TR: GULMARG '08/09 - THE GULMARG GONDOLA

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TR: GULMARG '08/09 - THE GULMARG GONDOLA

Postby myhouseinpanama » Wed Apr 15, 2009 4:34 pm

THE GULMARG GONDOLA

Gulmarg is home to the world's highest gondola and it provides access to untold acres of terrain and thousands of vertical feet for downhill therapy. Stories boast of deep powder and few crowds. But hang on cowboy, before wiping the promised face shots off your goggles there are a few real obstacles in your path.

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Avalanche, Gondola Bowl. Triggered by ski cutting after explosives failed to release the pack. Photo: J. Carolin.

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Looming cornices overhanging narrow drains. Photo: F. Fuchs.

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From 15 December to 15 March there has for two seasons been a formal Snow Safety program at Gulmarg that coincides with the winter tourist season for the state cable car commission (J&KCCC). There has been a detailed daily avalanche backcountry advisory posted at G2 & G4 during these times.

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The Gulmarg Ski Patrol & the Gulmarg Snow Safety Team strive to advertise the dangers you might expect at a big-mountain resort.

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Among the hazards to the unprepared is the altitude - 3050m at G2, 3950m at G4, the upper terminus of the Gulmarg gondola.

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Unmentioned hazards are angle iron fragments, barbed-wire perimeters and Indian Army outposts.

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You are strictly uninvited to bring your weapons beyond this point, but what is allowed before this point is unclear.

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Gulmarg is the site of the High-Altitude Warfare School (HAWS); many nations send elite corps there for advanced training. Photo: J. Carolin.

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Kashmir is home to some people unhappy with the USA and India, but it is not a sentiment expressed openly if it exists at Gulmarg.

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It's always the details that matter most - despite some unusual circumstances you may decide to travel around the globe to Gulmarg, but if they don't open the gate, you don't get on the fabled gondola. On this day the snow was fresh, the sky was blue, Phase 2 of the gondola had been closed for five consecutive days for storms and avalanche control work, but was likely to open. Hounds at the gates. Photo: F. Fuchs.

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In order to get on the gondola you will of course need a ticket, the rate advertised at the sales window is a reasonable 800 INR.

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Of course, the actual rate is different than advertised, but still a reasonable 1250 INR for the day pass - about USD$25. (800 INR is the price to ride both stages of the the gondola as a round-trip passenger, not as a skier).

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An epic day. Usually the foreign skiers & riders are all gone by March, but it was worth the wait. Real good snow and other than ski patrol, only two downhillers.

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Just because you have purchased a ticket that does not mean that the gondola is actually running. It only means that you have not read the signs properly, or do not know yet which signs have real meaning. This sign says: YOUR TICKET IS VALID FOR LIMITED TIME PLEASE SEE THE TIMINGS. Understand this means there is time the ticket you possess is invalid, or more accurately, useless during the daytime when the gondola is not running. There is no sign with the (start-up) timings, so it is double-indemnity for the operator of the gondola, and a "Catch-22" situation for the customer.

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There is a very prominent sign at the head of the "Q" with the lift closing timings, and this edict is almost never violated. It's more likely there will be a "mechanical failure" at 2:45 PM that cannot be solved in 15 minutes.

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For a number of reasons one should have this number on speed-dial. For example, in order to ask: Why is the gondola running but it is not possible to purchase tickets? (True story).

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The gondola at Gulmarg is Poma designed & installed. This (2009) is its fourth year of operation.

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The J&KCCC are proud of their gondola and have some definite rules regarding the use of their cabins, all ignored.

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Example 1:

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Example 2:

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Example 3:

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It is requested that six passengers board a gondola cabin...

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...not obviously designed to carry six skiers/snowboarders, backpacks, and gear in any sense of comfort. But it is possible and it gets done, particularly on powder days.

