Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Winter Hike

I joined a group on Facebook awhile back because I had heard this group plans group
bike rides and hikes in Turkey. About a week ago I got an "invite" to an event. I didn't know what the event was so I copied and pasted the text into Google translate and was able to figure out
that they had planned a hike departing at 7:30 a.m. this morning and I should bring 2 liters of water, some snacks, and eat breakfast before I come. Google translate also said to wear light clothing but it's a good thing I trusted my instinct to bring warm clothing...I'll explain later...

I arrived early to the meeting point and was immediately
intimidated because I was the only woman, the only person older than 30, and one of only a few without an ice ax. As everyone snapped on their gators and buttoned up their North Face jackets (where does one even find this stuff in Malatya?) I was happy that at least I had on my North Face hiking shoes, my North Face rain jacket and my ski mittens. I was wearing enough "technical" clothing to not be a total gumby, but I refused to put plastic baggies in my shoes praying that my wool socks would be sufficient.

Gradually more people trickled in including a healthy, fit woman (Turkish English teacher...can you imagine?) and her husband. We hit if off instantly and I knew the day was going
to be a success. About 23 of us boarded a mini bus decked out with lots of fringe and lace and headed off to the trail head. The bus drove until the mini bus started sliding backwards in the snow. We hopped out, zipped up our jackets, waited while about 2/3 of the group smoked their "last" cigarette before heading up the mountain.

Our "guides" were trained mountaineering/trekking guides with experience in Turkey,
Germany, the United States, etc. They were carrying walkie talkies, extra gear, etc. They also both work for the military which I think is a good thing because that's how we were able to hike up this mountain. In other words, I don't think it is necessarily "open to the public."

Malatya had gotten several inches of snow last night which meant the mountain had gotten much more than that. Top off the snow with a brisk wind and we were hiking through drifts sometimes up to our thighs. ..well, I should say the guide's thighs...He was packing
the trail for us. We stopped often which was a good thing for the winded smokers but a bad thing for my new friend Gunlar and me because we would get colder and colder every time we stopped.

The scenery was beautiful but the weather was freezing(-15C before the wind chill). I was having visions of freezing to death on Mt. Everest or frost bite on Red Mountain because I was wearing every layer I had brought (3 jackets, 2 shirts, 2 hats and a scarf) and I was freezing going uphill in thigh deep snow. How was I ever going to survive coming down when much less energy is being expended?

Luckily the problem was solved at the crest of a very windy saddle. With the wind howling and the snow blowing in our faces, the guides indicated that we would break the group into two: those wanting to reach the summit and those ready to head back down. I chose "down" which was actually really fun with the jumping, sliding, and rolling, but still very cold. I could have skipped the stop for the picnic lunch because I knew those next ten minutes would take my feet and hands from "very cold" to "numb". But I had to admit my pb&j tasted really good although it did not warm me up.

When we got to the bottom we knew we would have an hour wait for the rest of the group, so our leader suggested we drive into the little village of Konak and drink some tea. Being that there were no tea gardens open at this time of the year, I guess it's common knowledge to head to the city office and meet the mayor (I think that's the translation for the man dressed in the tan and brown
striped zoot suit and fedora) and have tea with him. So that's what we did. He even had space heaters cranked up high so I could defrost my fingers and toes.

In spite of the bone chilling cold, it was a great day with interesting, fun, active people. I can't wait for the next event.

1 comment:

  1. You are such an adventurer! Wish I had half your spirit!