At the heart of the Tien Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan, Merzbacher lake is a geological oddity and a convenient stop-over for anyone trekking to the Inylchek glacier, on the way to the mighty peaks of Tengri Khan and Pik Pobeda.
Merzbacher lake is really only a lake for a few months a year. It fills up with meltwater from the Inylchek glacier in springtime, but somewhere in July or August, the bottom of the lake bursts, and the water drains out into the lower Tarim Basin.
Even though the timing is quite predictable, unlike other vanishing lakes in Iceland, Switzerland and Greenland, few people have ever seen Merzbacher lake empty itself out because it is so remote (count on 4 days trekking minimum). According to one eyewitness account, it makes a hell of a lot of noise.
It would be a great event to witness.
As a lake, it’s not that impressive, though, despite what the many picture bloggers might make of it. It’s quite small, and depending on your arrival time, you may find it full or disappointingly empty.
But the scenery should be enough to keep you interested. The high alpine regions around Merzbacher lake are a world unto themselves. You might see some avalanches coming down the mountain, or catch a few Golden Eagles nesting up there.
Banner clouds, also called peak flags, can only be witnessed on isolated, steep mountain sides.
The camping site close to the lake is called Merzbacher meadow. Don’t expect to find sheep on this meadow.
To visit Merzbacher Lake you will need a permit.