Well, what I had dreamt about back in England was the forest. Heading into the endless Taiga and watching the moon rise through the treetops. Maybe, with luck, a warm cabin to sleep in.
Last weekend I managed to join a group of friends heading out on a 2 day ski hike. Pasha called on Friday evening – “you want to make trip to the forest? A group goes tomorrow.” Of course I said yes, but certain questions had yet to be answered. Who are these people? Where could I obtain skis from at such short notice? Could I keep up with them? Sleeping bag / food…?
“Can you ski?” – “of course I can ski” (sure, I had been out a few times)
So I borrowed some skis and found these ‘friends of friends of friends’ the next morning and we were off. Admittedly without having answered many of those questions. Though a supply run to the local store answer one of them.
And so we set off. Ski touring effectively combines hiking with skiing. The heel lifts on the skis to allow a sliding motion. You can follow tracks or go off-piste. Where no tracks existed our path was generally found and laid by Sergei. You can see him here with the large red pack and Tom Selleck moustache. When it comes to words, Sergei is a strong adherent to the ethos that less is more.
The rest of the crew was made up of students and young workers from the local scientific institutes. We skied all day until finally reaching a cabin in the forest. The landscapes where sublime and silent.
The cabin turned out to be incredibly well stocked and just about large enough to fit the 8-10 people who ended up staying there.
That night we drank mulled wine and sang songs. A mix of Russian rock and Russian folk songs. It was a joyful night though I felt limited by my language skills. Here is one song that I heard sung that night, and recognised. (here performed by Regina Specktor)
The cabin was pretty full and the only place left to sleep was next to the stove. Two pails of water had been left on the stove to steadily steam like a banya. I lay there sweating profusely until I could take it no more and went outside to look at the stars in only my shorts. A cloud of vapour rose from me as i stood there looking up. I was then joined by three more semi-naked Siberiaks unable to take the heat. We stood there quietly in the dark gasping in the fresh air.
The next day we skied back to Akademgorodok.
On the way we passed this giant cross on a hilltop.
And some more cabins. Again, fully stocked for passers-by.