New week, new tasks: one team started the day by shovelling snow patches and moving rocks. Result: the “road” from base camp further into the valley is now officially (re)opened and leads about 1.6 km further up the valley to a ford. Unfortunately the water level of this river is still too high to be passed by the cars.
John, our mountain hero, climbed up a steep slope (not a path!) finally to reach a ridge at about 3800 m. He found a lot of tracks of ibex. A cornice blocked his way but within the next few weeks this will surely be a place to install a camera trap.
Tuesday was Monique’s birthday, so there was a bouquet of wild flowers (incl. onions!), a cake, a stack of pancakes with a secret filling in between, elaborately decorated with cherries, apricots and almonds.
Another team stayed overnight in the mountains from Wednesday to Thursday. A very long and extremely difficult drive (including a flat tyre on their way back) got the team to the far end of the valley of Sokoluk. The reward for Astrid, Martin, John, Volodya and Aman was to observe 19 (!) ibex.
We have now surveyed all side valleys between base and the Karakol pass, which is still not open for cars due to snow. Even Sabine, who isn’t into mountains, as she likes to say, pushed herself up a 45 degree slope for over an hour finally to reach a ridge above 3500 m.
Within the last few days, as if given a secret signal, lots of herders have moved into the area between the Kara-Moynok Range and our study area of Ala Archa. Hundreds of sheep, horses and goats are now taking advantage of the green slopes. Having all these herders around, gives us the opportunity to benefit from local knowledge. The information we did get is sometimes contradictory, but still interesting and helpful.
A very cold night with an icy layer on the top of our tents accompanied us into Saturday, the official first day of summer. Astrid, the second birthday girl on this group, received some fresh = iced flowers and shared gladly another fantastic birthday cake. After packing and cleaning up we left base this morning around 9:30. Arriving in Bishkek, we really noticed the 20 degrees temperature change.
Thank you again, you pioneers of the Karakol Mountains. The conditions were not easy at all but still everybody worked hard in helping to set a basis for all upcoming teams. And to stay it with the words of Dieter: hopefully this team will met again one day 🙂