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Finally, I got the opportunity to return to Kyrgyzstan and Arslanbob. And this time I brought friends!

Photo: Kjetil Birkeland Moe

Having enjoyed a few days in Bishkek (with one day skiing in Kashka Suu) and three incredible days catskiing in Suusamyr  it was time to see the real Kyrgyzstan. The 10 hour night-drive from Suusamyr to Arslanbob in a Ford Transit with 14 people and HUGE amounts of luggage was cozy and intimate, but effective! We arrived early in the morning/night and Hayat quickly arranged three homestays for all 12 of us. After getting a few hours of sleep (such a small amount of time in Kyrgyzstan meant that we had to keep a tight schedule) and a hardy breakfast the whole group met up for some lunch and sightseeing in “downtown” Arslanbob. Hayat presented the inspirational CBT-work being realized in Kyrgyzstan and his branch of Community Based Tourism is in the forefront of this work (See earlier segments for more on CBT).

Photo: Kjetil Birkeland Moe

Hayat then arranged for 12 horses to come and take us up to the agricultural fields for some afternoon skiing. This is a great way of including horse-owners in winter tourism, but also a real treat for the skiers! We really enjoyed it! Having skied in the field Hayat was eager to show us a different and completely new place for skiing just outside of the town.  Having mounted our steeds again we rode further up the valley and skinned up the last part in a steep walnut forest. It had snowed just two days before we arrived and expectations were high. The really steep forest-riding that ensued was beyond our high hopes! Hayat, you have found an exceptional new skiing arena in Arslanbob, perfect for a half-day trip.

Photo: Rasmus Johnson

The next morning we presented the mostly youth ski-equipment and clothes we had brought with us and straight away ascended the road up to the agricultural fields where a lot of kids and some of the guides joined us for a few hours of ski-practice and jumping. The next generation of skiers in Arslanbob have all the reason and passion to become good ski-guides in the coming years.

The Norwegian delegation (and one Swede) enjoyed the sun and the show.
After lunch we were picked up by two Luaz and one Niva and (almost, due to inevitable mechanical problems) delivered at the very top of Arslanbob. From there we put on our skins and ski-toured three hours up to the jailoo (summer pasture) of Jaz Jarim.
Latchin and two other cooks had already departed earlier in the day and while we prepared two of the shepherd huts for sleeping they made dinner for us in a third hut. Beautiful calm weather, great food and some strong liquid made it a perfect evening for starwatching and candlelight storytelling.

Photo: Tore Friele Lie

We woke up to a winter paradise! Sun, no wind and half a meter of powder snow.

Photo: Kjetil Birkeland Moe

After breakfast was served we, Hayat and us, ascended the first easy accessed north-facing slope and did some avalanche assessments and concluded that the snow was super-stable in the north/north-east slopes we were planning. We only managed to do two whole runs that day before lunch, the second especially being spectacularly nice! Lunch was served by Latchin and the other two guides (who had their first winter-camping experience) up at their hut with beautiful views overlooking our tracks. The summit planned for after lunch was dropped so that some could build a jump over a hut, and some explore a gorge with very good potential for rock climbing.

Photo: Camilla Heggøy

Photo: Kjetil Birkeland Moe

Photo: Tore Frimannslund

Photo: Tore Friele Lie

Photo: Kjetil Birkeland Moe

The descent from Jaz Jarim was fun and heavy on the thighs. Some beautiful pillow-skiing still attracted our attention and the most eager even climbed the hill for a second try.

Photo: Tore Frimannslund

Skiing down through the village we ended up having a last evening dinner at one of the homestays with some more presents and some more strong liquid. We went to bed happy and tired.
Next morning Hayat arranged TWO Ford Transits and we rode like kings down to Osh, where we visited the famous bazar and witnessed the ruins from the 2010 ethnical clashes.  Everything is quiet now, but it was sad to see all the damage done. Our drivers then took us to the airport where we showed up with record amounts of luggage, but ended up paying only 30sum (0,75 $) per kg extra baggage! The plane took us barely over the mountains we had skied for a week. I had beautiful views of both Arslanbob and Suusamyr from the plane to Bishkek. There we had a twelve hour layover where we perfectly well managed to entertain ourselves in the airport cafeteria that stayed open for us till check-in started at 4 AM. Good times!

Photo: Tore Friele Lie

I speak for all of my friends when I say that this trip was an amazing journey into different parts of Kyrgyzstan! We got to see it all. The country, people, sun and snow showed it selves from its best. Everyone agrees that this is a place to revisit! So Hayat, we will be back.
- Kjartan

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PS:
As always, if you have any questions regarding YOUR potential trip to Arslanbob, don’t hesitate to contact Hayat or me.

Finally!

Two years have passed and it’s time for a return to Arslanbob and a new post on the webpage. The last two years haven’t been the easiest for Kyrgyzstan, but things have calmed down again, and winter tourism is growing. Hayat have also informed me that there are more and more winter tourists coming to Arslanbob.

