Thursday, February 20, 2014

Kjartan and Noorvuz

     After spending a week in Arslanbob last year, two ski mountaineering objectives were on my list-Kjartan and Noorvuz Peak. Both summits immediately attract a skiers eye with clean ridge line approaches and classic fall line descents. With good stability and boot top hero powder, we were able to bag both this week!
      We skied up into Jerz Jaroom from town on a clear cold morning after a couple of days of putting in skin tracks. The North aspect of Kjartan had stuffed, leaving us with amazingly soft debris to ski.
JDY with  Kjartan in the background
Island of safety on the Kjartan descent.

      Noorvuz was bit of a gamble with the weather Gods teasing us all day long. After doing some homework scouting the route and putting in some skin tracks, we left early after eating yet another huge breakfast thanks to Ulmashon. Thankfully, the weather held for easy route finding on the way up.
Noorvuz and ridge line route to the summit.
      After a bit of rock scrambling we reached the summit, only to have the clouds hammer down on us. We skied super conditions with "variable" viz almost 4,000ft back to Arslanbob. A Mega-Classic ski peak by my standards. 
Noorvuz summit "photo op"!
        We will be back to Noorvuz  again. We could spend a week playing on unskied North facing 40* couloirs. For now, we may take a day or two off, go to Jalalabad, a try to find a hot shower!

An Uzbek Wedding

     Our friend Hussnadin's son got married. Naturally, there must be a party! Hussnadin is a carpenter, so I was excited to see his house as well. Because the party was near Bilcas, our favorite tree skiing area, we decided to bring our gear with us so we could ski afterwards. Hayat joined us at the party and came skiing as well.
      We had a big breakfast at Abdullahjan's, arrived at the party around 10am and were immediately served a gianormous bowl of mutton soup, bread and plov. In order to not be impolite, we had to finish most of the food.  We were stuffed!
Deb @ the men's table

D and Hussnadin in the outdoor kitchen. It was about 5*F.
Hand washing after the meal

Humbled and Inspired

      After nearly a week of storms and more than three feet of snow in the Babash Ata Range, we were greeted this morning by blue skies.
Time to head into the alpine and take a look around. Of course our Lada's alternator exploded on the way up. No day without an adventure!  We made great time breaking trail, and we're atop the North facing slopes of Jez Jaroom by noon.

     Sweet powder skiing all day long. It literally feels like we have whole country of untracked powder at our feet.

        Skiing the 3,000 ft back to Abdulajan's we bumped into a lone skier doing laps in his back yard. He wore rubber boots strapped with twine and "locked" into 70's era Marker bindings and Blizzard skis. Sticks for poles! Big high five for this dude. We were both humbled and inspired.

Arslanbob Ski Race

     Our arrival in town coincided with the first ever Arslanbob Ski Race. Fortunately, we had a few days of Walnut Forest training to really get our ski legs under us before the big day. The kids raced a 1,500 ft. downhill course after being towed up by horse to the high point of "The Dog Road" 

Start of the Kid's Race


Chingaz the downhill champ!


    Twenty adults raced a very challenging 6.5 kilometer course with around 3,000ft of vertical. Guides from town dominated the long uphill, but Deb managed to chase them down on the flats, and with a quick transition to downhill she was near the lead. In a sprint finish, she came in 2nd place (1st place in the Women's Race) She says she should have won. Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda, I say.
1st Place in the Women's Race.

       Over three feet of new snow since we arrived. Time for some powder skiing!

Jet Lag Epic

      When flying to the other side of the planet, there is a price to pay. As hard as we tried to force ourselves into Kyrgz time it took three days to finally be able to sleep during the night and wake in the day.  Fortunately, that's how long it took for our bags to catch up with us in Bishkek. We had a super place to hang out at Interhouse Hostel, lots of long walks in the Capital with great city people watching.

D chilling @ Interhouse.
        We chose to fly South to Arslanbob instead of enduring the 15 hrs. car ride. In the end the cost was the same. We were greeted in Arslanbob with a winter storm that brought over two feet of snow. Great for the snow base, but not so good for the avalanche hazard. The local avalanche forecaster (JDY) issued a high danger warning for day one. Nevertheless, we found decent powder skiing in "Lachin's Land", got lost skiing through town on the way home and ended up in the middle of a wedding party. Had to do a shot of vodka with an apple chaser in order to escape! 
Après ski in Arslanbob