Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Turkish climbing, skiing, and celebrating.

As the chronology of the past year spent NOT blogging continues, we move on to the early part of this year's winter and the latter end of fall. Winter seemed to drag its feet getting here, and my climbing partners and I were able to take advantage of the prolonged climbing season to milk a couple of last trips before the Anatolian winter made it's presence felt.

My friend from France, Alex, and I ventured one day out to Sirvashahir, a trad rock climbing area not too far out of Ankara. We found some cold temps, good cracks, and not a soul in sight for miles. Except for the hunters. But, they seemed friendly enough. It's always eerie climbing at these far-flung Turkish crags, when the call to prayer echoes through the air. I perhaps could blame my spooked nerves for the reasoning behind why I left my entire rack of climbing gear at the base of the crag, but when Alex and I returned the next day, it was luckily still there.

We also had a chance to further develop the Bilkent Boulders, a boulderfield behind our house here in Ankara. Several good sessions were had cleaning and sending on these, most convenient boulders.

Over Christmas, Erin and I took a trip to see my cousin in France and to ski the French Alps, but that will need its own post. We did do some skiing in Turkey, again, out near the Iranian border near Palandoken. The bummer of this trip was that the slopes essentially weren't open. The ski area was preparing to host the Collegiate Olympics, and so they weren't too keen on directing any of their snow making prowess to the slopes that we were on. They were having a hard enough time getting coverage on the slopes that would host the competition one week later. If only the hotel hadn't replied with the ambiguously worded "Yes, you may ski on our slopes," we might have known better, and perhaps would have canceled our trip. But, of course, once there, we DID have fun--even if we only had one slope to ski on.

If I may take a moment to get on a soapbox. This ski problem embodies what is often wrong in developing countries. They spent lots (millions) of money outfitting this ski area for the collegiate olympics. New Poma lifts all over the mountain. Snowmaking guns rigged every 10 meters down the slopes. A fleet of brand new snowcats specifically outfitted with equipment to make half pipes. Promotional materials. Advertising. You name it. However, and this is really classic---they forgot to dig a well to get water to make snow with. Only in Turkey do you spend millions of dollars on the surface, to make something look nice, without considering the foundational items, in this case, WATER. So, the lifts sat empty. The snowguns operated at 10%. The snow groomers perfected a half pipe made of dirt. And we wasted our money to travel across Turkey to ski on the one single run they had managed to cover with snow.

Finally, Winter bade goodbye to our good friend Aygun Dalby, who left us to attend graduate school in Ankara. Aygun had no less than four going away parties, and why not!?! Wouldn't you? On one of his trips I vaguely remember meeting a group of Turkish students who were also celebrating a going away party for their friend, but he was beginning the mandatory military service required of all Turkish men. Let's just say that the evening became fuzzy after meeting these hard partiers, but I do remember, at one point, being tossed up in the air by a group of men, while that nasal-sounding middle eastern pipe played in the background.

Luckily, nobody had a viper stored in a basket.

(If you are reading this on facebook, and want to see the pictures, including my run-in with the militarily-sequestered Turks, go to www.nargileistan.blogspot.com)

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