One of the reasons that I keep going back to Olgunlar for skiing is that there’s a pansiyon in the village at 2000m, and the road is regularly plowed. If you look at the map of the Kaçkar, you can find lots of potential skiing on the north side of the range as well. However, what’s the access like? A few weeks ago Seb and I spent a few days trying to ski in İkizdere, in Rize Province (İl) on the north side of the Kaçkar Mountains.
First, however, Seb and I had to get there. Readers may recall that we left Seb’s car with a mechanic in Gümüşhane. It ended up taking over a month before the car was ready to go again. I spent most of that time in Antalya. Finally, Mohamed the mechanic said ok, and we bought bus tickets for the 21-hour trip from Antalya to Gümüşhane via (a bus transfer in) Kelkit. Mohamed had warned that the car wasn’t perfect, but it’d probably (or did he say “maybe”?) make it back to Antalya.
We took some steep roads straight out of Gümüşhane both to test the car near the mechanic and to visit a couple old churches. A sign in Eski Gümüşhane (Süleymaniye Mah.) explained what a peaceful place Gümuşhane was during Ottoman times with Turks, Armenians, and Greeks all living harmoniously together. Until Sultan Hamid II this may have been largely true.
Judging from the name (Hegios Georgios Kilisesi) I guess this was a Greek church:
So we had to abandon our broken-down car in Gümüşhane, but the timing actually wasn’t bad since we had planned on spending a week at İsmail’s pansiyon in Olgunlar where there’s not much need for a car. We skied directly from the doorstep of the pansiyon for six days in a row.
Semra, Seb, and I took the dolmuş from Erzurum to Yusufeli where İsmail was waiting for us with his 4×4 pickup and his youngest son, Alparslan. Semra was excited to be in Olgunlar in the winter for the first time.
Semra hasn’t been skiing long, but she’s strong and joined Seb and me on the first day for the ~1000m climb up to nearby Kanucar Geçidi (a pass).
Seb decided to join me for this year’s (almost) annualskitrip to the Kaçkar Mountains. Because of covid (and the fact that he owns two cars?), Seb wanted to go by car and make a road trip out of it. I suppose our day trip up to Saklıkent was a test run for the car. I insisted on a heater (eastern Turkey in February!). Seb added one and did quite a bit of other work to prepare the old car (35 years old?) for a long journey from Antalya to (hopefully) the Kaçkar Mountains in NE Turkey. We almost made it to Manavgat (75km?) before Seb was removing the steering wheel to make a (minor?) repair.
From Manavgat it was up, up, up to the pass between Akseki and Seydişehir. I was stunned at just how slow Seb’s car is on the hills. Even on this main highway we sometimes had to use first gear and had fully loaded tanker trucks roaring passed us on the steepest parts. I was also stunned with how little snow there was at the pass at about 1800m.
We drove about 10 hours that first day, camping near the Aksaray-Nevşehir border, and then about 12 hours the following day to make it to Köklü, a village on the Kemah-Erzincan Merkezi border. In Sivas we started to see some snow, but clearly this isn’t enough for skiing:
When we left off, I was making my way back to the pavement after a mini adventure from Panamint Springs to Racetrack Playa via Hunter Mountain.
Through the bottom of Death Valley The downhill continued all the way to the pavement at Ubehebe Crater, but I had to push the bike a bit once I got to the lava/cinder area. The black sand of the roadbed was much finer and deeper than the surface of most of the descent. Getting to Ubehebe concluded what I had planned for this trip. The only thing left was to get to Las Vegas. Berdoo Canyon, Mengel Pass, and Hunter Mountain had all been hard excursions, but each took about a day less than I had (conservatively) expected. I had time to make it a pleasant, easy ride to Vegas. I hiked around Ubehebe Crater and relaxed in the wind at the parking lot. Only two cars plus a ranger came by during the ~3 hours I was there. Each car stopped, the occupants got out, took a couple photos, and were driving away less than 2 minutes later. Incredible! This place is the middle of nowhere. I couldn’t understand why anyone would drive so far and spend so little time. It turns out though that Ubehebe is only a 10 mile detour from the Scotty’s Castle road.
continued from part one where we ended in unusually soggy Baker, California.
Death Valley National Park Heading north of Baker the saddle that separates the Silurian Valley from Death Valley is only about a 50′ climb. From there I left the pavement and stopped at Saratoga Springs to see the incredible wetlands in the desert. I had planned on climbing the Ibex Dunes, but wind was blowing sand off the top of the dunes and everything was still a bit wet from the rain. The following day I reached the pavement, took it for 5 miles and then headed west up Warm Springs Canyon.