Thursday, February 3, 2011

Now exploring the south end of Gulmarg!

You have to know that Gulmarg 'resort' consist of two gondola that are link one after the other. The first stage is giving access to a rather treed area with not much vertical. The second stage is the one giving you access to 1000m vertical of pure alpine ridges.
The northern end of the mountain gives access to a terrain that easily end up to the gondola. The southern end gives access to some nice north facing ridges that mostly drains down towards a small village call Drang.
The weather on our first day didn't change much from what we had experienced in Gulmarg since our arrival: warm and sunny. We kept working on our physical conditions and hike everyday to mid-station.
After exploring the north end of Gulmarg, we figured we could explore the southern end of the mountain. The access to the very end of the south ridge is quite straight forward since you can ski down without much effort (beside avoiding the rocks!) We bumped into a guide that called us a taxi that would be waiting for us at the end of the run. We were then all set to make this 2000m vertical journey!
We skied down the very last gully. The snow was good and we didn't connect much with rocks giving us some confidence back! There was quite a lot of tracks as it weeks everyone skiing in Gulmarg as done the village run! Between the rocks, there was more than enough space to make nice turns!
The first 1500m were really nice but the 500m left were a totally different story! The thin snowpack and the warm temperatures of the past days have turn the run into a crunchy-tree-avoiding-rocky run.
Nevertheless, I was quite glad to have try this run. I don't think you necessary need a guide to run this (even if this is what most people are doing!) since you pretty much have to follow the tracks. On a regular good snow year, you can ski all the way down to Drang.
The snow was so good on the south side that we decided to try it again but hike our way back to the resort. As on our previous run, we hit some great snow on the top of the run. About 800m down, we strapped our ski on our back and start hiking around the ridge. We surprisingly ended up at the top of a nice little gully facing east and totally untracked. The turns were some of the smoothest so far in Gulmarg!
After skiing down this little gully, we slapped our skins and start to hike to the next ridge. We again ended up on the top of some nice looking gully! Even if it was getting a bit late in the day, we decided to give it a go.
After some smooth and soft turns, we again hiked around an other ridge!
This was the one bringing us back to the plateau where the gondola is! An hour or so later, we were finally back to our hotel after a strenuous 7 hours pretty much non-stop trip! This little adventure just brought to my mind how big the terrain in Gulmarg is!

Today was a much quiet day! After our daily hike to the mid-station, the clouds rolled in at the top of the mountain and as we got to the top, the winds where howling and the visibility was really poor.
We made it to the nearby Afarwat south bowl where we linked turns all the way down. 
Since the second stage of the gondola was closed, we figured it would be a good time to have a little beacon practice.
The snow that is falling at the moment is quite wet.

The freezing level is supposed to drop down in the coming days as more precipitation are supposed to hit the area! I hope to see if the legend of Gulmarg can live up to it's reputation!


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