Pure wilderness: Nick Parks’ expedition to Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan might not be the first place you think of when seeking untracked snow, but mountain guide Nick Parks knows something you don’t…
After spending many years living on the outskirts of Chamonix, and a soujourn as Bear Grylls’ safety guy, Nick Parks now resides in Val d’Anniviers. It's here that he operates Backcountry Adventures and finely hones his ability for hunting down serious ski touring expeditions.
Nick has spent a lifetime on the boot pack and explored mountain ranges all over the world. His most recent expedition was to a remote part of Kyrgyzstan where there are no lifts, no cats, just a good old fashioned hike up into the wilderness. We caught up with Nick to find out what prompted the trip, and to hear a little about how it all went.
What prompted the trip to Kyrgystan?
The initial inspiration to visit the Trans Alay range of Kyrgyzstan came from my son and daughter who in September 2018 cycled along the Pamir Highway and raved about the backcountry skiing opportunities.
I had previously travelled through Kyrgyzstan and knew how beautiful the country was. I particularly wanted to go to this region because as far as I could find out virtually nobody had been ski touring there before.
Tell us about the logistics to the Trans Alay
The trip was 12 days long including a travel day either side. There is no skiing infrastructure – no lifts, heli, or cats. Access was by 4WD vehicles and parking in the snowline.
For future trips we are planning on using horses and traditional yurts for accommodation. It’s a stunning terrain especially the backdrop of the Trans Alay range rising to the enormous 7143m Lenin Peak.
And the conditions, the location, how was the snow?
Our ski adventures were divided in three, tours from the Taldyk Pass road and tours on the north and south side of the Alay Valley. Sadly for us in all cases the snow was somewhat lacking partly due to an unprecedented drought in March this year and the early arrival of spring.
Nevertheless we were able to tour on 8 out of 8 days available to us in the most pristine environment where the only other tracks were either fox or wolf and the only sign of the modern world was the inevitability of 3G.
The Taldyk Pass road allows easy access to enough descents to fill a season and if you didn’t fancy walking then laps using a car would satisfy any die hard lift devotee.
To the north of the Alay Valley sleepy villages of horses, camels, cows and sheep give way to steep sided peaks, ascents of 700-1000m get you to the summits and incredible views of the Peak Lenin range. However for me the trip highlight was to ski in the foothills of these giants, to be at 4000m in amongst the towering ice walls and know there is 3000m of pristine mountain above you is beyond special.
Nick Parks is a FLŌA ambassador and put our Backcountry Baselayer through its paces on this expedition. He will be returning to Kyrgyzstan with Backcountry Adventures next winter in February, he also has his eyes set on an ‘unknown’ part of northern Japan and a remote part of eastern Greenland for 2020 too.