16 team members of a Belgian group of alpinists opened the new west route on Mount Ararat 5137m for tourism.
Mount Ararat is the highest mountain in Turkey and the Armenian plateau where, according to tradition, Noah’s Ark was said to have been stranded after the flood… Could it lie on the western flank, far away from the normal route that everyone takes to reach the summit?
14 mountain enthusiasts and their 2 trainers were looking for a worthy alternative to Mount Elbrus 5642m in Russia, the highest mountain in the continent of Europe and part of the 7 summits. Together with the mountain guide Mustafa Tekin, who has stood on the top of Ağrı dagi 170 times, they found a wonderful eco-friendly and adventurous alternative route on Mount Ararat, as an answer to the overcrowded southern flank.
Our journey starts at the gateway to Mount Ararat in the Kurdish town of Doğubeyazıt, from where you arrive at the foot of the mountain with a 2 hour bus ride. Here, with our well-filled backpacks of +20 kg, we do not take the usual path but head west for a trek through the hilly grassy landscape towards our “base camp” 12 km further and 1100 meters higher.
After 5 hours of brisk walking with a few stops, we come across a nice grassy field, with a river, hundreds of sheep AND with a view of the goal; PERFECT!
After our base camp is set up at 3240m, we plan an acclimatization trip to the altitude camp at 4030m the next day. There we will have to make platforms ourselves to place our tents and we will take all the equipment with us that will be needed for our top day.
Finding a way above the “grass line” is a small challenge in itself with the ever-sliding lava rock and the clouds that make the area disappear, but after 2h30 we arrived at our new camp site, we are pleasantly surprised here a stream of water from the glacier to encounter. That saves us a lot of time and gas because we don’t have to melt snow.
We spring into action and start a competition; to make the most beautiful platform. After that, a deposit tent is placed to leave the material and we return to our BC. We always provide our own food and drinks, tasty dry-freeze meals, soup and desserts.
Because we want an eco-friendly expedition, we also provide our own toilet, compostable toilet paper and collect all the waste that we take back to civilization.
No time to rest the next day because they give good weather so it’s time to go for the top. We break down the tents and return to our altitude camp. Here we prepare for a short night because at 3 am we leave for the highest point of Turkey.
he weather is perfect, almost no wind, not so cold (-6°) and a cloudless starry sky! The lights of the surrounding villages illuminate the valley and before long the glow of the rising sun makes other mountains (volcanoes) appear.
Zigzagging we look for a way over the lava rocks towards the snow line to put on the crampons and take up the ice-axe. It is colder now and some suffer from cold hands and feet so we have to get back on the move as soon as possible. The first snow field is steep ( PD, 40° ) but its firm and everyone steadily picks up their pace towards the glacier at 4700m altitude.
The sun, meanwhile casting a conical shadow from the summit, hits us as we reach the edge of the glacier. It is a euphoric moment when everyone enjoys the first rays of the sun and sees the real peak in the distance. We therefore take the time to enjoy the view and feast on food and drinks because the last steps have not yet been taken!
We get back in motion, fatigue and altitude play tricks on some and the pace slows down but it’s ok, we have time, the weather is beautiful and every step you take is one closer to the top.
For others, inhei enjoy the last kilometer on this crevasse-free? glacier. After a first slope we suddenly see other people, coming from the south route and there are dots on the top… now it’s really not far anymore.
After 6 hours of climbing , the entire 16-strong team + 2 guides reach the highest possible point in Turkey via the west route, a first group ascent! Time to congratulate each other, bring out the flags and the cameras to celebrate this moment.
And what else have we done during this trip?
Needless to say that this was a great trip thanks to a GREAT TEAM!
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