Photos from Day 10 of Skiing in Gulmarg - Inbounds skinning
To see all the photos from day 10 of skiing in Gulmarg , go here: http://www.bernardsphotos.com/skiing/2012/gulmarg/feb7
With Phase 2 of the gondola shut down until what looked like (and turned out to be for our purposes) the end of time, the obvious question arose: What to do? What to do? What to do? Answer: earn your turns! Our general strategy for this day was to skin up in the inbounds part of the ski area and ski a couple of pitches. Here’s the map of our route:
Map point 1 is pretty much at the group of stores and restaurants above the gondola midstation (it has an actual name, but I’ve forgotten what it is). Anyway, that’s where we put our skins on and began the straightforward ascent to map point 2. We knew there was a party ahead of us but it wasn’t a problem as we made our way up the spine and through the trees in solitude. This is what we saw when we arrived at map point 2:
Obviously we weren’t the only ones with the basic plan to skin to where the gondola should have been able to take us in the first place. Nevertheless we got on the skin track and made our way up.
Looking at the gorgeous sunshine in the photo above kind of makes it easy to forget that this was all a brand new snow on top of snowpack that was already known to be sitting on top of a dangerous layer of depth hoar right at the ground. So, when we got to point 3 on the map we decided to dig a pit to see what the snowpack was really like.
Here’s a detail of what is essentially a layer of unconsolidated ball bearings we found in a layer just above the ground, i.e. about 8 feet below the surface:
While we were going through all this trouble--which, by the way, wasn't trouble at all, was absolutely fascinating, and would later reveal itself to be the highlight of the day--the people ahead of us inevitably made it to their destinations and decided to start skiing. Predicatably, they eventually made it down to us:
So this guy in the above photo beat us to first tracks on our section of the ridge, but he was far enough out that it really didn’t make much difference. The thing that made the difference was the whole guided(!) party that came after him and low cut our lines. This was not a pleasant moment. The thing about Gulmarg is that to really maximize your vertical you have to ski a lot of sidehill lines rather than true fall lines. This is what the guide was doing, but he was clearly unaware of some basic powder etiquette that would have diverted him and his party to some the many other unskied acres that were not directly in our fall line. Grrr. As I said, it was not a pleasant moment.
Eventually our snow science session was over and it came time to ski. This is the point where I discovered that my deep acclimatization to typical conditions in the Pacific Northwest left me unprepared for some the subtle considerations of cold, clear, high altitude conditions. Naturally, I took off my skis when we decided to dig the pit and just as naturally I stuck them tail-first into the snow. I did not pay attention to the fact that my skis had some accumulated snow stuck to their black bases and that those black bases were facing the sun. Well, the sun melted the snow just a bit and the cold air iced the snow just a bit and the end result was that when it came time for me to put my skis on and go, the iced based just stuck like crazy. I tried to scrape them off, but they still stuck and ruined my run from map point 3 to map point 4. Ugh!
Once we were all a map point 4 we decided to skin back up for another run because that was a fairly short pitch and it just made sense to try again, though this time we’d go for a spot a bit higher up. So, skins back on, we headed up. By now, it was midday and it seemed that half the population of India had finally made it out of bed and decided to go for a bit of a ski. Nothing like a frothing mob of powderhounds to cut into one’s sense of solitude.
As we made our way up, the weather slowly started to worsen. Clouds moved in and the wind picked up. By the time we's skinned up to the top station of the chair at map point 5 the wind was really howling. As I took off my skins it was all I could do to keep them from getting blown to Pakistan. At that point the wind made it clear that fun time was over, photography time was out of the question, and getting off the mountain time was right at hand. So that’s what we did. From map point 5 we traversed out much as we did on Day 6, except we didn’t stop off at the paper trees choosing to make best time for home instead.
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