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Finally got a ticket and into a cabin and voila: Ripped by 10:30 AM. Mary's Shoulder, Gondola Bowl, 16 February. This is early on the second morning of an epic two-day powder harvest, one of three feasts in February. These are lines from the previous day - the first open day after six days of G3 closure due to continuous, generous snowfall, followed by the avalanche control work of the Gulmarg Ski Patrol & the Snow Safety Team.

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When the G4 is open and you have a front seat you have 15 minutes to ponder the options. Mary's Shoulder, Gondola Bowl, 10 March.

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View at Tower 12, Gondola Bowl, 10 March.

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View from Tower 13, Gondola Bowl, 12 March.

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The Gulmarg gondola - highest in the world - view looking NE at Gulmarg in the middle-distance, and the Drung river drainage towards Srinagar.

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G4 - view of the top station of the Gulmarg gondola from the north, with the Himalaya range to the east. Photo: F. Fuchs.

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Atop the "false summit" of Mt. Affarwat after ascending 30 minutes from G4, the Karakoram range of Pakistan to the north.

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Sometimes G4 will not open in apparently perfect conditions due to the risk of avalanche. The Army has to provide the explosives, the government has to open G4, the Snow Safety Team has to clear the hill. On this day the explosives were late and too few, leaving too little time for control operations. Clouds and wind from an incoming front erased these bluebird conditions by noon-thirty, and all hope of going uphill evaporated. Keeping busy while waiting for tickets and an opening at G3, 24 February. Photo: J. Carolin.

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While you wait for interminable hours for the gondola to operate you will spend some time at Restaurant Cum. Really, I'm not making it up, it's at G3, underneath the gondola station.

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Have some fabulous "Chicken Kanti" for lunch. Highly recommended.

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Morning at the ticket line following a frustrating day. This one was epic - Blank Canvas, 25 February.

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Re: TR: GULMARG '08/09 - THE GULMARG GONDOLA

Postby rfarren » Wed Apr 15, 2009 7:19 pm

:shock: Pretty freaking cool! Thats a very exotic location. What range is the mountain in? Is it not part of the Himalayas?
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Re: TR: GULMARG '08/09 - THE GULMARG GONDOLA

Postby myhouseinpanama » Wed Apr 15, 2009 8:26 pm

The Pir Panjal Range defines the SW perimeter of the Kashmir Valley.

Google Maps: GULMARG '08/09
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Re: TR: GULMARG '08/09 - THE GULMARG GONDOLA

Postby Patrick » Thu Apr 16, 2009 10:09 am

=D> =D> =D>

Thank you for that wonderful post.

Note to self, SA factor also applies in Gulmarg. :lol:
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Re: TR: GULMARG '08/09 - THE GULMARG GONDOLA

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Apr 16, 2009 12:05 pm

Thank you for that wonderful post.

Amen. :bow:

Note to self, SA factor also applies in Gulmarg.

Yes, the analogies to Las Lenas are many. Perhaps even more speculative, due to possibly even lower odds of operation than Marte, greater expense of getting there, and giving up part of the northern ski season to do it.

Nonetheless Gulmarg is one of the Extremely Canadian trips, possibly on my radar after I retire.
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Re: TR: GULMARG '08/09 - THE GULMARG GONDOLA

Postby flyover » Thu Apr 16, 2009 4:12 pm

Bravo! Excellent post.

Did you visit Gulmarg on a destination ski/boarding trip, or was it combined with more extensive travels in the region?

In my not-too-distant youth I made time to do some semi-hairball travel in developing countries (East Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe, etc.), but I never combined any of those trips with skiing. I can't quite wrap my mind around the idea of mixing up the third-world-travel-hassle-factor with destination resort skiing/riding. I mean, when I'm destination skiing, I really want the lifts to run on time. Its one thing to get stuck waiting a day or two for transport or a visa when you're on a backpacker's schedule; its another thing entirely to fly your board/s halfway around the world to discover the gondi is essentially only open when an unlikely combination of the local powers that be feel like it.

