Sunday, August 18, 2013

Website offline due to redevelopment

Hi all,

It has been a long time ago since we have been on the blog. Really because the website took over this role. I will be back on the blog as much as time allows as the website is offline at the moment due to redevelopment. We hope to have it running by October. We will keep you informed. In the meantime we wish you happy adventures and you know you can always contact us by mail: mountainmindsint@hotmail.com




Friday, January 8, 2010

Davut Dagi

 

The day after our return from the mini Kackar Expedition we were were treated with some fine surprises! First, we were woken up by the sun beaming through the window and secondly, during our tour this day into the Davut Dagi range, which lies to the S/SE of Yaylalar, we had the most amazing experience of watching a massive bear climbing a big slope to the col in front of us! See video above. The second half is better and a bit closer. Watch how big its paws are, how fast it moves and how it turns its head around to look at us!

The whole week we were talking about the small possibility of encountering one and were hoping for some good luck after seeing so many tracks everywhere… big tracks! And then ..there it was, moving fast and turning his head around towards us.. it was obvious that the animal wanted to get away from us! Later when we got back from the trip, the hostel owner explained us that this bear crossed the street in the village and apparently does so on a regular basis. It moves between the mountains on the north side and the south side of the village. There are two, a couple, and sometimes 3, when there is a young. I think it has been my best wilderness experience I have had till so far.  

The ranges on the south side of Yaylalar are used a lot for heli skiing and we could understand why!! Big open slopes, where you could cruise your little hard out. Nice gullies too! The mountains were still thick in snow but this time of the year (April) it is getting warm quickly and the snow tends to be heavy and wettish. For skiing powder the best time is February/March. Touring probably best in March. The mountains in Turkey are high, most higher than 3000. This time of the year, lower down, the mountains are really getting stripped of the snow which means that you have to do a bit of walking to reach the snowline in some areas.

To get into the Davut Dagi we followed the gorge of the Mahlen Deresi until we reach the snowline where we clambered on the steep left bank and continued our way up. The slopes are big and steep on either side of the Mahlen Deresi and hold a lot of snow and when avalanched leads into quite a man trap. An area to take care in.

 

 

 

 

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 We toured to just below the col to the right of Sarkinet Tepesi (3283m) but as the snow conditions weren’t good and views of very recent avalanches were surrounding us we stopped on a little platform at about 3000m. Andoni and Iker were persistent and continued to the col. We decided to slowly start our descent and when we all gathered together on the way down it turned out that Iker had broken his ski below the col and thus couldn’t descend skiing….apperently it was a very long walk down!!!!

 

 

As for us the descent was a delight…another sweet Turkish delight!!! A magnificent area, worth while a return!

 

 

After returning to the Camyuva pension we gathered our kit together, had some lunch and bought some supplies from the local shop which also belonged to owners of the Camyuva and started our descent down the valley. The plan was to stop in Barhal on the way down and do a route the next day to Altiparmak (3501m). We certainly stopped in Barhal and we even got to go to Altiparmak….well some of us!!

 

The route down the valley is rough, very rough and since our hire cars weren’t particularly suitable, very low and nothing near anything off- roady or 4 wheel drive, (but mostly unsuitable for rally driving), the route was quite an adventure. Especially when after only 10 minutes into the trip one of the cars was leaving a trail of thick oil behind. We flagged the other troop down to stop and basically it didn’t look good…not much help on these roads either... So we decided to tow the other car up and down the gorge…I say up and down as the problem here is that the route doesn’t properly descent and so we couldn’t just drive the car without motor in neutral down…we had to tow a lot of up, followed by a lot of down and sharp turns on a one way off-road track next to a raging river in a big gorge….. whoopee! Our towing system wasn’t of the best either… and so we added some extra damaged to the car, oepppss. What did they say again about insurance at the car hire?? Did anyone understand that part of the conversation…ehhh can anyone read the papers? Nooop, and nooop!

 

We got as far as Barhal and thought that surely in Barhal we could find a mechanic to sort a ‘minor’ problem. No way man..instead we were so naive and thought that on of the young local shop keeper dudes was really helpful and was offering us (in Turkish) the help of his friend..who of course was a mechanic. But our friend didn’t know when he would arrive…tomorrow morning mechanic…no problem… and then he showed us his brothers teahouse!! So that is were we ended up and guess what…Next morning no mechanic and of course our little friend knew of nothing, well that is as far as our Turkish understanding goes, ha,ha. Well at least we did something beneficial for the local community!

