While the skiing in the Kaçkar was consistently good and easy to arrange, the skiing that we did around Lake Van was much more varied. We rented a car in Erzurum which greatly facilitated getting to the various mountains that we wanted to visit. Indeed it’d be very difficult to do this part of the trip using public transportation.
It turns out that Scott is a bit of a volcano nut. We did ski up Süphan and Nemrut, but Scott also had his eyes on Ağrı and Tendürek. Those latter two require permission from the jandarma and a bit more planning so we were able convince Scott to ski the big chain of mountains to the south of Lake Van instead. Süphan, Nemrut, Başet, and Artos all ended up being very different days. Combined with the powder skiing in the Kaçkar it made for a super two weeks.
We spent two nights in Patnos where the folks at our hotel recommended an absolutely fabulous restaurant, Baran Bursa İskender. I suppose we can thank them for supplying us with the energy to summit Süphan, Turkey’s 3rd highest peak at just over 4000m. It was my first time above 4000m since climbing Longs my last month in Boulder almost three years ago.
We took about 12 hours for Süphan, I think. The most notable aspects were the incredible lack of wind and the horrendous skiing conditions. The descent was 1700m of survival skiing. I told the group that if that had been my first day after not skiing for three years, I would have sold my skis and taken up knitting or something. For the record we took the Kışkılı Mahallesi route (Aydınlar Köyü, Adilcevaz, Bitlis). We had talked about starting from Armutlu Köyü (Patnos), but I think that would have been an even longer day since it’s ~300m lower.
The following day we drove to Gevaş and stopped along the way for a short day of skiing at Nemrut. This is not to be missed. I recommend a day with stellar weather when there’s still lots of snow on the mountains south of Tatvan. Also be sure there’s no wind and a few well-placed clouds so you can enjoy the gorgeous mirror-like reflections off the crater lake.
The last three nights of our trip were spent in Gevaş. On our first day we made the good decision to drive to Sapakonak (Gürpınar) and ski Başet Tepesi. This small unassuming summit is much bigger than it looks. The skiing down was much better than any of us expected.
Back at the car in the village the mayor’s wife invited us for tea. Kurdish is the language of the village, but the mayor’s wife spoke excellent Turkish. The mayor was a bit harder to understand, but the main thing he wanted us to let the world know is how awful the road is to his village. Take photos, he said, and show the media that Sapakonak needs a paved road. Well, haha, IMOHO, the road seemed pretty darn nice.
Our last day of skiing was a half day on Artos, the steep summit that towers over Gevaş. We skinned up a couple hours to stretch our legs, enjoyed views of the town and lake, survived the descent, and got back early enough for a bit of sightseeing.