Updates for the 27th and 28th Jan.....
So, time really gets away from you when you don't write for a day or two..... Let's catch up to the last couple of days. So, on Tuesday the 27th we spent the day working on our multiple burial rescue technique. It was a little more challenging as Abbas Alli turned up after missing the single burial training the day before and that was obviously a foundation for the multiple burial rescues, so I had to get him up to speed asap. I had to run through a couple of examples of single burials with him, then give him a few goes. This was made a lot harder by the fact that he had a really old beacon, an Ortovox F-1. This is one of the original single antenna, analog beacons and I hadn't used one of those for more than 10 years. It was obvious that Abbas wasn't too familiar with the dial control on his beacon as he didn't use it at all. We had to stop practicing so I could show him how to lower the frequency of the beacon using the dial to increase the beacon's sensitivity. It took him a little while to perfect it, but he quickly got the hang of it and was able to find a single buried beacon successfully.
For me it was good practice to to work with several different brands of beacon (we had a couple of BCA Tracker's, an older Pieps DSP, an Ortovox +3 and my Mammut Pulse in the group) It was definitely a great lesson for all the others to see how much easier a more modern, 3 antenna digital beacon is to use, especially when got onto the multiple burial practice. It's still important to know how the multiple burials work when you don't have a flagging feature on your beacon for multiples, so I showed them the 3 circle method and the micro-strip search. Both are accurate, but very time consuming and potentially more difficult depending on the terrain (3 circle method). Again, a good lesson for the guys and they were able to use both methods.
We did a lot of practice on the multiples, with one lot of single rescuer, multiple burial practice and then a couple of multiple rescuer, multiple burial scenarios. The guys did great. The guys with the newer beacons with the flagging functions were definitely faster, but what I really liked, was that across the board, everyone's pin-point searching, in particular the bracketing phase of the search, was greatly improved. I was really happy with the guys and they were pretty proud of themselves, it just goes to show, if you keep drumming in the correct technique, with constant positive feedback, you will improve.
We worked solidly till about 2pm then the weather started to change. The wind picked up and the visibility started to drop. We went over to the outdoor restaurant to grab some food and seek shelter, but by the time the food arrived, it was absolutely freezing and blowing a gale. It was time to head back for the day so Jerrod and I took the groomer back to the hotel. It was really good day, it was really satisfying to see my guys starting to really improve.
As we were back home a little earlier, we decided to go on a little walk. I wanted to take Jerrod to see Mr. Khan, who runs a clothing store where they make custom clothing. On the way we came across 2 little stray puppies, sitting at the side of the road. I would think that they probably don't see a lot of love from the locals, they didn't move when we got close to them. Then I bent down and called them over and sure enough, they came running over and jumped all over me. All they wanted was a little love and attention. They loved Jerrod's camera strap and loved to try and chew on it. Needless to say the puppy footage we got is ridiculously cute! The pups followed us for a little way before they finally lost interest.
Unfortunately, Mr. Khan was away in Srinagar, so we kept going to the poma lift area. We wanted to see some local skiers in action. We came across the Indian cross country team out training. These guys were serious! They would practically sprint up the poma slopes and then straight line back down in the tuck. 12 guys going flat chat, downhill in cross country gear, one after the other in quick succession, was pretty impressive to say the least. We got some great footage of them. We also got to film some of the local ski and board instructors doing some race training. They had set up a course with small sticks in the snow, as their gates. They would ski down and then hike back up. It was pretty impressive how hard they were working, I imagined what they could do if they had a decent set up; a chairlift and a long slope, the improvement would be so much easier for them. Hats off to the hard work they were doing.
We stopped in to see Yasin, owner of Kashmir Alpine ski shop and his son Arif Khan. Arif is probably the best skier in Gulmarg, he's on the Indian ski team and will be traveling to the World Skiing Championships in Beaver Creek in a couple of weeks time. He'll be competing in GS and Slalom, so if anyone reading this and is going to be there, please cheer Arif on. He's a great kid and has worked super hard to get to the championships, please give him your support if you can. I would if I was there (I'll still be in Gulmarg when the race is on).