Next up: Altiparmak

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See you there!!! XXX Chris

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Kackar

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The evening before our departure for our attempt on Kackar we spent preparing our plan of action, food and gear and trying the cooker. Just as well we did the latter as the bloody thing wasn’t working well and we ended up borrowing a gas stove of the owners of the Camyuva pension.

The next morning came nearly to early but once we were all up and away we started to wake up pronto! The weather was great, if anything, to warm, and we were hopeful of a good 3 days.

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We started our trip from Yaylalar (1875m) in the direction of Olgunlar (2076m). This village is one of the many summer yaylas or pastures. The locals move here in the summer to let the cattle graze and it even has some refuges. In spring however it is full of other animals like wolves and bear…tracks everywhere and quite spooky. One of the old locals we passed tried to explain us to be careful… he was on his way with a pair of binoculars to spy wildlife!

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We continued our way through the steep valley trampling over avalanche debris in the direction of Dilberduzu  (2882), the mains summer campsite for trekkers. Our base camp was just above it at 3000m. The trek through the valley was stunning. We passed another big summer pasture, Hastaf, which in summer also provides a good campsite. In winter you have to be very careful in these places regards to avalanches.The valley climbs gradually, with big slopes on either side and long.

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We gathered at Hastaf and had a snack, enjoying sunshine and breath taking scenery.

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Arriving at our base camp felt great. It was such a beautiful spot. Digging our protection came first and after we had lunch followed by the start of an afternoon explore. We split in two groups. Patxi, Alberto, Unai and myself went into the direction of Soganh Dagi but we got as far as the saddle, Hevek Ceciti. The snow wasn’t great and kept breaking away underneath us but it was a nice way to finish the day especially as the skiing down was good.

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Once back, we were all starving and cold..the weather was deteriorating quite fast! We brewed Chai and got cooking. We shared one pot between all and as one was eating the other was looking on in hope there would be enough left…especially Iker!!

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The night was long and we didn’t sleep well as the weather was horrendous and we were worried the tent would snow in, blow away or a wolves/bear would come and sniff our food and eat us all! Quite a strange fear. We are so used to being safe in Europe..

The next morning we left early into the mist and coming snowstorm. Quite tensed at times since the map we had was poor and the visibility was so bad.

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The weather got worse and the gale picked up. We had split into two groups and by the time we got back together passed and above the lake of Deniz Golu at about 3600m, the weather was so bad that we were not sure to continue. In front of us was a steep descent into nowhere, with on the left steep cliffs and on the right indefinable terrain. Andoni, Alberto and Iker said they wanted to give it a go and continue. Patxi, Unai and myself turned round and boy was I glad! The weather deteriorated more and on our GPS we made our way down into the soup to camp.

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Once at camp the weather got even worse and we packed up half of the kit and left the other half as shelter for the rest of the team. We were worried about them but decisions were made and so we had to leave them to it.

 

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The ski back down was tedious and involved a lot of pushing! How glad were we to see Yaylalar.

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The rest of the team arrived safely home later that evening but they told us that they had quite an epic and were glad to be back safely. After their descend into nowhere it was quite uncertain where exactly they were and they decided to start to climb a steep rocky ridge. As the gales were growing in strength, it didn’t look to bright and they decided to turn back. A long way back!!! We were not the only ones happy to be back ….At Camyuva they were awaiting us locitos!

 

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None of us made it to the summit this time but now we have another good reason to come back!!!!

Next up: Davut Dagi!

Cheerioooooooo Christel

 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Just a little view back to our encounter with the turkish army..the wild ride down! This was filmed in secrecy!

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Do you feel comfortable?.. do I look comfortable?...Me, oh me I am fine...eeehhhh they certainly take the direct line down, don't they?!

Que piensas? Frenas? Aqui? A la nieve?

Que? Yo nerviosa? Yo no, que dices, yo estoy muy, muy, comfortable aqui, no veas?

