The photo above was supposed to be an epic portrayal of soaring, bare peaks and bright blue Kazakh skies—the kind you find 10,000 feet above sea level on the way to Tuyuk-Su glacier.
But, um, yeah. Instead? It’s a snowman.
At least he has a mustache…right?
Our last hike of the season was an exercise in persistence, and a fairly perfect example of Murphy’s Law—as in “anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”
This is our story:
On the way to our trail head, a surprise storm in the mountains made us turn back, as last spring’s fated Charyn Canyon camping trip—yes, the one where we had to leave our car in a canyon in the Kazakh desert for several days—has helped us understand our car’s limitations, but didn’t save us today from a hairy five minutes of burning rubber on an icy incline while Mishka barked her head off at a stray outside her window.
Luckily, our caravan made it the rest of the way down the mountain road and into Butakovka without issue…almost. We had to park about a half-mile from the trail head here because again: icy incline. Spirits still high, our group set off into Butakovka’s (slippery) winter-wonderland—as desperate as we all are for spring, it’s still easy to be transfixed by snow gently falling in the mountains. But it’s less charming when it starts pelting you in the face. Our sights were set on a lovely frozen waterfall, but our wise little band decided that the mountains were trying to communicate with us. They were saying, “GO THE FUCK HOME.”
So we headed back. We shared chocolate-flavored walnuts (a Central Asian specialty) and peanut-butter krispies while shivering on a platform that looked half-bed, half-table. The rest of the way down was quick and chilly. Sam and I brought beers for the group—a toast to the one-hundred-ish miles we’ve hiked together this season. But it was too cold for beer…
It would be an exaggeration to say that everything went wrong today. Luckily, the dashing snowman pictured above caught our eye right when our frozen fingers needed him most—so we headed into his cozy hut and shared cups of hot tea and a rich, lovely Austrian torte (courtesy of two of our fellow hikers). No one sprained an ankle, or broke a wrist. None of our cars got stuck in the mountains.
So on that happy note, Sam and I have proclaimed our hiking club a success. We’ve hung up our gaiters, packed away our yaktrax, and proclaimed, “Hey, winter? That thing that we had? It’s OVER.”
Well…until next year.