How we overpowered Mountain Mamay
The Chronicles of Ski Touring Adventure of Moscow-born Who Come in Numbers
‘Are those splitboards?’
‘What for? Everything is walkable here!’
(Typical beginning of a conversation in Mamay Ravine)
‘Well.. The car won’t go further, will it?’
‘If you want to dig it out of snow for the rest of the day, we can try to ride. About 100 meters..’
Enthusiasm was going down, 4 kilometers of approach suddenly turned out 8 kilometers, backpacks became heavier for 10 kg in our fright, and a silent question “Are we gonna die?” appeared in the looks of newbies.
‘8 kilometers??’ Misha rolled his eyes shocked, but ammonium chloride and first-aid kit were not at hand. Hello to struggle for survival!
(5.5 hours passed)
‘Can I leave my skis near the brook? And bring it in the morning?’ Misha lied on wooden bed in heated up winter hut and resembled a carp from aquarium – wet to the skin he was convulsively gasping for air. Everyone felt relieved, everyone had survived and had reached the hut, and our new home began to acquire its final look.
The First Day
The morning occurred exceptionally painful. Yesterday’s dialogue was playing back again and again in my mind.
‘How much vodka did you get with you?’ in this question of Vova, our local guide from Irkutsk, we felt Siberian severity.
‘4 liters. Not enough?’
‘Well, I don’t know how much do you drink. Mamay is a good place to drink.’
‘We are kind of sportsmen’ I laughed.
God damned sportsmen... Drank 2 liters and went to neighbors – Irkutsk mountaineers. Drinking pepper vodka and wine we found out many mutual acquaintances. A fine night! The morning was not that fine...
‘Where will we go?’ The wind and snowfall whispered: ‘Nowhere.’
‘OK, Cap (Captain Obvious). As you wish.’
(40 minutes passed)
‘Vova, you are an elk! Come on, what injection did you have in the morning?’ I always considered myself a good walker, but our local guide was similar to a small snowcat. 30 degree slope – and he makes the path faster than I go behind him! Snow killing machine, which no one can stop!
May be something can? Pre-made path finished, trees too, and remaining visibility disappeared. Mountain Mamay was as far as China from us, we hadn’t covered even a half of the way. Having picked the snow for 5 minutes at the distance of 5 meters we decided to ride down...
(15 minutes passed)
‘Yahoo-o-o! Uui-i-i-i-i-i! It’s so f%#king great!’
It was really cool – the hood, ears, mouth and nose were clogged up with snow. A little of it was inside goggles, mittens and boots. I don’t like such snow – it is light and fluffy, but it was too much of it! It is worse to try it at least one time. I did. Where? Here, about 5 years ago..
The Second Day
‘Where will we go?’
‘OK, Cap, but what’s probability that a trip in the same weather conditions to the same place will end in the same way?
(1,5 hours passed)
And it ended the same way... Squealing and screaming we rode light forest couloirs with bushes a couple of times, eaten enough Baikal Area snow. Good angle and a couple of hummocks made us happy for a while.
‘Well.. May be we’ll check the other side of the mountain?’ the soul was singing and calling for exploits and changes.
‘May be.’ Of course - Vova’s thighs are two times thicker than mine, so there was no need to ask. For sure, if I suggested ‘Let’s walk up Mount Everest’s face’ – the answer would be the same.
Summit Storojevaya and Tropical forest. How do you think – why Tropical? Yep! Because you have to work hard making a path! (jokingly derived from Russian word that sounds [tropit’] and means “to make a path in the snow” – translator annotation) But it was worse the efforts (I started to suspect the whole event to be worse the efforts, but Cap hadn’t given me the go-ahead for such conclusion).
Another cool day to Mamay piggy bank. Only one thing could shade our night, but great guy Jenya from Irkutsk saved it having brought 3 more liters of vodka..
The Third Day
‘Where will we go?’
Sorry, Cap. You’re fired.
‘Let’s put our skins on and go to Myasnoy Hillock. That’s enough of “tropinning”, and it’s time for ski touring.’ Reins of power became mine having occupied the space vacated by Monday’s hangover.