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Halblamos, hablamos de Bolamendi, como se llama esta montana laguna? Kargapazari Daglari, ehh como? Kargapa... puedes decir otra vez un poco mas claro? Tenemos problemas con las orejas entiendes, no, no vas a entender porque no hablamos tu idioma, pero es egual tu dices otra vez mas, y muy, muy claro...Kargapazari Daglari...oso ondo, Eskerrik asko laguna estas al camera!!!!!

Ehhhhh, tu, amigo de Bolamendi, es no problema, puedes dejar nosotros aqui, aqui esta muy bien..esquiamos el reste, que dices? Porque non? Que dices? Gendarme????

Hey if I fall forward on top of you and head bud you it aint because I don't like you, really, it is just a bit of a bumpy ride?????

Monday, October 12, 2009

And another wee taster..when the sun was still shining!

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What a day...little did it resemble the day that followed....

Just a taster of the next part in the Turkish Delight Adventure.....

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Kackar Basecamp at Dilberduzu at 3000m

It was just a littlebit freezing my friend....

Just keep brewing pots of Chai...

Chai is good, Chai is your friend!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Yusufeli, the friendly bull fight and the entry to Kackar

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Driving in the direction of Yusufeli after leaving our army adventure behind we passed some amazing scenery. We followed the Tortum river, which was flowing high and rapid with melt water. It passes through Tortum Lake, which was formed by a landslide a few centuries ago. North of the Lake you can visit the spectacular Tortum falls.The Tortum confluences with the Oltu river and the famous Coruh river. The Coruh is rated as one of the world’s top 10 rivers for rafting.It became famous by hosting the 4th World Watersports championship and then the international kayaking championships in 2005 and 2007. It is very consistent and the rapids follow each other in quick succession. One of the most famous rapids is King Kong in the Yusufeli gorge. Consistently grade 3 plus quite a few grade 4 to 5 rapids leave you with a rafting trip not to forget!

The valley of the Coruh river, especially between Ispir and Yusufeli, is bordered by dramatic heavily eroded sandstone rocks. They continue west from Yusufeli for about 30km. Our journey was to continue north of Yusufeli to the village of Altiparmak Barhal and then south west to Yaylalar, which was going to be our base to get in to the Kackar mountains.

We arrived in Yusufeli at night and since we weren’t sure whether there would be possibilities for sleeping higher up in the valley we decided to stop here for the night. We found some great accommodation at the Greenpiece camping where you have the choice between a tree house or rooms…since it was still pretty fresh out there we settled in the rooms.

As we had discovered earlier, there was some sort of festival going on in Town and we decided to go down to check it out. There was tremendous atmosphere out there and as we found out there was a national friendly bull fighting festival the next day just a little bit higher in the valley. The festival is held every year round the 25th-27th April and absolutely a must when you are going to be in the area.

Yusufeli

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Yusufeli has got a real good feel to it. It is a village with a heart and there is always a buzz. Unfortunately Yusufeli and some other villages in the Coruh valley are planned to be flooded as part of dam construction for electricity. The inhabitants are going to be relocated in the mountains. This plan has been in the pipeline for about 20 years now and many say it won’t be long before it will be pulled through. In our eyes as visitors we saw it as an incredible sad prospect. The area will loose it’s heart and people. We spoke to quite a few locals and their views are actually really mixed. Some of them are very sad and see it as a destruction of their community. Others told us that since they have been messed around so much now over the last years, they just want to hear a clear decision so that they can plan their lives around it, whether that would mean moving or staying, it doesn’t matter, they just need a decision. Many young people would like to start a business involving tourism but they are afraid that once all set up they will have to leave so nobody is prepared to develop anymore or put money into the area. We hope the decision will mean that the Yusufeli community will stay alive as it is the main hub of the valley!

Different generations in Yusufeli

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After a kebab dinner we watched some of the local festivities, music and dance (it was broadcasted on the Telli too!) and went back to our doss for the night.

The next morning half of the team went off to go touring whilst Unai, Patxi and myself went to visit the local bull fight! It was absolutely amazing. We were the only foreigners…There were a lot of people, and I mean a lot!! All of them Turkish from all over! It was a privilege to witness such a gathering of people and such a festivity and feel of community spirit. The viewers had come from allover as early as possible to rig their own shelter and find the best position. Some of the constructions were frightening ( health and safety ain’t quite the same as over here!). But people seemed to be content and not in the least botherd. Young and old seem to be no different from each other if it comes down to bravery and agility to climb up and down the rocks! It was a display of color and culture that I have never really witnessed before.

