I cross referenced a lot of stuff to plan this hike but in the end one source did most of the work, this guy: https://x-travels.ru/gornye-poxody/pereval-turistov/ . The only difference being I joined the trail from the top of Shymbulak combi 2 (the top of the resort). Download and follow his GPS tracks at the bottom of the page. If you are confused by anything I write just reference the GPS track I basically followed it exactly.
I strongly recommend trekking poles for this hike as there are numerous exposed sections. I would not want to do this hike in the rain because of some exposed sections of trail. Wear shoes with a strong grip.
Day 1 - Talgar Pass - Left Talgar
Walk down the right side (looking down) the Left Talgar ski lift (the lift that goes down the opposite side of the mountain from the resort), you should find a trail around there. You'll pass a small pond and then very soon after cross a small stream. From then on just keep following the trail down to the river below. I started late this day so didn't go as far up river as I hoped, do yourself a favor and go as far as you can because it will make the next day easier! There are plenty of camping spots.
Day 2 - to base of Touristov Pass
Again following the GPS tracks to as far as possible.
There was one section of sketchy exposed screen slope that took me about an hour to look around and decide how to navigate, a rock slide made one part a fall and die scenario (or at least break legs). A cairn marks the spot to go down below the scree, cross the steep dirt/rock slope and make your way back up any way you can find. This avoided the fall and die scenario but judging by footprints it looks like some people also went high to make the crossing, personally I wasn't comfortable with it. By the time you read this the trail may have already shifted.
There are a few tempting camp spots at 3400-3550m but get above 3600m for the best camping spots.
Day 3 - over Touristov Pass to Big Almaty Lake
Again a lot of exposed scree slopes. Today you will be a master at reading cairns and flags. At nearly all points of the day if you don't see a cairn or aren't on a road you are not in the right spot.
Coming down Touristov if you want to take an extra day, I think the first river confluence on the trail might be the best spot (just before the trail first becomes an unpaved road after crossing a stream). There is obvious evidence of people having camped here. There is another confluence further down that you could also camp at but was a bit buggy*. I intended to go four days but after passing both of these options I ended up at the ford (you will see a line crossing the river) and was close enough to the lake I just kept going.
*This confluence of maybe 3 rivers comes after following the unpaved road down a while, then the road fades away into overgrowth and to the riverbed. You can see the road continue on the other side. This is not the way! At least I could not see any possible way to cross. Before getting to the bottom of the road, you will see a small white flag with its pole broken to the right - go right! After going up a few minutes you can spot a small white flag trail marker on a hilltop, and then another, and maybe a cairn, and a flag, etc. These lead you alongside the right of the river leading to the lake. I really would not want to do this section in the rain, lots of exposed sections on faint dirt trails. The referenced GPS tracks follow this route.
At the lake I went straight down to meet the road and waived down the first passing car to get a ride to the city.
Overall navigating was not too difficult except for a couple of spots.
This hike covered many different types of terrain and was amazing. From what I know of the area I would consider this to be the must-do bucket list hike for anyone in the area, I'm only sad I can't experience it for the first time again.
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