We left Tignes at 05:00 with lots of luggage! My patience is limited with the queueing in airports after the months of living in the mountains. But Rich has enough patience for both of us. On the runway the plane needed rebooting a few times, so we sat for 2 hours waiting. Then missed the connecting flight from Istanbul to Bishkek. Whoops! The rest of the team headed for the yurts, while we bought a turkish visa and caught them up. After the transfer driver having an issue with a snow bank, we made it into camp at 6AM for a few hours sleep.
After a strong maize porridge breakfast and some fried eggs (4 for Ian, every day), we set out for the first tour of the trip. Skinning 600m ascent through stunning trees decorated in brilliant white snow with the low warm sun glaring through the gaps. We took a long shallow route back to camp (5km) to assess the snowpack on various aspects of slope. On arrival in Jergalan village we bumped into the friendly local guys who delivered us back to the Yurts at 50mph on the back of skidoos! Sauna, Dinner, Whisky, Bed.
So, it's best to rehydrate pre-9PM as going for a wee in the night is a cold affair. The guy that comes in teh yurt to stoke the fire every 3 hours through the night has been aptly named 'Bram' by Mark. A hearty breakfast was dispatched by all, followed by a daily risk assessment filled out by Terry and Rich, then we set out skiining up a treeline to shelter from heavy snow fall. Camp dogs followed us all the way, hoping and skipping over our skis to get ahead. Skied some incredible champagne powder whilst Rich piloted the drone above us. Then crashed it into a huge tree. The dogs led us to the correct tree, and Terry climbed up to get the brand new aircraft back. Back for lunch.
PM tour was along a windy ridge with a breakable cornice. The wind abruptly stopped and allowed for another top 10 skis of all time. Sauna, Dinner, Rugby.
We packed up last night, and moved to Tyup Yurt camp this morning via a skidoo transfer. It's 10km away. Mark and Colin struggled on the backs of the snowmobiles, while Callum, Ian, Rich and Terry towed along on ropes behind (which turned out to be more comfortable and less scarey when they tipped over!). Rich fell after about 3 meters, then got his act together! An amazing journey across a distant col in morning light and bitter cold. Camp dog followed us, and happily for us the cook and stoker came too.
The camps feels very remote and silent under a billion star sky. The first ski tour set the scene, in this km wide U-shaped valley... sublime powder snow and gentle gradient slopes. Ideal terrain. We are one of the first groups to ever ski tour here!
The cook lady knocked up some jam doughnuts from scratch using very minimal kitchen facitilies. Mindblowingly great food so far. With the pressure rising, and good forecasts from Rich's emergency Garmin device, we headed up a forested area of the map. The group split to explore both sides of a large truncated spur. The trees trap all the good snow here, they are very mature forests and therefore hugely spaced out trees, leaving clear lines for skiers to track hundreds of meters of fresh powder and pillow lines. So good that after lunch Callum, Ian, Rich and Terry headed up for another lap. On return the yurt was about 35 degrees, Terry fell asleep and nearly died like a dog in a hot car. There are also saunas at all of the camps.
Wednesday was a crisp clear morning. Danni and Slava arrived with a spare Sat Phone for us, and some supplies. The dog ran 10km behind them on Skidoos, and stayed at the remote camp with us for the next 2 nights. We toured south for 3km across a huge ancient moraine, then gained height at a leisurely pace up to 2800m. Then got possibly the ski of the trip. 3 long pitches through trees, then a 2km powder run at very low angle, back to the Yurts. After some beef stew and tea/coffee, we headed out again to hit the 400m high treeline opposite the yurts, more pillows and fun terrain to ski. After some dinner and Cognac, we played cards until late (9:30PM)!
Our final day involved another snowmobile transfer back to the village Yurts, over the same increadible pass and plateau. This time all team members were on ropes behind rather than having to jump off the seat every now and then! After a second breakfast, we toured south of the camp above the trees to 2800m again. The ski down was more of the same, super light dry powder on a more firm base this time. Then skiing the north face straight back onto the camp road. A great ski to finish the trip.
We walked around the befuggled old village and checked out what movement there was. We ate a chicken dinner like the winners we are, then played cards and finished the smokey whiskys off.
We packed up and headed out of the yurt camp in 4x4s and snowmobiles to meet the minivan to head back to Bishkek. After 2 hours to break up the trip, we stopped off at some fairly random hot springs around the Issyk-Kul lake. Once sufficiently pruned, we jumped back in the bus and went for a service station lunch of some high calibre. Random bread stuffed with yummy stuff was a lottery in which everyone's a winner.
We checking into a nice hotel in the capital, found a luxury tea bar/pub and drank 12% abv beers whilst waiting for the restaurant.
Dinner was accompanied by local dancing and music that played the theme tune to our gorging on multiple meals for 5. Early flights the next day went smoothly.