Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Heliskiing in Gulmarg, Kashmir and surviving an earthquake!

Paul finds it on Monkey Hill, photo by Luke Smithwick.

5 runs heliskiing, my family & friends surviving an earthquake, and the Gulmarg ATM worked.....quite a day!
After a couple superb days powder skiing I awoke a little sluggishly, went down to the restaurant for chai and my usual kick ass masala omlettes at Bakshi's! Another day of skiing before the next storm approaches! I wearily start getting the gear on and everything else will fall into place me thinks! Suddenly Fayaz was up my stairs offering me his mobile, it was Elliot (junior heli guide) for Gulmarg Heliski on the blower. "Are you guiding any clients today? No"! I replied, "Well we've got a seat for you! The grin on my face resembled that of a Cheshire cat, this was my day and even to get 1 ride was going to be a huge buzz.....by midday we'd sessioned the Lenmarg trees (way out wide skier's left) and notched up 5!!!!!Banzai....

Solomon unloading from the heli mission! Photo by sunstone.

It was a weird situation when the guys mentioned the big earthquake in Chrostcvhurch, NZ just as the heli was coming in to pick us up - I didn't have time to call home. Flying up for a 2nd run a wave of emotion came over me, the feeling of total elation and welling up of tears at the thought of my hometown with family & friends potentially being wiped out! 

Sandy Norval explodes his load on phase 1. Photo by sunstone.

After we had sessioned the pine & birch trees, hitting the steep angled north-facing ridges, exploding the many funky powder mushroom features, cliffs and banks it was back to the Kiwihouse base. I thanked all the guys over chai and promised a box of beer for the favour. Sunstone promotes Gulmarg Heliski on their behalf at no extra cost and I had recommended some clients this year, but by no means 5 runs worth so it was a very nice gesture with the view for sunstone to send more business their way!

I got back to the market called the folks and to my relief all family was well. Facebook and email started to alert that friends were all AOK as messages from all over the world poured in! Thank fark for that....the feeling of relief was the understatement of the year!

Solomon and Elliot in the Heli exploring & naming new routes. Photo by sunstone.

Check out: www.gulmargheliski.com

Chief guide Tim and Junior guide Elliot after slope testing. Photo by sunstone.

The kiwi operation has a superb amount of experience, replicating the Alpine Heliski operation back in Queenstown. Tim O'Leary is chief guide and owner having over 25 years experience as does Mark 'Woody' Woodward who will be mountain guiding Everest for an 8th time with Russell Brice's Himex. 

The boys playing in the trees-Elliot airing over Woody! Photo by sunstone.

Paul up to his armpits in the 'paper trees'! Photo by Sandy Norval.

For your Gulmarg adventure package including backcountry skinning, avalanche training, Accommodation, airport pick-ups/All transport and a days big mountain Heli skiing, with any questions/ info contact Paul: