Tamam tamam

Photographer and squadron member Guillaume Saenz, ski patroller Jérémy Gey and Réza Nassif, all from the Pyrenees, set off for Turkey on an end-of-season migration eastward. They took a gamble on April conditions but it paid off with snowy mountains as far as the eye could see and not a soul in sight.

Guillaume Saenz

After months of trying to decide between Turkey, Georgia and Iran, we ended up setting our sights on Turkey for our final trip of the season and, more precisely, the Caucasus where snow conditions seemed best.
Off we went on our 26-hour journey including a stop in Istanbul where we spent a rough first night. It didn’t really matter though because our thoughts had already turned to the mountains, excited to explore this sector of the Caucasus.
On our second flight to Erzurum in the northwest we got our first glimpse of snow-covered peaks. The change of scenery was stark but the Turkish hospitality and cuisine with their famous kebabs was right up our street.
After 2 hours on the bus, we arrived in the little town of Yusufeli where our host Ismaël came to pick us up in his 4×4 and take us to his lodge in the village of Olgunlar at the base of the Kackar range at 2100m altitude. This would be our base camp for the week.

Guillaume Saenz

The next day, after a meal worthy of a top restaurant (this would become par for the course) and a good night’s sleep, we put our skis on just outside the lodge. With the time difference, the sun was rising around 5:30am and with the spring temperatures we had to get up early to hit the best window and score the best snow.

The pleasant ascent brought us up through some spectacular landscapes and we must have been the only ones up there within a hundred miles! Our first turns made us smile even more and thanks to the excellent spring snow, our trip had started well. All week long we toured between 900-1500m and 5-6 hours a day before going back to relax in the lodge, the perfect holiday.
In the afternoon, it was too hot to ski and we spent our time studiously preparing the next tour. Ismaël was a fantastic host and we talked about the best spots, stories from his village, his country and his family…It was a real pleasure to stay with him, lost deep in the mountains.

During the week we had all kinds of conditions with snowfalls breaking up the sun tanning sessions on the veranda. It was a bit like back home in the Pyrenees…
The touring options there are colossal and it would take you several seasons to explore the area. After spotting a nice couloir, Jérémy and Reza decided to take their chances and set off really early and hope for good weather. After a good bit of walking and a ridgeline traverse, they reached the top of a couloir we decided to name “Ismael couloir”. Jackpot! A 45° slope with 20 cm of still-cold snow- a miracle…

Guillaume Saenz

As the days passed, the southerly wind severely melted the snowpack. Now our tours were starting with skis on our backs instead of our feet…Thankfully we still managed to find stuff to do to keep us smiling.

And you need a smile out there when the rain and wind pick up! The snow was holding up from 2500-2600m and even though there was still stuff to do at altitude, we decided to follow Ismaël’s advice and to finish our trip with a visit to Cappadocia.

After an 11-hour bus ride into the heart of Turkey, we arrived in this magnificent area famous for its troglodyte villages, Christian heritage, semi-arid landscapes and, these days, hundreds of hot air balloons taking off early in the morning. Once again, we were totally blown away, mesmerised by one of the most beautiful sunrises we’d ever seen. Jérémy had read some articles on a famous volcano near here, Mount Erciyes. Unfortunately when we got there the resort under the volcano was closed and the local police wouldn’t allow us to take the névé to try for the summit.

Guillaume Saenz

In the end we spent a fabulous week in these exceptional mountains, pristine and devoid of human influence. Even though we hope that this place stays wild, we would highly recommend this unusual destination for a ski trip. The potential is endless and it’s not expensive for such high-quality food, lodgings and, above all, skiing!

Journey info::
Flight: Bilbao – > Istanbul / Istanbul -> Erzurum
Bus : Erzurum (directement depuis l’aéroport) -> Yusufeli
4×4 : Yusufeli -> Olgunlar (Ismaël vient vous chercher)

Lodge : Kackar Pansyion site : http://www.kackar.net/
Kckar Pansyion Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kackarpansiyonn/

 

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