That night, the avalanche safety presentation was scheduled at the Pine Palace Hotel at 7:30pm. It's always a good idea to get there early as it really fills up. We got there by 6:30pm and by 7pm, it was standing room only. Luke Smithwick put on a great slideshow, most of my guys came as well, so we all had a couple of beers and chatted for a while after the talk was over. It was pretty late by the time we got back to the Heevan, so after a quick dinner, it was time for bed.
Jerrod and I were originally scheduled to go to Srinagar to meet with the Director of the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Dept at 9am, but I got a call from Bashir, my fixer, that the Director of Tourism had just been replaced so the meeting was off. So, that was a bit of a bummer as I was really wanting to meet him and discuss some marketing initiatives for Gulmarg in the US, but now I will have to organize a meeting later on, with his replacement. It was a beautiful sunny day outside, so we decided we'd go and do some filming and take some photos around town.
As expected, the locals really delivered. We took a ride to the IISM (The Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering), it's a massive building off to the side of Gulmarg. I'd never been there before and was really curious about exactly what they do there and it's a massive building as well. It turns out that they offer 2 week courses for Indians from all over the country (and the world) and they put on instructional courses for skiing, mountaineering and other sports. The building is actually a large hostel, with tons of rooms, a conference room and a large rental shop. It was a funny meeting at first, we walked in and they had no idea who we were and what we were doing, after a little while of somewhat arkward conversation, we finally broke the ice and I think both sides understood enough about the other where the conversation would flow. It was nice meeting them all and hearing about how their program works. We will go back and do some filming next time.
Then it was off to see Mr. Khan at his clothing shop. Mr. Khan is one of my favorite people in Gulmarg, he is one of the nicest people you will meet anywhere. He was in his shop and he gave me the biggest welcome ever! Jerrod and I got massive hugs and even a kiss on the cheek! I wasn't expecting that! All good though. We chatted for a while and Jerrod bought one of his hoodies. Then we stopped for photos in front of his shop. It was so good to see Mr. Khan, the Soulryders production company included Mr. Khan in one of their episodes of Lines of Control on EpicTV, you can find it here at - http://www.epictv.com/media/podcast/if-india-is-the-last-place-you-think-of-for-amazing-skiing-think-again-|-lines-of-control-ep-3/274043?header_b=1&b=1. Mr. Khan you rock!
Then we walked over to the second poma area, closer to the main road. We kept bumping into locals who wanted to chat and have their photos taken with us, which we were only too happy to oblige. They are very keen to hear about the US and were genuinely excited to have us visit Gulmarg. The reaction we got at the poma's was even better. We talked to some amazingly friendly people, it brings a little tear to my eye to see their excitement and love for skiing and sharing that with us. There were several first time skiers who were just killing it, Kashmiri's are surprisingly athletic on skis and I think in a few years time, you will see some amazing skiers coming out of Kashmir and Gulmarg.
So many skiers came over to talk to us, again they were surprised and happy to hear we were in Gulmarg visiting from the US. You don't get any anti-US sentiment in Gulmarg, the locals are stoked to see anyone from the US and when I told them it was my 6th visit to Gulmarg, they were even happier. They want nothing more than to share their world with foreigners, it's a huge deal for them that we are trying to spread the word about Gulmarg. It really warms my heart to interact with these people, they really are the most hospitable people in the world. Truly beautiful people.
Well, now we are back at the hotel after after a truly rewarding day, one that really is good for the soul. I can't wait to show you guys the footage we got of our interactions today, you'll see for yourselves how awesome the locals here are. Kashmir truly is a paradise on Earth, I truly believe that. Tomorrow we will continue our training with our local guides, I will be teaching them about the snowpack so we will be digging a lot of pits and doing stability tests. Can't wait!