In 2012 I spent an amazing week in Kyrgyzstan with a top team of adventure skiers. It had been high on my ‘must go back to’ list ever since and finally this year I decided to make space for it in the winter calendar no matter what.
With a crack team signed up we assembled in Bishkek in the early hours from various flights and loaded up for the 6 hour drive to Karakol. A quick stop to stretch the legs and pick up some last minute supplies and we switched over to an ex-Soviet UAZ 4×4 for the final approach to Ichke Jergez – the village where we would spend the night before heading up to our yurt camp.
After meeting up with my co-guide for the week, Canadian ACMG ski guide Jessica Taylor, we did a safety briefing/avalanche rescue practise and then went for a short tour for the team to get their first Kyrgyz turns – the snowpack here takes some getting used to – an extreme continental climate with little snowfall and cold temperatures makes for an ‘upside-down’ set-up, with typically 40cms of powder lying over 70cms or so of facetted inconsistent sugar – wide skis are a must so you can stay up in the powder layer.
With good weather forecast for the next few days and most of the team feeling the effects of sleeping at 2500m we headed out on the next day for a link-up of descents in the ‘mid-alpine’:
On Tuesday we headed for the summit of 3450m Alpay Tur and a shoulder line on the East face followed by a bonus lap on the West flank:
With the weather still holding the next day we set off to summit Kyzyl Moynok and ski one of the lines off the summit down the far side:
Thursday was forecast to be our last day of good weather for the week so we set an ambitious goal to ski the Jalpak Tash ‘Triple Crown’ – summiting and skiing the 3 main peaks behind the yurt camp.
Friday dawned snowy as per the forecast, and with tired legs all round a mellow morning was had relaxing in camp. As the day wore on itchy feet developed amongst some of the team and we went out for a couple of powder laps in the trees in the fresh top layer of snow.
The day was rounded off by some traditional Kyrgyz music courtesy of our surprise visitor Nurbek #2…
On our final morning up at the yurts we woke to about 20cms of extra snow. A couple of final short laps in the trees, last lunch then it was time to ski back out to the roadhead and drive back to Karakol via some very welcome hot springs. No trip to this area is complete without an afternoon wandering around Karakol town with some interesting buildings and reminders of past times. The other absolute must see is the Sunday morning animal market – sheep, cows and horses as far as the eye can see – an experience not to be missed!
Massive thanks are due to the following:
Jessica for her great co-guiding
Erick for his infallible good vibes and great après ski playlists
Nurbek & Akim for the cooking
Ryan & Aigulu at 40 Tribes Backcountry for the logistics and more!
And of course to my top team: Dave L, Jez, Dave I, Andy and Sandy!!