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.