Skiing the Kaçkar with Seb

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's from Artvin (Şavşat), but it was her first time in Olgunlar in the winter. by bryandkeith on flickr

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).

IMG_20210220_084752 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210220_094037 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210220_094857 by bryandkeith on flickr

As usual the snow got better as we got higher. It had snowed 50-60cm a couple days before we arrived.

IMG_20210220_105556 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210220_111128_31 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210220_125955 by bryandkeith on flickr
Kanucar Geçidi

Seb did a quick column test that showed a (surprisingly stable) sliding layer at 50cm, just about the amount of the last snowfall.

Seb did a quick column test. by bryandkeith on flickr

Another surprise was that the snow was quite good all the way to the village.

IMG_20210220_160420 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210220_161126 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210220_161659 by bryandkeith on flickr

That ended up being Semra’s last day of skiing as she learned that the boots that she was using (for only the second time) were definitely not going to work for her. Sounds familiar to my Kaçkar trip last year.

The following day was our longest ski day because I wanted good weather to climb the mountain north of Olgunlar and ski down and out via Satelef Yaylası, Körahmet, and Karamolla. It ended up being an excellent choice as that was the best weather day of our six days in Olgunlar. Seb gushed that it was one of his best days of ski touring ever. He also spent a lot of energy talking about how endless the initial 1000m climb was.

IMG_20210221_101435 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210221_104406 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210221_102827 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210221_112942 by bryandkeith on flickr

Here he is, finally cresting the ridge.

IMG_20210221_131047 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210221_120220 by bryandkeith on flickr

The rewards were almost instant.

IMG_20210221_132657 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210221_132935 by bryandkeith on flickr

Like the day before, the snow was good all the way to the valley bottom.

IMG_20210221_135512 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210221_140524 by bryandkeith on flickr

It was flatter and longer than I remembered to get out of that valley, but the scenery is good, and Körahmet is a nice looking village.

IMG_20210221_151259 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210221_151356 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210221_154828 by bryandkeith on flickr

The bad news, as you can see in the above photo, was that the road was plowed as far as Karamolla which meant that at the end of the day we had 3km of walking instead 3km of pretty quick downhill skiing.

Under these conditions, if you have a car, another way to do this tour would be drive to Karamolla and do an out-and-back tour from there.

The wind came the next day. We skied up the second drainage above Olgunlar into the valley below the sunny ridge on the left in this photo.

IMG_20210222_083757 by bryandkeith on flickr

Initially the climb is steep, but the views are good.

IMG_20210222_095402 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210222_101324 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210222_102750 by bryandkeith on flickr

The halos were particularly vibrant, colorful, and continuous in the morning.

Is it a snowbow?  We saw a lot of these phenomena this day. by bryandkeith on flickr

Up and down.

IMG_20210222_132914 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210222_135127 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_7035 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210222_151601 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210222_155337 by bryandkeith on flickr

The wind had mucked up the snow up high, likely increasing the avalanche danger. A forest day made sense. Seb wanted a rest day so I headed out with a couple other guys staying at the pansiyon, Görkem from İstanbul

IMG_20210223_115738 by bryandkeith on flickr

and Marius, a snowboarder from Braşov.

IMG_20210223_120545 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210223_134753 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210223_135755 by bryandkeith on flickr

The snow was really good through the forest all way down to Yaylalar.

IMG_20210223_144003 by bryandkeith on flickr

The next day Görkem, Seb, and I spent hours skinning slowly up the Dibe Yaylası drainage on windblown crust.

IMG_20210224_093031 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210224_115932 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210224_140015 by bryandkeith on flickr

I tried taking off my boots near the top in an unsuccessful attempt to reach the ridge. The “snow” was simply too hard.

signal-2021-02-24-184532 by bryandkeith on flickr

Perhaps the best thing about this day was the beer to celebrate surviving the treacherous conditions uninjured.

Seb, Bryan, Görkem by bryandkeith on flickr

Clearly the choice for the next day (our last) was to head back to the forest.

IMG_20210225_100023 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210225_133722 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210225_133726 by bryandkeith on flickr

Hard to believe, but I think I had the best turns of the week this day.

IMG_20210225_140826 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210225_151714 by bryandkeith on flickr

Except for the missing section of our route straight south from Olgunlar, I did a pretty good job of recording our tracks this week.

ka%C3%A7kar_skiing_202102 by bryandkeith on flickr

Bye, bye mountains. We’re back in Antalya now.

IMG_20210225_145504 by bryandkeith on flickr

“But what about the car?” you’re wondering. Seb and I had plans for a longer road trip, skiing along the way back from Artvin to Antalya. The mechanics, however, couldn’t find the parts, and the car’s still sitting at the garage in Gümüşhane! Clearly this story isn’t quite over yet.

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9 Responses to Skiing the Kaçkar with Seb

  1. Jennie & Derek Werner says:

    Beautiful photos–just gorgeous!

  2. Karl Thompson says:

    So glad you nailed it. Much better snow conditions in Kackar.
    Some of those peaks look like they could have some nice spring couloirs.

  3. Mike Painter says:

    Wow! What a great time!

  4. Ondra says:

    Hi, I really like what you’re doing. I want in January 2023 to skialp around Ikizdere – Petran – Sivrikaya
    Would you please tip for accommodation? I would be very grateful.
    I can’t find anything.

    • Bryan Keith says:

      Hi Ondra,

      Seb and I stayed three nights at the Öğretmen Evi in İkizdere which cost 180 try/night for two people in March 2021. I don’t know of any other accommodation in İkizdere. I’m pretty sure you won’t find any formal accommodation in Petran (which is often called Meşeköy). Winter access there might be difficult unless you ski in. Did you read my blog about the access issues on the north side of the mountains?

      Roads aren’t plowed very high, and finding accommodation up high is also a problem. İkizdere is way down at 600m.

      I see that Sivrikaya is on the main Ovit Tunnel road. We must have driven by it, but I have no idea what’s there.

      My idea for going back to that area would be to ski into Başköy with food and camping gear for a number of days and make a base there. From the map it looks like there’s lots of good terrain for skiing, but I don’t really know ’cause I haven’t been there either in winter or summer. Good luck.

  5. Georges says:

    Looks great !

    Around what time of the year was that? Is january usually a good time? Any idea of the current conditions?

    Cheers !

    • Bryan Keith says:

      Hi Georges,

      I have no idea what the conditions are like this year. I would say January is early. I have had the best conditions in March. I don’t know of anyone who’s gone this year. You can ask İsmail (Bayram) (+90 538 306 4564) who runs the pansiyon in Olgunlar, but he’s not (much of) a skier. He speaks Turkish and passable French. You can try messaging (WhatsApp) in English. Sorry for the late response. I was six weeks with spotty internet and little electricity.

  6. Markus says:

    Hi Brian,

    i have been reading with great interest your reports on skiing in the kackar / erzurum and aladaglar. As I am planning a skiing roadtrip from Munich, Germany to Georgia, i wondered what do you think is the best time to aim for skiing in turkey? I thought the month of march would be the best bet, but what do you say from your experience? Is that too late in the season for the kackar?

    Cheers, Markus

    • Bryan Keith says:

      Hi Markus,

      No, March is not too late. In fact if I had to guess months ahead, I would say March is the best month to try for the Kaçkar. I don’t know what the conditions are like this year. Sorry for a bit of a late response. I didn’t have much internet for the passed six weeks. 🙂

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