Kudos.
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Re: TR: GULMARG '08/09 - THE GULMARG GONDOLA

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Apr 16, 2009 5:34 pm

Extremely Canadian assesses the risks flyover describes and judges whether it is worth organizing one of their premium-priced tours. In 2006 they visited the Caucasus and Gulmarg and decided that Gulmarg was acceptable and the Caucasus wasn't.

There was one summer (2006 or 2007) when Marte was down for something like 5 weeks mid-June to late July. Extremely Canadian talked to their contacts at Las Lenas and warned them that they would move their trip the next year to Arpa/Portillo if there was a still a problem when they arrived in late August. Marte was up and running by then and EC continues to run 2 trips a year to Las Lenas.
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Re: TR: GULMARG '08/09 - THE GULMARG GONDOLA

Postby myhouseinpanama » Thu Apr 16, 2009 6:09 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:Extremely Canadian assesses the risks flyover describes...In 2006 they visited the Caucasus and Gulmarg and decided that Gulmarg was acceptable and the Caucasus wasn't.

YAY!
Tony Crocker wrote:Marte was up and running by then and EC continues to run 2 trips a year to Las Lenas.

YAY AGAIN!
Last edited by myhouseinpanama on Thu Apr 16, 2009 6:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: TR: GULMARG '08/09 - THE GULMARG GONDOLA

Postby myhouseinpanama » Thu Apr 16, 2009 6:38 pm

flyover wrote:Bravo! Excellent post.

Thanks! :D

flyover wrote:Did you visit Gulmarg on a destination ski/boarding trip, or was it combined with more extensive travels in the region? I can't...wrap my mind around...the third-world-travel-hassle-factor with destination resort skiing/riding...I really want the lifts to run on time...its another thing entirely to fly your board/s halfway around the world to discover the gondi is essentially only open when an unlikely combination of the local powers that be feel like it.

You've essentially outlined an average trip to Gulmarg. It's not uncommon to get shut down 3-4 days a week. Less than two weeks I do not recommend from NA. 3-4 weeks in February is best. I trade out my northern hemisphere winter in the US for 75-90 days at Gulmarg, and then pack off somewhere else in India for a few weeks. =P~
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Re: TR: GULMARG '08/09 - THE GULMARG GONDOLA

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Apr 16, 2009 8:15 pm

Adam has drawn a similar conclusion about Las Lenas. He thinks 2 weeks there is appropriate.
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Re: TR: GULMARG '08/09 - THE GULMARG GONDOLA

Postby J.Spin » Fri Apr 17, 2009 5:45 am

myhouseinpanama wrote:THE GULMARG GONDOLA

Example 1:

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Very cool, usually the MRG stickers are the ones all over the place representing Vermont, so that was unexpected. Clearly they need rules about defacing the stickers though!

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Re: TR: GULMARG '08/09 - THE GULMARG GONDOLA

Postby myhouseinpanama » Fri Apr 17, 2009 7:08 am

I take a little BV everywhere I go. BTW, I applaud your avatar - "Bone Mountain in the Bolton Valley backcountry, VT" =D>

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Re: TR: GULMARG '08/09 - THE GULMARG GONDOLA

Postby myhouseinpanama » Sun Jun 07, 2009 4:53 pm

Posted up these additional trip reports at TGR. Rather than re-posting in their entirety, the links and topics are provided below:

TR: GULMARG '08/09 - THE GULMARG GONDOLA
TR: GULMARG '08/09 - TERRAIN, PT. ONE
TR: GULMARG '08/09 - TERRAIN, PT. TWO
TR: GULMARG '08/09 - SHARKS FIN
TR: GULMARG '08/09 - COMMUTING TO GULMARG
TR: GULMARG '08/09 - 23 MARCH: 1 GONDOLA, 1 DAY, 2 RIDERS
TR: GULMARG '08/09 - KASHMIR HUMOR
THREAD - SIX METER CROWN

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