The Grand Abai Couloir with Powder.kz

Posted on June 29, 2014

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Back in March, I got a call from my buddy Rage to check out a line on Abai Peak that is very visible from the city of Almaty. Arrangements were made for an early start, and we ended up snagging this line which was probably the best of the Spring season for me. Rage and Eric put up a report in Russian on their rad site, powder.kz, and I just loosely translated it below. All photos courtesy of powder.kz unless otherwise noted. Enjoy!

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Пик Абая (Abai Peak, 4010м.) — The closest 4000m peak to Almaty, with four main routes of 1b to 2b difficulty (Russian Climbing rating system).

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A long time ago we noticed a tricky and very beautiful line on the northwest face of the mountain.

At first, the idea that one can ski it did not even come to mind.

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Dreams do come true after a long-awaited morning to access the line. We were quietly excited before something so visible and stepping into the unknown.

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We started hiking from the “Gate of the Tuyuksu” hotel and found the bottom of the route in a little more than an hour.

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We called into Anya and Julia, who were skiing Memory Peak on the same day, and started climbing.

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We were lucky with the weather – calm, cool, and excellent visibility.

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Bootpacking was enough for everyone. We did not use crampons, but carried ice axes because there was glacial ice at the top of the line. And of course beacons, shovels, and probes.

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Transitioning, we were cheerful after climbing 1250m for 5 hours without fatigue!

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Stoked!

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View from the start. Weather was good.

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We waited for forty minutes for the sun to soften up the snow.

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Well, all time! Jon Jay dropped first, then Eric and Rage.

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No fear. Our slightly tired legs knew what to do.

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The snow changed constantly. Some frozen snow, some crust, some soft and some hard snow, and sometimes even corn. The left side was just ice.

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Rage guesses parts were as steep as 45 degrees. With variable conditions we took it easy and skied safely.

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With a trip to Cumchatka planned, Rage held back from charging super hard and made mostly safe kick-turns, begrudgingly.

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Our dreams became reality.

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Jon turning aggressively.

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A beautiful route.

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Just shred it!

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Eric fully stoked! No errors here, we were fully concentrated.

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Jon’s Dynafit bindings were fully locked, luckily. He tagged a rock that released his heel but had a mid-turn re-lock.

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Super long time within the actual couloir.

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And we successfully skied the narrow parts without issue.

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Below the snow was soft and rippable.

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One could relax…

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…and go for more slashes.

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And ski outside of the main drainage.

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We navigated through the riverbed.

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And through the forest.

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We were able to ski all the way back to the car.

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Epic win!

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A look at the line.

Line statistics: 1250m vertical drop, 3.03km line length, steepness up to 45 degrees.

Everything was beautiful and simple. There are many options to ski after the moraine, but it depends on conditions.

Lines like these are hard to find in the mountains near Almaty-

Clean ski mountaineering, starting and ending at the car with skis on, and 1250m in a single push.

For example, skiing Karlytau to Chimbulak takes more effort and is not always continuous snow. The majority of that descent is flat or through a resort as well.

The Grand Abai is dangerous, however, there are no routes indicated this line has been climbed and it is subject to rockfall. It is also exposed to avalanches.

It is not for beginners, so know the snow conditions and be in good shape!

kuluar

Be sure to check out all the rad stuff they have been doing over at powder.kz!

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