Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Spring Skiing in the Babash Ata Range

Blue skies in the Babash Ata Range.

     We were married high in the Andes Range in Peru, with the mountains as our witness. Deb will tell you I tricked her into it while she was in a weakened state of high altitude craziness, but that's just not true. We learned then to trust and listen to the mountains.
     We stared at the steep and rocky slopes of Babash Ata from Arslanbob all winter, and could only dream of what the hidden North facing aspects held when stable springtime conditions might allow us access. We also dreamed of a first ski descent of this noble mountain.
     With our friend Fazil as our guide, we set off on horseback with five days of food and packs laden with ski and climbing gear. 

     We left the horses at the snow line, and after two days touring up and over the range, we set basecamp beside a still frozen glacial lake beneath the fantastic couloirs that rose to the summit of Babash Ata. We slept restlessly in the cold night in anticipation of another perfect day climbing styrofoam-like snow up and skiing corn snow down during our first descent. Once again, however, the mountain Gods had other plans.
     After coffee and oatmeal, (yes, even Fazil the diehard Uzbek chai drinker joined us for some instant black magic) we headed up into thin clouds that looked like they might give us passage. 200m from the summit with 40 minutes of climbing to go, the snow began to rage and it was time to listen to the mountains. Babash Ata said "No".
Turnaround time as the clouds smack down.

     The storm raged on for two days and two nights with Deb and I snuggled up in our cozy tent and Fazil somehow happily surviving in his plastic wrap burrito bivy system. I will say this only once so I don't offend - Fazil is one tough F#€^er! We took advantage of the brief pauses in the storm to shovel out the tent, drink a bit of chai and wolf down some naan. During the long windy nights as the snow sifted up under our vestibule and dusted our faces as we slept, I lay wondering if the muffled sounds I heard from Fazil's burrito were snoring, singing or praying.
Fazil emerges from his cocoon as the storm breaks.

      On the fifth day we made our escape, vowing to never camp again. Of course after beer, vodka and plov with Hayat that night in summer-like Arslanbob we'd hatched a plan for horses and first ski descents above Friendship Pass. For our adventurous friends, a first ski descent of the gem of the Babash Ata range is there for the taking if Hayat does not get there before you!
The consolation prize- first turns down the mountain we will call Lugge Apa, the mother of the skiers.

Deb cruises through wet corn down Friendship Pass towards camp.

       We'll leave our skis behind again tonight as we head South towards Tajikistan and more adventures.


  1. John and Deb, it is so marvelous to be able to follow your travels and adventures at least somewhat, by reading your fascinating blog entries and seeing your beautiful pictures. Your words, John, are so powerful. I find myself moved to tears as you talk about the Sherpas, revealing that none that you know enjoy their work and yet must do this difficult work in order to support their families.......and I smile as I read about new friends you're meeting and the impact they're having on your and Deb's lives, and in turn, knowing the impact you're having on their lives and how you two are touching them in such positive ways. I'm glad you were able to spend some time with Deb's dad and brother and family and have a bit of a relaxing mini vacation with them. I would also guess that as good as it was to sleep in beds and eat city food, that there would be quite a bit of culture shock and a challenge to adjust to all the conveniences available!!

    I'm so glad you and Deb made the decision to take this trip together and as I said some where else in a post, it makes me so happy as your mom to see you following your passions and sharing them with someone you love.

    As always, I'm looking forward to your next post!!
    Love to you both,