Last year I was unable to visit, but this time I’m bringing friends! 12 people have booked tickets and are ready for Kyrgyzstan. We arrive around the 24of February for 10 days of the kyrgyz-experience!

 

Bookmark this webpage if you want to hear more about our 2012-trip. And feel free to contact me or Hayat if you need information about your potential trip to Arslanbob!

 

- Kjartan

March Skiing

Spring was in the air as I returning to Arslanbob for the second time this winter to  ski with kids  and the local Community based tourism guides. Green pastures and grazing animals dotted the landscape on the drive down from Bishkek.

My first days in Abob  rainy weather deterred skiing, but finally sunny weather  got us out with local children. I was joined by several of the guides, Hayat and Kjartan. With the kids, we headed up into the agricultural fields and walnut forests above town to work on basic ski skills. The enthusiasm and pride of the children is always contagious!  Despite their old equipment and having to walk uphill for every turn, they skied the entire day.

Kjartan and I, along with our friend Toby organized a three day winter camping trip for the rest of the week. We were joined by local guides, Hayat and Mischa- their first winter camping trip. We settled on the beautiful alpine jailoo “Jaz-Jarym” for our destination.  Our ascent was a combination of 4×4 Niva, horses with skis strapped on the sides and finally a couple hours of skinning on our own feet. Transport never fails to be interesting in Kyrgyzstan.  We even passed a local game of ulack (like polo but with a dead sheep) climbing out of the village. En route dark skies turned into rain, so we  just stopped to drink tea in a manger and let the rain pour down around us. Clearing skies encouraged us to continue up out of Arslanbob into the mountains and to Jaz-Jarym that evening where we set up camp in a Shepard’s hut as the rain turned to snow.

Socked in the following morning, Mishca set off for home with his umbrella protecting him from the continuing snowfall. With no visibility we drank tea until lunch time when parting clouds urged us to go explore. Despite the flat light we managed to ascend and ski off one of the main ridges. We then sought out terrain with more features, including a beautiful chute that we skied twice and marked Hayat’s first couloiur descent. Temperatures dropped as the snow continued…

The next morning clear skies beckoned us from our sleeping bags at first light. We managed to eek out enough fuel for tea, water and breakfast during the most incredible sunrise. Completely enclosed by the mountains of Babash Ata and Jaz-Jarym, the ski potential was almost hard to fully grasp. We first headed south, north aspects were holding 30-50 cm of new snow. Stability tests reconfirmed our confidence in the snowpack. We skied two beautiful ridges off the southern ridge of Jaz-Jaryn, working higher each time before crossing the valley and heading up a beautiful unnamed peak. Toby and Hayat skied off a north slope, while Kjartan and I ascended the summit of the peak and skied an aesthetic line of powdery bliss. From our descent, we traversed and boot packed to follow the tracks of our group down into the gorge and back to camp.

The descent to the village took just over an hour, before we gorged ourselves on plov (rice and mutton).  The trip marked the end of Kjartan’s time in Arslanbob, at least for this winter, not a bad ending….

An update from Arslanbob

I have now been in Kyrgyzstan for over a month and have had many good days of skiing. The lack of internet access put an end to my hopes of posting regularly on this site but now that I am based in the capital Bishkek I will post a little something about what happened during the first month in Arslanbob. Some photos uploaded to Flickr.com can be seen on the right hand side. I will be heading back to Arslanbob in a couple of weeks for some spring-skiing.

There has been less snow than usual this winter season. January was a lot warmer than usual and the streets in Arslanbob were often filled with melting snow or ice, which proved a bit troublesome for cars and people on the road. Two years ago they had a meter of good snow in the streets. February proved colder than usual so we have experienced a good mix of snow conditions, sometimes a bit difficult for beginner-skiers, but good for practising balance. All in all we skied almost every second day, mostly up on the agricultural fields where we found ideal slopes on different angles for beginner-skiers. Every now and then we headed up in to the mountains to look for areas where ski-touring with tourist could become possible. And especially three areas have proved very nice for winter mountaineering tourism. Both for one-day and multi-day trips. The possibilities for adventurous skiers are endless. Spring-skiing also have big potential. There is a lot of snow high in the mountain and when the jailoos (summer pastures) melt up they make for a very nice blossoming camp-site, from where sheltered snowpacks are accessible with ski-touring equipment. Establishing a “base camp” also makes it easier to employ cooks, porters and horses\donkeys to provide with food and other equipment.

Most of the guides of CBT Arslanbob are born mountaineers. They are tough and agile. Having no ski-lifts does something to your physical condition and in the beginning I had trouble keeping up with even the new skiers going up. Many of Hayats (the coordinator of CBT Arslanbob) 26 guides have willingly joined us in the practice area overlooking the town. Most of the guides are still beginner skiers but Hayat and Latchin with sons are always there and they are progressing well.

