The TDC expeditions trip to eastern Kyrgyzstan this February was a fabulous success. The team flew from Heathrow/Gatwick/Geneva to Bishkek via Istanbul. Then transfered around the Issyk Kul lake, to within 100km of the border with China and Kazakhstan. The area is dominated by mesmerisingly white snowy hills/mountains visible into the extreme distance through broad valley clefts. The ski touring terrain here is dichotomously friendly and gradual whilst maintaining an aura of dramatic remoteness.
“I would unhesitatingly recommend it to anyone with a reasonable level of fitness and skiing ability who would like to experience something beyond the “everyday” off-piste / tour experience. It’s something I will always remember.”– Mark, 2019
The trip is 10 days in total, with 1.5 days travel at either end. On arrival at the yurt camp, around noon, the designated Kyrgyz chef provides hot vegetable and meat (beef, lamb, chicken) stew for lunch. The food is extraordinary and cooked on a wood burner, camping gas stove, and portable oven, with dutiful competence by the chef. Breakfast involves milk porridge of ground either milllet/buckwheat/oats/wheat depending on the morning and availability. With eggs (4 for Ian), fresh bread and coffee/tea. Lunch was usually stew based, although occasionally the chef knocked-up some battered sausage hotdogs, or fresh apricot jam doughnuts!
Dinner frequently involved more stew to start, followed with exeptional rice dishes somewhere between fried rice and biriyani. Then at other times involved almost British meat and vegetables, with delectably dressed salads.
The days in Kyrgyzstan revolved around the ski touring. Mornings can be bitterly cold, with the mercury plummetting to -25 at night. Therefore languid breakfasts, coffees and plans are maintained until around 9:30 AM, ensuring the suns rays and temperatures are sufficient. From the main ‘village’ camp, slopes are immediately accessible, touring from 1.5-3 hours to reach summits through ever-green spruce trees. The snowpack is unconsolidated in Winter and therefore requires gentle slopes (<25 degrees) for descents. This also maximises the number of powder turns to walking time ratio.
On return from the morning skin up and ski down. Hot lunch is prepared by the chef, and glycogen partially restored to any wanting muscles. After lunch is a chance for another daily exploratory, or known skin up one of the bountiful tributary valleys. It would be hard, and sometimes impossible not to get fresh tracks in this area. The snow is cold and unaffected by wind in the widely spaced forest areas, it therefore remains powder for effectively the whole Winter. This year we saw another team on a peak 2-3km away one morning, we felt gridlocked.
The advanced camp of 2 yurts (one cooking/dining and one sleeping), requires a 30min transfer via snowmobiles. This is exciting. One puts one’s ski pole through a loop in the rope tied to the rear of the skidoo, and hangs on. The journey percolates through some of the most dazzling alpine glades, cols, and plateaus imaginable. This year with a low orange sun, and long shadows creating a majestic light. This journey facilitates the use of the advanced camp.
From the advanced camp, a non-intrepid sense of isolation prevails. Rich and Terry carry Sat-Phones and GPS locators for safety, receiving weather updates, and occasional updates from Penny, Rich’s daughter. But otherwise, this location is truely remote. The ski touring descents here are possible in a 360 degree vista. So that’s what we do. The same daily format ensues with a longer morning skin, and optional afternoon outings after lunch. One of the journeys on this years (2019) trip involved a 600m ascent through another stunning wide-spaced forest, and along a broad ‘knife-edged’ ridge to a shoulder of a mountain looking down our valley. From there a slightly steeper descent led the group 3 kms back to the yurts. That’s 3km of 20cm cold fresh powder on a smooth base.
The trip involves ski coaching throughout. On day one we provide, transceiver training, skinning/touring techniques, and some navigation awareness. Throughout the trip there are 2 tdc coaches per group of 6 to assist with the skinning up, the transitions from touring to ski mode, and to provide technique and tactical instruction on the ski descents. The camp dog also followed us each day, providing joy for all as he bounded through powder on the descents.
The trip will be running next February 2020, with limited space to keep the instructor to client ratio low. This helps ensure safety, speed across the terrain, enjoyment, and escalates learning curves.
To make contact about next year’s trip, please contact either [email protected] or [email protected] and for more info visit our tdc expeditions website (which is currently being updated – 7th march 2019).
tdc in Val d’Isere, Tignes and the 3 valleys are continually running ski touring and off piste skiing lessons and groups. Please visit the lessons section of our website for more information around those coaching sessions either in view of joining a future tdc-expedition, or simply to learn and enjoy a new genre of the skiing world.