Yusufeli Bull Wrestling

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Since we were the only foreigners, we were an attraction in itself, especially as we were walking around with our cameras trying to capture as much of the spirit of the festival as possible.

We were interviewed by the Turkish news for television. Unfortunately we never got to see it but it was funny as anything. The interviewer and camera man didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Turkish!

The bull fight was quite different too! Most spectators that were sitting around the arena, were in reality sitting more or less in the arena which added somewhat to he excitement. Now I am not a fan of bull fights but this was not a normal fight. The bulls actually don’t fight. They get left in the arena and the one that makes the first approach wins the fight. Immediately after the approach the owners catch the bulls and take them out of the arena, which possibly is the most exciting part. The owners don’t stimulate the bulls to fight. They just wait and capture. The public that sits around ,or, for that matter in the arena has got indeed a very exciting seat!

The Bulls, the owners, the arena

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We spend the morning at the bull fight and then continued our journey to Yaylalar….an adventure in itself!!! It is a very long way along a very interesting ‘road’ especially with our cars!

Scenery

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Absolute stunning scenery makes up for the intense drive. On numerous of occasions we were building a drive way to the rivers that crossed our way and the bridges that we crossed didn’t particularly feel any safer. On several occasions we had to stop the car as we hit a rock..and another one… and another one..or we heard strange noises etc. Our way back down from Yaylalar later in our trip proved to be even more exciting!

And our drive continued

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We arrived in Yaylalar late afternoon and bumped into the other half of the group who were just coming down the hillside into the top of the village. The village looked like sleepy hollow…no one to be seen and as silent as the night! The guys told us that they had seen some sort of pension but our hopes weren’t that high that it would be open. Yaylalar is incredibly remote and the road leading into it not easy. Many times of the year the village is disconnected from the outside world like many of the villages in the branching valleys.However this adds to it’s beautiful character. It is situated in an absolute stunning place!! The views of the surrounding mountains the high alpine type pastures, the bear that trample through the village, it all gives you a sense of tremendous peace and wilderness.It has become one of my favourite places I have visited during my travels.

Once everyone was reunited we went to find the pension. It is called the Camyuva pension and the best place we stayed during our trip! We were the only ones that stayed there and was not really open when we arrived but there was no hesitation, we were welcomed immediately. The pension is owed by two brothers Ismail and Naim. They are wonderful. The fire was ignited for us, a fabulous extensive dinner was cooked for us and the breakfast was something else! No English was spoken but we didn’t need any specific language to communicate, it is so much fun and such an adventure to communicate with drawings, hand signals etc!

The pension has got super rooms. You can even choose between en suite, a normal room or a small bungalow. If you ever think about going this way, make sure you don’t miss out on this experience. For us it was luxury in remoteness before our 3 day expedition started. Also in Yaylalar there are a few shops. The only one that was open and probably the most extensive, was owed by Naim, one of the owners of the pension. The food is basic but if you want fresh things and you ask for it in advance, you can get fresh bread, vegetables, fruit, etc. Turkey is one of the few countries that lives pretty much of it’s own produce. The variety is enormous and all food really delicious. However in many places you do find yourself eating some form of Kebap and the meat dishes don’t offer a lot of variety. For me no problemo…quite like the kebap!

Yaylalar

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The area round Yaylalar and the Kackar are quite famous now in summer for trekkers, but in the in the winter, despite there being some Heli skiing, you can’t find yourself pretty much alone. Most of the heli skiing is operated by Russian and German groups and they stay in the Camyuva. There is no such thing as mountain rescue here although Ismail and Naim are a contact base and they keep their eyes out for the people that go out in the mountains.

Self sufficiency out there is vital, compass and GPS are a must and the map that is available of the Kackar ( by Zsiga Gyorgy ) is, as far as Turkish mountain maps go, a good companion. Also be prepared for true wilderness as wolves and bear roam freely and in abundance!

More information on routes and trekking you can find in the book ‘The Kackar’ by Kate Clow. This book is really written for summer trekking but provides some excellent information and also gives you GPS points on the routes.

Stay tuned for the next part in the Turkish Delight adventure…. to follow soon: The Kackar expedition and our trip into the Davut Dagi