The equipment is old but working, the skins haven’t seen glue in a couple of years but are still in use. No one is complaining, and now a box of glue for skins has arrived from a recent visitor from the US. The only skis in town for children are home-made wooden ones, but skiing is the big buzz in the streets these days. Us skiing around the city and ski-roping after horses and cars is being noticed and especially the kids are very interested. Skis for the next generation guides are deeply in need and I really hope I can help provide this equipment.

Similar projects I have been in contact with have all purchased relevant equipment locally, but in Kyrgyzstan skis and especially skis for children in the “randonee\telemark\touring-class” are proving very hard to come by both new and second-hand. The only equipment available is preserved for the rich and therefore not possible to purchase locally.  It’s hard to imagine possibilities for import of relevant equipment to a price that fits the purpose.

But there are other possible options for providing skis to Arslanbob. I am in contact with several other ski-enthusiasts that are working on different approachings on import of skis. But the most probable option in planning seems to be a road-trip from Norway to Kyrgyzstan with a van filled with skis. But when this will happen is not yet decided.

If you can help arrange another option I will very much appreciate hearing from you.

-Kjartan

  • PS: CBT Arslanbob would like a visit from one or more instructors also next winter season. Knowledge in Kyrgyz\Uzbek (both belong to the Turkish family of languages) or Russian is not necessary, even though it makes things a bit easier. Several of the guides in Arslanbob speak English  and CBT can help with transportation issues. The stay doesn’t have to be very long, and it can\should be incorporated with a trip to see more of beautiful Kyrgyzstan. Contact me if interested. Highly recommended!

A US film crew with a plan:

- “A grassrot development to initiate a lodge-stay/ski touring program in Central Asia’s Tien Shan Mountains. Providing families with a unique opportunity to diversify and sustain their rural livelihoods.” The Kyrgyzstan Plan

Met these people yesterday through some friends in Bishkek. Turned out they were moving in to the hostel I’m staying at in Bishkek. People wondering about if they would like to come and try the kyrgyz mountains should take a look at their movie teaser shot last winter. They are back this season to shot more film for the full movie version coming out this fall.

Orientation of Arslanbob

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Skiing in Arslanbob

  • Small scale eco-tourism in Arslanbob, Kyrgyzstan.

This fall I had the pleasure of having a study-trip to Central-Asia. In Kyrgyzstan I came in contact with a kyrgyz organisation that arranges traditional accommodation and a range of activities for tourists that wants a real kyrgyz experience. This winter I will return to work as a volunteer in Arslanbob where they are trying to develop a marked for tourist also in winter, but there are a some challenges that we hope that you might be willing to help solve.

CBT (Community Based Tourism) is a kyrgyz organisation that provides contact with a wide range of guides, drivers and families that are willing to receive guests, either in their house in the a village or in their yurt at the summer pastures. CBT has many small branches around the country that provides different services to their tourists. The branch in Arslanbob lies two hours north of the second biggest city in Kyrgyzstan, Osh. Arslanbob has, because of their beautiful nature, a small but steady stream of tourist during the summer months. The village is famous for and very proud of their walnut forest, which is the biggest of its kind in the world.

When I was in Arslanbob the CBT-coordinator there said that they were trying to develop a range of winter activities for tourist. 90% of the villagers are unemployed in winter. The coordinator wants to remedy this fact and attract tourists that are interested in a more exotic winter holiday. This will create income for individual families and for the village as a whole. But, they have no tradition for skiing.

CBT Arslanbob wants to provide guided cross country and horse and sledge trips through their beautiful and open walnut forest. In addition to this they would like to provide ski mountaineering in the surrounding area where the descent is focused upon. To be able to provide this they need knowledge about skiing and avalanches, and ski gear in general. This is the case with both the guides and the tourists but maybe most importantly for the next generation of local guides. The kids in snow filled Arslanbob have never skied and therefore need both equipment and instruction.

CBT Arslanbob primarily needs help to get their local guides up to a decent level, so that they can guide their ski mountaineering tourists safely up and down mountains and so that they can instruct the rest of the village and especially the children. A winter past time activity like skiing can be an important and healthy way to get through the long winter.

This is a good possibility to use our enthusiasm about skiing to help others. In addition this could be a great advertising possibility.

We face challenges in the form of logistics and in acquiring:

  • Ski gear (Skis, shoes, bindings)
  • Avalanche gear (transceivers, probe poles, shovels)
  • Sponsors in clothing and other winter gear
  • Creation of attention about the destination

Can you help Arslanbob with any of the challenges listed above, and especially regarding transportation?

Best regards,

Kjartan Tveitnes Pedersen

Mob (Norway): +47 41 20 37 35

Email: kjartan.pedersen(at)gmail(dot)com

Website: skiinginarslanbob.wordpress.com

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