GREAT ADVENTURES USUALLY start with a big dream and unquestionable desire to follow the little known. Sometimes the destiny conspires and decides to help. After fortunate twist of events somehow I have managed to persuade my pregnant wife as well as my demanding boss to let me pursue my dream…for short period of time before I return to my ordinary life.
Few days later I have found myself seating on the back of a truck hitchhiking to the heart of Albroz mountain range, Iran. Although my face might have a stone look, my soul was singing full of joy. I was alive again. I was on my way to Mt. Damavand (5671m).
The dirt road was winding like a snake with sharp turn to the left and right. Despite that, my eyes remained focused and nothing could distract me from keep staring at the top. In the middle of the summer I could spot snow. There was also smoke blown by the wind from SE direction…after all, Mt. Damavand is an active volcano and God knows when it could erupt again?!
In the early afternoon I managed to enter thru the national park gate (altitude of ~2000m) and without much hesitation started trekking toward the base camp located at 4200m. There were several other mountaineers from the Iranian National Mountaineering Club. All of them were very friendly and happy to meet a lone visitor from Europe.
After trekking for about 3 hours i took my first long break. And then by surprise an one-handed middle aged local mountaineer approached me. Initially all his efforts to explain something in farsi went in vain until we start using body language. It turned out, he had a melon inside his bag and wanted to share it with me. Perfect refreshment after the first hours under the burning sun.
Time was flying fast with my new friend and in less than 4 hours we reached the base camp of Mt. Damavand (4200m) -a final destination for this day. There was an old refuge and several tents scattered around. From everywhere I could hear locals singing and chatting. It was very lively camp. At 17:00 the top of the mountain immersed completely in the clouds.
Before pitching my tent in the Base Camp I have decided to rewards myself with a small snack. And then from my right side somebody called me…in perfect English.
It was my neighbor who wanted to offer me a cup of tea. I was impressed by the hospitality and positive vibes of all Iranian people. Nobody expected anything in return from me.
Before sunset I went for a short walk. A stone trow away from my tent I discovered a rock with a breathtaking view towards the Lar Damn Lake. The light and the entire scene was absolutely magnificent.
This was one of these moments when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech.
Later I met 4 mountaineers from Kurdish origin. They have arrived to pay respect to the mountain of Gods. It turned out, Mt. Damavand is the symbol of resistance to any kind of repression. The guys have shared with me that the fairy tell about the 3 headed dragon that has pre-persian origin. Long story short, if you recall the tale, there was a dragon hiding behind 9 mountains in the 10th one. Well that place it happens to be Albroz mountain range in Iran…exactly where i was at this moment.
Interesting…so i should pay attention not only to the weather, to the potential risk of volcano eruption but now also to a dragon. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!
On the following day i wanted to do acclimatization climb to 4800m. Half way to there, I looked down to spot the camp. It was already tinny tinny.
I keep climbing. The path was already very steep. I tried to keep my pace slow and steady to adapt better to the altitude.
At the final destination for the day i could spot a frozen 7-8m waterfall. On the map I read that it was at an altitude of 5030m. So near and I thought I could reach it within 15-20min walk. Nevertheless, next day I was about to discover how wrong my assumption was.
Descending back to the camp was easy. Even though there were several alternative paths I followed the very same route from the morning. My idea was to memorize as much as I could, so on the summit day when I start in total darkness to fill more comfortable knowing what to expect.
Every day from midnight to 5:00 am there is a storm in the space above and around the camp.
Speed is the life in mountaineering!
From my Mt. Kilimanjaro climb I learned how important is to avoid doing summit attempt in the middle of a storm. Not to mention how tragic this could end. This is why have adjusted my plan to start as soon as the wind stops. Since 3:00 am I was awake. The tent was shaking and I had the feeling I was inside a washing machine. However, I could still hear several groups of mountaineers leaving the camp around 2:00-3:00am. Regardless of my desire to departure immediately I knew it was best to stick to my original plan. At 5:15am equipped with nothing but the best to protect me from the elements, a light backpack with the most survival essentials and my camera, I started my summit attempt.
Short before the frozen waterfall from the previous day I came across of this snow-ice field. Each spike was about 1m tall. Absolutely impressive view. Soon after I heard a thunder caused by falling rocks just 10-15m of me, right next to the ice-field. It was impossible to see, but i could hear people located several hundreds meters above me talking. Maybe they have caused this …or not. In anyway, I had to continue with full concentration.
I looked at the waterfall behind the ice-field. It became clear that getting there will require crossing the danger zone while being exposed to any falling subjects from the top. Without much time to ponder I decided to avoid taking unnecessary risk.
An hour later, the path to the top became flatter. I was above the clouds and managed to surpass a group of Iranian mountaineers.
Again there was no clear view towards the peak. Only thing I was able to spot was the sulfate smoke coming from the top. At the Base Camp locals have warned me to be extremely careful with this. Severe poisoning can cause increased blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, disturbed hearing and vision, difficulty breathing, coma and even death. But there was a trick how to prevent all this. I had to use a mouth mask soaked in vinegar or lemon juice. Not today! I was lucky. There was steady wind from SE direction and all I had to do is walk around the sulfate smoke from the wind side.
Climbing further was more challenging that I anticipated. The path became steep again. It seems there was high level of adrenaline and excitement inside me that helped me push harder. Just few minutes later I arrived at the top ready to triumph. To my surprise there was just a simple sign in the middle of something like a chamber. Was this really the top?
My watched confirmed the altitude. I was at 5671m. Then I climbed the nearby rock to have a better view.
From SE I could spot a small group of two mountaineers. The view toward Alborz range at the Caspian sea was magnificent. And in case you have any doubts, if the Earth is flat or round, look at the curve of the horizon.
On the opposite side there was small volcano crater covered by snow…perhaps laying here for years or maybe even centuries.
I took a small pebble from the top as a memory. Walked around, made few more pictures, relaxed, had a small snack, wrote a short notice in my diary. It was a moment to remember. And then the wind from SE start picking up stronger and stronger. This was clear signal for me to hurry up and descent.
Couple of hours later I was in the safety of the Base Camp with a cup of tea in my hand thinking of this adventure with a huge smile on my face and a heart full of happiness.