After a little more adventure than we bargained for in Erzurum, Seb and I started heading southwest, doing more driving, more sightseeing, and less skiing. We found a pleasant campsite near a creek about 10km east of the provincial capital of Bingöl. Driving up and out of the city the next morning, Seb spotted a small sign: “Hesarek Kayak Tesisleri”. He didn’t know the word tesis, but he recognized kayak (ski) and swung the car off the highway.
I can’t remember what we had planned for that day, but what a pleasant surprise we stumbled upon.
The lifts weren’t open when we arrived, but the only woman in the one group there was on the phone calling around trying to get them to open up. She succeeded, and the T-bar was running about 15 minutes later! Thanks, Dilo!
Warning: there are a lot of details here about our ski day in Çayırbaşı (İspir), as perhaps someone (us?) can learn something from the avalanche we triggered.
Seb and I left behind snowy roads and good powder in İkizdere. The hope was to get away from the former but not the latter. It had snowed (again) in İkizdere (down at 600m!), but what a surprise to find so much of the fluffy white stuff on the main İkizdere-İspir highway. Sure, they don’t (frequently? ever?) plow the village roads, but until then we’d always found the highway snow-free!
Up higher, however, a plow had been through, and it was easy to get to 2100m where we entered the world’s 7th longest road tunnel. The 14km tube is more boring and less beautiful but certainly faster than the old route over 2600m Ovit Geçidi. From the map I had picked out a couple potential places to ski between İspir and Erzurum, one near Kızılkale (after crossing Ağzıaçık Geçidi (a pass)) and one near Rizekent (after crossing Dallıkavak Geçidi (another pass)). Before even getting that far, however, as we were descending Gölyurt Geçidi (yet another pass!), we had nice views of the forested north-facing slopes of Bozan Dağı (a mountain). Let’s check it out, we said.
Here’s Gölyurt Geçidi:
First, however, we had to get to the village of Bozan. The road to that village looked like this:
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: