Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Exploring Gudauri's awesome backcountry

We stuck around Gudauri for experimenting a bit more the slackcountry possibilities. The température haven’t really dropped down since the last snow storm and it has been relatively warm.

It has been more and more of a struggle to be able to find the nice snow between the windcrust and suncrust.
On our last day up Mt. Bidara, we saw a good north facing aspect just off from the chairlift serving the top of Mt Sadzele. The run lay just short of the Kobi pass and by the turns we were able to witness from a short distance, it looked like a great plan!

So we took the main chairlift up, then skin up for about 10 minutes (to save 4$) and catch the last lift up towards the top of Mt Sadzele.
The run looked like a classic since we saw a guided group of tourist from Moscow being guided down the same way.
The snow was really nice and steady. The run was not really steep, neither flat…. Just the perfect angle to make some great brainless turns! Actually, we all thought we just had the best backcountry run so far on this trip.
The run is about 1300-1500m vertical all the way down to the road not too far from the village of Kobi. If you venture this way down, you have to either make sure the snow is quite stable, as the last section is in a pretty exposed canyon or stay on skier’s left to avoid the exposed canyon and stay on top of the upper slopes.
Since we didn’t previously arranged a pick up, we had to wait for about 30-45 minutes before being piked up by a group of tourist from Israel who were in Georgia to do some off-road driving. We got back to our hôtel wihtout any problem even if you have to cross some light-less twisting tunnel that are probably some of the most dangerous I’ve ever seen!

We had such a great day that we went straight back to the top of Mt. Sadzele the following day to check out other possibilities.
I told you Gudauri had a bit of an European feeling! They even have monoski here!
A 5 minutes walk from the top of the chairlift give you quite a great view of the slackcountry possibilitites accessible from there. We saw a great north facing slopes just nearby and figure we should at least try it…
That was certainly one of the best ideas we had so far!!
I don’t know why, but it seems that we were just having better days over better days!

We lapped twice the upper part before dropping down towards the road on a 1000+m run.
The snow was mostly really nice and steady all the way down. We almost got back to where we were the day before, but we figured it was a bit too much effort (because we are quite lazy sometimes…)to climb back up to the ramp we skied before.
We figured it wouldn’t be so bad down the canyon….

That was quite a mistake as we had to ski through some breakable crust with melt-and-freeze section….

This time, we didn’t had a taxi booked to pick us up and we had to wait for a bit more than an hour… All the cars that were driving by were either some little car packed all the way to the roof with countlesss people Inside or single travellers in Lexus/Mercedes/Hummer style truck… We even thought at some point getting a taxi, but the fare one guy offered us was just not really reasonable.
We finally got picked up by Sergei who was driving from Russia to shuttle some clients from Gudauri back to the vodka motherland. After a bit of a struggle to get all of our ski on top, we were back towards Gudauri.

We were thinking about doing a similar run on the following day but as we woked up, the ceiling didin’t seemed to be that high… We followed our routine all the way to the top as I kept telling Babiche and my dad that we would be on top of the clouds! As we got to the top, I had to realize, that we were still missing a couple hundreds meter to get above the clouds since we were quite fogged up!

We waited for almost and hour for the weather to clear up but it never happen…
The 3.50$ half liter beer at the mid-station seemed like a better plan that ski down into a thick without!
We had previously planned to leave Gudauri to keep going a bit more north towards the Kazbegi/Gergeti area. We left as planned in a quite packed Lada Niva! Our driver carefully drove us down the Jvari pass avoiding the umonguous pot-holes on the twisting road.
After about an hour, we eventually got to our guesthouse (Nazi’s guesthouse (that’s the owner name… no reference to the crazy mid-century folks…)). Kazbegi seemed to have suffer quite hard from the warm temperature of the past days. There is supposed to be some great ski touring around, but the area can certainly use a bit more snow!
To see what our options were, we figured we deserve a day off and climb to the Tsminda Sameba church who lays around 500-600m above the village. On our hike up, we saw a lot of crumbling residence and quite a lot of really skinny cows. The life certainly looks hard around here for the inhabitants.
The hike is fairly easy. Unfortunately, we didn’t really saw much area of interest for ski touring with the snow coverage we encounter. There is certainly some options for one who would really wish to ski around here, but we felt we were probably about a week or two too late in the season to fully enjoy it.
The church in itself is quite impressive. It was even more impressive when we learn that most of the rock that has been used to build it was from a village 5km away and that everything were brought up here with bulls!
Hopefully for us, it is possible to buy 3liters of Georgian wine for about 10$ (Actually, Georgia claimed to have invented wine-making)! This is another great way to enjoy Georgia!
The coming weather is not much encouraging for the coming days with rain on the forecast!

Looks like winter want to leave the mountains! Hopefully, we’ll be able to get some good corn harvesting!

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