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