Portugal: first impressions

My first unexpected impression of Portugal was before we even left Turkey.  We think of Europe as being just around the corner — many people fly from Germany to Antalya for a long weekend, for example.  I was surprised by how long and expensive the flights were from Antalya to Faro.  Then I started looking at distances: well, Antalya is closer to Dushanbe (Tajikistan) or Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) or even Bergen (Norway) than it is to Faro in southern Portugal!  It ended up taking 21 hours to get from our house in Antalya to a nice camping spot quite near the Faro airport.

IMG_20190319_120141 by bryandkeith on flickr
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Skiing the Kaçkar again

Even though Peter didn’t come on this trip, I have to thank him for making my ski trip happen this year.  Peter initiated an e-mail discussion about potentially skiing together, and that’s what got me thinking about skiing in the first place.  I also have to thank İsmet for actually coming on the trip.  She didn’t make it to Muş, but she did the planning for the Kaçkar portion of the trip.

İsmet arranged for us to stay at the Kaçkar Pansiyon in Olgunlar with İsmail Bayram (not to be confused with İsmail Altunay in Yaylalar) and his family.  I was sorry not to be staying with Osman and Fatma who I’ve stayed with on both my previous winter Kaçkar trips.  However, I called Osman later and learned they weren’t in Olgunlar this winter anyway.  I’ll have to go back in the summer to visit them.

Skiing with İsmet made this trip to the Kaçkar quite different from my others.  Previously our group goals had mostly been to find good snow and make nice turns.  İsmet, however, isn’t really a skier per se, although she can certainly ski better than I can.  She’s a ski mountaineer.  She’s also a professional mountain guide for tourists, and since this was her first ski trip to Olgunlar, she was interested in checking out routes for clients, especially routes that go the summit of something.

Another thing that made this trip different from the others was that the snow wasn’t as good — there was less of it, and the snow was very hard and wind-blown up high.  For example, Megan and I casually skied right up to the top of Kanucar (aka Hanucar?) Pass when we were there a few years ago.  This year, in an attempt to reach the pass, İsmet took off her skis and still couldn’t make it up the pass kicking steps into the steep hard snow.  We had at least three instances of this — getting right up to within a few meters of the ridge and not being able to actually reach the ridge because of a vertical wall of very hard snow.

Even with these poor Kaçkar conditions I managed to find stretches of pretty good snow for three of the five days we skied.  İsmet even described it as the best five days of snow she’s ever experienced.  Like I said, she’s not really a skier.  😉

On the first day we skied to Nastaf (aka Hastaf) Yaylası and headed up the big drainage from there, the third of the three big north-facing valleys from Olgunlar.

IMG_20190212_100201 by bryandkeith on flickr
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Erzurum, gateway to some of Turkey’s most breath-taking scenery

In order to get from Muş to the Kaçkar Mountains, once again I came through and had to spend the night in Erzurum.  I’ve counted that I’ve been to the city nine times now.  I first came here with Sage in 2012, and we started our cycling tour with the mountains NE of the city in Tortum İlçesi.  A month or so later Sage flew back to the US from Erzurum, and I headed NW from the city to the incredibly lush mountains between Erzurum and Trabzon.  Peter, Amy, Scott, and Stephanie flew to Erzurum for our Kaçkar skiing trip, and Megan did the same thing a year later, again for skiing in the Kaçkar Mountains.

IMG_20190217_150710 by bryandkeith on flickr

For all the times I’ve been to Erzurum this was the first time that I’ve seen so many tourists.  It seemed like group after group was coming to visit Erzurum’s most famous attraction, Çifte Minareli Medrese.  Is that because they’ve finally removed the scaffolding that I’ve had to look at every other time I’ve been here?
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Skiing in Muş: a backcountry guide

Warning: unless you’re really going to ski in Muş, there’s probably way too much boring detail in this post.  Just skip the text in that case, and check out the photos.  I think there are some decent ones.

A number of years ago in the summer I was on a bus that made a brief stop at the bus station in Muş.  I got out, looked around, and was amazed to see such high, not-too-steep, north-facing mountains so close to the city center.  I thought, “I bet you could come here in the winter and backcountry ski directly from the city!”  Back in Antlaya, an internet search revealed… nothing.  Asking around to friends, acquaintances, and even ski touring guides in Turkey also revealed… nothing.  That’s why I figure there’s a need for a backcountry ski guide to Muş.  Unfortunately, for three of the four days that I skied in Muş the visibility was very poor so I was able to explore (and see!) less than I had hoped.

Visibility up high (above the inversion) the first day:

IMG_20190206_091632 by bryandkeith on flickr

Typical visibility during my other three days of skiing:
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Skiing in Antalya again

It’s hard for me to get motivated to go skiing in Antalya.  It’s a long drive, and the snow is usually not very good.  This year, however, I got out twice.  The first time Seb convinced me to go to Saklıkent, the closest ski resort to Antalya.  I’d been up to Saklıkent on my bike, but I’d never been there in the winter.  I’m not too keen on ski resorts, but it’ll be a powder day, Seb insisted, and I figured it’s good for me to get out and see something new every once in a while.

Top of the lift at Saklıkent.  You can see the observatory on Bakırlı Dağ in the top right of the photo. by bryandkeith on flickr
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