Monday, October 24, 2011

Conquering the Uludağ

After our late Friday night arrival in Bursa and our subsequent 7am wake up call, Seline, Tas and I hopped on a bus to the city center. On the way to meet two of our other friends, I had just enough time to glimpse and appreciate the scene before me. At the bottom of a valley, with mountains looming  around us the sun finally awoke and peeked over the tips of the mountains, shedding just enough light to highlight the mist covered city, with the minarets of the mosques proudly spiraling upwards towards the sky. Good morning Bursa.

The Climb: (Pictures!)

We took the teleferik up twice- to the highest point possible. From there, we arrived in a resort town which was truly a ghost town in mid-October. I'm sure it is full of bustling skiers in the winter but eerily quiet on this Saturday morning. We were the only people attempting to hike the Uludag that we saw. We convinced a "friend" to have a dolmuş (a taxi for several people) take is to the farthest hotel, at which point we would commence our ascent, which saved us a good hour and a half. But before we left, our colleagues and friends told us we were nuts. On the way, everyone we told along the way was perplexed. "Why are you climbing?" Apparently, trekking in Turkey is not a big thing. We didn't understand everyone's skepticism until we saw the mountain. Apparently, it had snowed earlier that week. I felt as though I as glancing at Mt. Everest- with all the snow that covered the tip. [This is my serious Florida exaggeration- that much snow to me is Mt-Everest like] I was skeptical at first, actually at three different points along the journey, that we'd actually make it to the top. W began our entirely vertical ascent up a very steep incline, avoiding most of the snow and getting a killer workout. I was convinced I would look like the "20 minute Buns" workout video models by the was that difficult! We saw two fellow hikers in the distance and yelled a friendly "merhaba arkadaslar!" (hello friends!) We continued, though were nervous about how long our ascent would take in relation to the sunlight, as we started at 10am. Four hours, one snack break, several gigantic hills and numerous piles of snow later, we reached the summit. I was constantly reminiscent of the climb up the 3750 Steps of Repentance at Mt. Sinai because of the ache in my legs from climbing straight up. At one point, the snow was so deep that I was terrified my feet would be completely soaked for the remaining ascent and descent. I was wearing my trusty Nikes. So we paused while Tas and I covered our socks/feet in plastic bags and then put our shoes back on- and finished the hike- so hard core! When we reached the zenith, I couldn't have been more proud. I leapt and yelled out a giant "woohoo" which echoed over the mountains for a good minute. It was the most difficult hike I've ever done. We took in the views of the other mountains peeking though the tops of faraway clouds. I was afraid to move of speak, for fear that this beauty before me would vanish. I blinked several times, but it was real. We finished the last bit of the climb- to the little shack on top of the summit- (the true summit) and met the only two hikers we saw the whole day- two Turks who couldn't have been any sweeter and helped navigate the treacherously steep, snow-covered, hole-filled way down the mountain. The descent took about 2 hours, in total about 6 for everything. I still can't feel my bum, just saying.

For those of you daring the Uludag, it is divided into about 6 parts:  (taking about 6 hours up &down)
1. Teleferik ride to the base
2. The steep climb up the side of a "hill" till you reach the old Wolfram mine (and ski lift)
3. The ski lift to the steep vertical climb 
4. The snaking, deep snow covered route to the peak.
5. The flat part of the zenith- a table-top cliff if you will (with more mountains behind it to climb)
6. The short climb to the shack at the true zenith.

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