Skiing the Kaçkar

Five fantastic days of skiing from Olgunlar.  One of the days (the third day) was one of the best skiing days ever.  The fifth day wasn’t bad either.

My first visit to the Kaçkar was with Sage in July 2012.  We slowly biked our way up to Olgunlar from Yusufeli and then spent about four days trekking, making it as far as the summit of Kaçkar Dağı.  Back at the trailhead in Olgunlar I asked a man working on the cafe there about the winter conditions — what’s open, how access is.  I knew I wanted to come back in winter.

When I got an e-mail from my friend Peter in Anchorage asking if I’d like to join their ski trip in eastern Turkey, I didn’t have to think about it too much.  I didn’t even have to suggest coming back to Kaçkar.  That was already on Peter’s list.

In the end I helped a bit with reservations.  We stayed six nights with Osman, the man I met at the trailhead 20 months earlier, and we booked transportation from Erzurum with İsmail, Naim’s brother.  It was Naim who took such good care of Sage and me in Yaylalar, giving us a place to leave our bicycles, lending me a backpack free of charge, and putting together a fantastic breakfast feast when we returned to Yaylalar after our walk.

Osman and his wife, Fatma, are about 75 years old.  They’re two of the four winter residents in Olgunlar.  They both grew up in the village, got married young, moved to Ankara to raise their kids, and are now back in Olgunlar running the small, basic pansiyon where we stayed.  It’s basic in that the bathroom is shared, the shower puts out minimal water, and insulation is practically non-existent.  However, Osman was there every morning about 5:30 or 6 lighting the wood stoves, and Fatma’s cooking was fantastic.  The only thing to distract us from the great views and good skiing was wondering what feast Fatma was going to put together that evening.

I loved spending time with Peter and Amy again.  They flew to Erzurum with two friends from Anchorage, Scott and Stephanie, who I hadn’t met before.  Stephanie was the least experienced skier in our group of long-time skiers.  Scott, it seems, has been all the world skiing — Antarctica, Chile, Japan are some of the places I’m remembering now.  He’s also researched skiing possibilities in more unexpected places like Morocco, Iraq, and Mexico.

For me I think it was my first skiing outside the western US and my first skiing in three years.  The pace was mellow enough that I could keep up and the snow was soft enough to ease me into the wonderful rhythm of skiing.

Thanks everyone for the great trip and a super thanks to Jack in Boulder who orchestrated the logistics of getting my ski gear from Colorado to Erzurum via Anchorage.

DSCN9905 by bryandkeith on flickr

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Sunrise on Tunç

I’ve written about Tunç before.  It’s the biggest most impressive mountain that we can see from Antalya.  It’s also a rather easy climb though the drive to the start takes a good hour.  It would be quite a feat to bike to the trailhead and climb the peak.  The 2800m elevation difference is more than Longs Peak from Boulder.  Hmm…

This ascent was different from the others in that we were on the summit at sunrise.  It was cold, but the view was stunning.  Ahmet, Cemalettin, Terry, Komutan (Mehmet), and I drove to Feslikan Yaylası the evening before and camped there.  We had done no planning for dinner, but somehow it just seemed to work out.  I had brought spices and a stove (but no food).  Ahmet had brought some pasta and cheese (but no stove).  Cemalettin and Terry had each brought a bottle of wine.  Potatoes, onions, and mushrooms appeared as well.  We put together a good dinner.

Antalya from Tunç by bryandkeith on flickr

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Runtalya, March 2014

Antalya’s version of the Boulder Bolder takes place in early March.  Most people do the 10k, but there are 20k and 42k options as well.  This year seemed like perfect temperature for running — cloudy and cool.  I watched.

I didn’t know in advance what the route was so I was a bit surprised to find thousands of runners coming by in the morning just a block from my house.  Yep, just like in Boulder.  I wonder where all these runners are hiding the rest of the year.  I don’t often see anyone running in Antalya even though there are super parks strung out along the coast that seem like they’d be great for running.

DSCN9787 by bryandkeith on flickr

Most of the people I knew who participated in Runtalya were friends from Ankara.  Banu, Deniz, Pınar, Ateş, and Sabiha all came, and with them was Asya who I hadn’t met before.  Asya speaks very good Turkish.  She’s been living in Ankara for four years, but the surprising thing to me was that she’s never taken a class.  She has studied extensively and intensively on her own — oh, self-motivated!  She’s Russian so like me doesn’t have the advantage of previous knowledge of an Altaic language.
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A winter ascent of Erciyes

I’ve been studying Turkish again for the last six weeks.  It keeps me pretty cooped up during the week, but I got out a couple weeks ago for a winter ascent of Turkey’s 5th highest peak.  Erciyes is just slightly lower than Kaçkar Dağı which I climbed about 18 months ago when Sage and I were pedalling around the eastern Black Sea region.

I was the only one to climb Kaçkar on that beautiful July morning.  On this cold Sunday morning in February over 50 people summited Erciyes.  It was a bit of a disaster.  Mostly what bothered me was the extremely slow pace which certainly could have meant not summiting (or worse) if the weather had turned sour.  However, our route wasn’t technical, and even in a blizzard it would be hard to get really lost.

We took the gondola up from the very crowded ski area on Saturday afternoon, walked a couple hours to a comfortable camp in the snow, and walked up to the top the next morning.  I don’t know what’s normal at the ski area, but part of the reason it was so crowded could have been because only a couple of the many lifts and runs were open.  They don’t have enough snow this year to open any more of the mountain.

A crowded day at Erciyes? by bryandkeith on flickr

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A morning in Kayseri

A couple weekends ago I had the chance to spend a few hours on Saturday morning exploring the center of Kayseri.  I hadn’t played tourist for a while so it was kind of fun.  Most of our group hung out drinking çay, but Ayla, Sinan, and I wandered around taking photos of old buildings.

Kayseri is a fairly big (about the size of Antalya; ~1,000,000 people) industrial city in the center of Turkey.  The skyline is dominated to the south by the volcano Mount Ericyes, the real reason our motley crew of mountaineers came to Kayseri.

Necla, Leyla, Emral, Cemal, Beylem, ???, Uğur, Aslı, Ayla, Emin, Sinan by bryandkeith on flickr

I suppose the main tourist site is the museum complex inside the old city walls.  However, that is closed for restoration work until May so we couldn’t enter.  We did enter the old covered pazar which has been turned into a fairly uninteresting clothes market.  Here an attractive young shopkeeper is doing some friendly bargaining with Leyla over the price of a scarf.

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