The second stage finally opened and we were able to finally get the so precious ticket! The most common way to go in Gulmarg is to buy single ride tickets at 250 roupies (5$) for a single ride, it doesn't cost to much!
As one would have expected, some kind of Chinese downhill took place as the first people on the gondola have been able to made it up! We were able to get some good turns, but the meter or so that had fallen in the past days have been quite carried around and packed up by the wind. Consequently, we were skiing in only about 4-5inches of fresh.
Since the avy level was quite high, we stayed close to the resort. On our last run, we had the chance to bump into Brian, which happen to be in charge of the patrol. We venture to a ridge slightly out of bounds and were able to get some our best turns of the day in!
The following day was nice, clear and without much wind. I was still quite concern about the avalanche, so we stuck to pretty much the same run Brian took us down.
We then bump into Justin Abbiss and Robert McGilliguddys (exactly like the Doctor who invented the Fireball!!!) who are both here to give a hand to Brian with the patrol.
After a little hike and some traversing on the way down, the received a call from Brian concerning an avalanche that happened in a nearby bowl. One person was missing. They quitted us and rushed down towards mid-station to help out with the rescue organization.
The full story can be found on the Gulmarg Snow Safety page, but to make a long story short, one skier triggered a class 3 avalanche that carried him for 300-400m and down a 15m waterfall. The skier was fully burried, but he was rescued by his skiing partner and miraculously was unharmed. The lucky guy only lost his poles! His skis stays on the whole time and didn't even broke his legs or injured him in any way!
Nevertheless, this call certainly took our stoke level down quite a bit! We stuck to our plans and went down to the paper trees. This was the first time I was really hitting those trees. Some part of them was quite tight, but a bit lower down, it opened up and we were able to cruise down.
We skinned up and made another laps before heading down to hit the bottle of Jim Beam!
The following morning, as I was having breakfast with Robert, he informed me that he would be going up and digging pits to try to see the weak layer that failed in the involvement. Since I am not a big fan of digging pits, I figured, it would be interesting to see how the pros are doing!
We spend more than half of the day with him. It was also quite interesting to ski around their usual bombing route. This was certainly some adventure skiing as some south facing aspects are really bushy and rocky! This must be quite a challenge to ski this route when the avalanche danger is quite high and staying safe.
Anyway, it was certainly quite instructive and I was quite glad to have spend that day with Robert and M. Anward, a local Kashmiri ski patrol. We took off and went for some skiing. Since an other weather system bringing snow was coming, we figured it might be the last time we could make it up the second stage for this trip. The clouds had moved in and definitively cut both the visibility and our motivation for another run.
Last night was quite interesting. As we were trying to sleep, we heard people screaming and yelling at each other. After a little while, I went out to ask them to shut up. I then found 3 russians trying to hold down an other drunk russian guy who was pissed drunk. Unfortunately for the 3 fellows, the man was really strong and not quite willing to let them win. Anyway, after some time, they walked him back to his room. To be sure he wouldn't come out, they locked him in his room. He was so vodka-intoxicated, that he broke the window and jumped off it…. He didn't get hurt and didn't do much after though….
Today, the stormed had moved in. The second stage of the gondola was closed. The snow was falling much dryer than what we had experienced with the previous storm. We figured a run down towards Babareshi would be a good idea. Babareshi is a village located down of Gulmarg but still quite much higher than Tangmarg. Going to the north end of the plateau where Gulmarg is located gave us a view of quite much things we haven't seen yet, like the big army base, the Indian Mountaineering school and some more poma lifts (for beginners run). We took the road that was going around the children park. When the roads ends up, you keep walking for 2 minutes and you are now at the top of the run.
Unfortunately, it was now around noon at the initial nice and light powder was now quite wet. The run down to Babareshi is quite steep and the beginning but quickly becomes flat. Since I was still concern about the snowpack we stuck some treed ridges.
The first taxi that came by us was filled up with people staying at the same other as we where. We jumped in their taxi and made it down to Tangmarg for lunch and some more pastry from the SnowBakery!
So here I am sitting in my hotel room and watching outside some quite nice snow falling…. It is fairly frustrating not to be able to make it up the second stage when it is snowing. It is even more frustrating not to be able to hit the usual back up run down from Gulmarg since the snow level is not low enough…
We are still here for about 4 days, so we'll see what happen!