Kyrgyzstan, Allot of mystery surrounded the mountain covered central Asian country prior to the trip. We were enticed by the promise of steep alpine, cheap vodka and the excitement of spending two months exploring a country of which we had little to no concrete information.
Two years previous a friend had passed through while following the Silk Road from China to Rome, the stories that were told had convinced us to spend the majority of our winter there. As we discovered, sometimes the best plan is having no plan at all.
When deciding on a plan for a Northern Hemisphere winter over pints, ideas can get very big very quickly. What started as a happy hour in Wanaka, New Zealand, ended in a commitment to spending the winter in the backcountry of Kyrgyzstan. It was a place we knew little about, aside from a hot-tip from a friend who had previously traveled the Silk Road: “Of all the places I passed through, Kyrgyzstan is one I would like to go back to”. With that declarative statement, we were sold.
My touring/drinking partner Blake and I did some hasty Googling that evening, and quickly agreed on a two-month trip exploring as much of the ex-Soviet country as we could. We knew that Kyrgyzstan has started to gain traction as a backcountry skiing destination over the past few years, primarily through the yurt-based tourism company 40 Tribes based in the Terskey Alatoo Mountains. While the trips offered sounded amazing, we were looking to do something a little different. We wanted go to the places that hadn’t had too much western traffic and hopefully end up in some places that hadn’t seen a splitboard before. With that mantra we set out, but like any half-baked plan, what we ended up doing was far from what was planned.
Fast-forward a few months: we had acquired a crew of seven who would drop in at different intervals during our two-month say. A brief stop in Istanbul and a few long flights later, I arrived at Manas International Airport, 25k north of the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek. There, we had arranged to be collected by Patrick, an Australian native who had emigrated to Kyrgyzstan 5 years ago. Along with his wife Katia, he owns the Southside Guesthouse in central Bishkek. As luck would have it Patrick had some great topographical maps of most of the Kyrgyz mountain ranges. With the topo maps on the table and some with some insight from Patrick’s own travels, we decided to head to the town of Karakol the next day.