The weather had slightly improved, Mamay’s path look excited relevant urge, it was time to change something. And we had to annihilate incipient complex, related to our inferiority in archaistic “tropinning”. Mind must conquer physical power. Forward, ferocious homo sapiens!
Partners began to surprise nicely with their good shape, enjoying with ski touring. The weakest ski tourist was walking faster than the Snowshoe Monster. And when sweated Vova hanged over his poles to have a rest, taking into account that there wasn’t a drop of sweat on us, I realized that splitboard era is at hand in this place. The first slope of Mamay Ravine is conquered, ski touring rules. Our Kamchadal (resident of Kamchatka) Arseni concluded, ‘I considered that ski touring is for elderly people, but now I see it’s a cool thing, for real guys!’
Oh, yeah, Senya! Especially when the sun is turned on and you stand on the top of the mountain, which is covered with sparkling snow, there are no trails around you, not a sound – only intoxicating wind of freedom makes a noise in your head. Snow-white
peaks away from you framed with Baikal’s blue engrave in your mind like a bright picture, and you understand that.. no way for snowshoes – only ski touring!
I wanted to write about descent here, but couldn’t find right words. I think, everything is obvious anyway, isn’t it, Cap?
The Fourth Day
‘Where will we go?’
I expected! Stars appeared as far back as at night, so.. why not? We must harness this rebellious summit, mustn’t we?
(1.5 hours passed)
‘What the f$#k!’ At the top of the ascent there was a very unpleasant section – too steep for ski touring and too soft for boots. Falling into the snow at times breast-deep we cursed Vova, who being coupled with snowshoes was recouping for yesterday’s defeat. Anyway, snowshoes have an advantage – steep slopes with dense snow are better to be attacked straight.
(more 1.5 hours passed)
Gotcha, Grandpa Mamay! Three hours of disgrace and here we are! To tell that there is great view would be playing up to Cap! Light southern circus is to the left, severe northern circus is to the right – guess, which one had we chosen? Oh, yeah! Dark couloir and alight wall – that’s what ferocious freeriders need.
The Fifth Day
‘Where will we go?’
‘To Buryat.’ Decision was made the day before while drinking the rest of alcohol. Buryat Circus was the only place which yet hadn’t been touched by our skins. The weather was disgusting, a thick black cloud tightly covered the ravine, and the only one thing that could whip it was a hungry eagerness urging us to draw intricate autographs on untouched virgin slopes. Two hours of shuffling – and we are there. Not everyone? Somewhere far below “snowshoery” Vova was traversing and swearing – it seemed like our splitboard sect had got a new member.
Clouds suddenly dispersed and surrounding sceneries started amazing us again with its’ severe beauty. Snow-white top above the circus chosen as the first goal enticed us not any worse than Amsterdam girls from Red Light District. Gentle, smooth couloir lines, languishing bands of basins, smooth skin of snow, flaring like diamond rainbow in sunbeams, the treatment of light and shade on appetizing twists and little hillocks with sparse wood, gently whispering to you: ‘Drop from me!’ If I’d been asked then: ‘Hey, dude, what’s your sexual orientation?’ – I would honestly answer: ‘I’m a freerider’ and ‘this is cooler than sex’.
‘Get me! It will cost you only 30 minutes’ – god, I was talking to the mountain. And I got it.
Than I had a rest and got it again. There are tops that you want to ride more than once. That was it.
‘Stay with me!’
‘Sorry, Dear, more than one time I don’t ride even Grand Couloir (Cheget Mountain)’ –
and, having changed new girlfriend for a cool couloir, we rushed down. Cares and long way home were waiting for us.
‘Senya, you are from Kamchatka, how is it versus Mamay?’
“Sometimes I think Mamay is cooler. Though.. May be ski touring is the matter.’
I have never been in Kamchatka, hope to improve the situation in future. But there is a new place in my list, where I want to come back again. (Yeah, babe, I’ll be back and we’ll do it again!)
Written by Slava Shapovalov from “Na Kurage – Mountain Guides Company”
Translated by Dmitriy Metelya
Pictured by Misha Perlov
Respects to Vova Lyakhovich from MamayBackountryTeam, Psycho suit and to all who participated