear snow or ski goggles (on clear as well as foggy days) to protect themselves from ultraviolet rays.
Even juniper (Turkmen archa) bushes do not grow in severe conditions of the high-mountain area, but inconspicuous honeysuckle shrubs underneath have grown to the size of powerful branchy trees - the secret of nature, which is being studied by the staff of Koitendag State Reserve, established more than 30 years ago to conserve the area's flora and fauna.
Koitendag's biodiversity includes about 200 species of animal species, over 120 species of birds and about 1,000 species of plants, including rare endemic species. The area boasts many natural wonders, whose history is connected with numerous folk legends. Among them are a spring and an umbrageous grove of unabi trees, which is known as a holy site, Chilon-ata.
The second camp was set up for the night nearby the grove. The area is open and unprotected; winds are constantly sweeping the snow away, blowing it into cracks and clefts.
Some of the natural areas of the Koitendag date back millions of years.
There are many karst caverns, which form deep caves, full of mystery and fairytale-like beauty. On the western side of the mountain, not far from the settlement of Garlyk, in one of the caverns with a 70-meter deep cave and an underground lake, a blind fish (which was named later Kugitang blind loach) was discovered in 1979.
Hoshm-Oiyk (House of Jewelry) is another unique and wonderful cave, which is more than 3 kilometers long. In some chambers, snow-white gypsum forms shapeless agglomerations - icebergs, which sometimes resemble animals - dinosaurs, elephants, and birds.
The largest cave, Kap-Kutan is 56 kilometers in length. It is one of the world's longest cave systems! Various marble onyx, (especially dark brown is of outstanding beauty) is found here. There are sources of drinking water.
Among the natural caves of the Koitendag, the Gulshirin Cave is known for its remarkable beautiful. It is located in the right side of the ravine to the north-east of the Hoshm-Oiyk. It consists of many chambers, whose roofs are up to 50 meters high, the walls are adorned with wonderful gypsum dripstones, which resemble crystal chandeliers, chrysanthemums and other figures.
The Vertical Cave is one of most mysterious and difficult-to-access caves. Its entrance leads to the depth of the mountain along horizontal passages, whose floor is covered with dust and small stones. All of a sudden, a yawning 100-meter-deep abyss comes into sight. Over the centuries, not only animals, but also people have fallen victim to the cave. Well-preserved mummies gave the cave another name - Cabinet of Curiosities.
The Koitendag's unique caves are under the protection of the state. The protected area, created here, is a part of Koitendag State Reserve. UNESCO experts (who visited the area) have confirmed that the Koitendag justly deserves to be included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites and become an international tourism center.
The Ascent Project expedition has reached a height of 2,500 meters above sea level! - our correspondent informed. Before we begin to conquer the mountain summit, we will have to analyze a number of technical issues and determine the best way to ascend the mountain. The weather forecast predicts fog, wind blasts put to test the reliability of our tents.
However, the changeable weather will not be able to stop the ascent: our team, which consists of well-trained and experienced climbers, is completely familiar with the route.
One more day of the expedition ended productively. Straight ahead are the Airybaba, sparkling with snow and the longed-for height of 3,139 meters, where the State Flag of Turkmenistan and the symbol of the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games will be planted.
Source: Turkmenistan State News Agency-TDH