Great but unsuccessful climb to 5.000m,
with 3 days stuck in a snow storm in high-camp.
This is a magnificent snow-capped, dormant volcanic cone formed of lava flows and pyroclastic ejecta with two beautiful peaks: Greater Ararat, which is the greatest peak in Turkey, rising 5.137m high, and Lesser Ararat with an elevation of 3.896m.
It is said according to the book of Genesis that Noah’s ark came to rest on this mountain, and hence the mountains has for centuries dazzled and continues to dazzle travelers from all over the world.
Normally the mountain is pretty straightforward, but we encountered a snowstrom that lasted for several days, and we were in a bit of hurry since we had to continue back into Iran.
Yes, we agree that Mount Ararat is a strenuous mountain, and it can obviously be windy and cold, but who would expect a full week of high-wind snowstorm in July?
Location: Kurdistan on the border between Turkey and Armenia, during late June and into July
Many people have visited the beaches and seaports of Turkey, one of the most fascinating countries on the planet. Yet few realize that just above the bays and coasts, an unspoiled countryside, rural hospitality and great mountain ranges await. We have experienced that from the Mediterranean over the Black Sea Coast to Eastern Anatolia, several spectacular mountain systems offer great trekking. In our view, the mother of them all is located in Eastern Turkey’s Eastern Anatolia Region – a part of modern-day Kurdistan – on the borders of Armenia and Iran: Mount Ararat.
Our trek started in Eli Village where we trekked towards the first campsite at 3.200m. The next day we continued up to Camp II at 4.200m where we put up tents, had some rest and went for an acclimatization walk in the afternoon. We were supposed to ascend to the summit at 5.137m very early in the morning, but during the night, hell broke loose: snow, snow, snow, and high winds. We ended up spending four days in camp II waiting for good weather, while trying to perform acclimatization walks. It got more and more depressing as we learned from radio contact that the Armenian side of the mountain (the other side) had better weather, while our side was facing constantly bad weather for many days to come.
Eventually, we got enough as we had to continue our travel for one month into Iran, and we just kept on losing one day after another, and thus we ended up prioritizing Iran. A few years later, we encountered Mount Ararat once again on a journey to Armenia, and wow, what a gravitating power the view of this mountain has. We felt like putting on our boots right on and start walking. Who knows – inschallah – we might come back…
For more mountain climbing in the region, check our ascent of the roof of the Middle East in Iran. For travels in the region, we criss-crossed the Caucasus, and traveled all over Turkey, Iran, Syria, Kurdistan in Turkey as well as in Iraq.
Selected pics from the climb:
Located in Eastern Turkey’s Eastern Anatolia Region – a part of modern-day Kurdistan – on the borders of Armenia and Iran
Mt Ararat as seen from the Armenian side of the mountain. Let's admit it: this picture was taken a few years after the climbing trip as Thomas and Anders was traveling across Caucasia. But we couldn't resist showing this picture on our Ararat page. The peak which is permanently glacier-capped, looms in splendid isolation on the Eastern Anatolian plateau.
...and repacking for the climb. All foreigners going up Ararat must have a permit, and this is most easily done in Dogubayazit. Start early, i.e. two months before arriving, when planning the trip. We stayed a very simple and charming hostel.
We started our climb in the low-lying flood plain of the Aras and Kurds. It took only half a day to buy foods, sort our exuipment, etc., and off we wast early on the next morning. The trek started in Eli Yayla very close to the Iranian border.
We had bad weather from the outset but optimisitic minds. Most of the time the peak is shrouded in mist.
The low-lying plains are predominently inhabited by Kurds and ethnic Turks who live off faming in their summer obalar (tent clusters).
View from the plains
All sides of the mountain are treeless as much from the severe climate as the intermittent volcanic activity. There is sufficient year-round water, most of it from glaciers.
The first stage was Eli at 2500m to Camp I at 3200m. The cold and the wind in the early morning was considerable already in the lower parts of the mountain, even in mid-Summer.
With the permid we obtained from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Turkey followed a guide - an official mihmandar, litterally an "escorter of distinguished visitors, certified by the Turkish Mountaineering Federation. He was very friendly but did not speak any English at all.
We set up tents quickly. Water came from a snowmelt rivulet and it had to be boiled.
Camp I atmosphere
The second leg. The trail from camp I to camp II was fairly clear, leaving the former on its east side, bearing north-east across two gullies and then heading north.
Halfway between camp I and camp II at 3750m
The climb was quite steep at the end
Camp II is at a cold, exposed ridge with space for only a few tents. We spent several days here waiting for an opening in the weather.
After our acclimatization at 4200m in camp II we woke up to bad weather. Hard rain and snow would occur at any time during the next few days.
On the third day we tried to do a push to the top. We would obviously have tried during the night but the weather was too bad. In the morning came an opening, and off we went. As the picture demonstrates it seemed like the perfect opening.
But we ran in to bad weather and could not see the track. We walked through andesite boulders the the edge of the permanent snow and ice cap. Below Inönü the trail was especially steep and avalanche-prone.
We decieded to go down on the fourth day in Camp II as the weather forcast did not improve.
Even down in camp I we could not see much