First of all I want to clarify that I am not a mountaineer at all. I try to do some sports in a regular way: Jogging and fitness. But mountaineering wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t my thing, I was never interested in climbing mountains or trekking. This story is not aimed to give you a detailed report of climbing a 5,165m high mountain, but to let you participate in the feelings which overcame me during the ascent.Ã‚
So, how came to climb a 5,165 m high mountain? Why taking all the danger and risks? The uncertainty to reach the summit and maybe to destroy a dream? Why all the exertions?
The answer is simple: because it is ARARAT.
Since I was a little boy I was fascinated by this mountain. In almost every Armenian living room there was a picture of this mysterious mountain. I asked lot of questions to my parents and grandparents.
Later, I began to read everything about it, the story of the NoahÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ark in the Old testament (Genesis 8,4), the sensational find by Fernand Navara in 1955 of three pieces of wood which are dated 5,000 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 6,000 years B.C., the beginning of the Armenian cultural development in the region between Van-lowlands and Ararat.
I also read about the first ascent by the German scholar Friedrich Parrot in 1829. An interesting issue is that not so far ago it was forbidden by the Armenian church to climb this mountain. It was viewed as an act of sacrilege.
Another word for Ararat is Masis. It is a consitution between Ma (mother, head) and sis (mountain). Therefore this mountain is regarded by many people as a region with sanctity.
To have a dream is one thing, to realize another. Years went by and the dream was still in my mind but I couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t find the right moment to face the challenge. There have always been excuses: no time, not in the proper physical condition, not enough courage…
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficultÃ¢â‚¬Â (Lucius Annaeus Seneca, a roman philospher, 3 B.C.Ã¢â‚¬â€œA.D. 65).
In February 2006 I made the first step by signing up at a travel company which is specialized in mountaineering in Turkey. The tour contained two weeks in East-Turkey. Our Camp wasÃ‚ located directly at the beautiful Lake Van.
Due to the fact that I was inexperienced in mountaineering I chose the two-week-tour to train. We climbed in this week mountains with 3,000m, 3,200 and finally the 3,700m high Mt. Artos nearby the Lake Van. In this week we also visited the isle Ahtamar (see my Ahtamar-Videos on youtube) where the beautiful Surp Nshan church is located (915 -921 A.D).
It is really a breathtaking and incredible church in a typical Armenian architectural style. I have read the story of the princess and her paramour and remember the old black and white drawings of the church in my youth.
Ã‚ After this tough and brutal week, I was really served: sore muscles,Ã‚ abrasions and sunburn. And the next day, the Ararat expedition should begin.
It is the 14th of August 2006. After breakfast in our lake-camp we take our Ford-van and set out for Dogubeyazit which is 90 km far away. This city is the starting point for the Ararat expedition. On the way to Dogubeyazit I am so excited about the first moment when I will see the Ararat. Is it true, that I am on the way to put my footsteps on the legendary mountain? True or just an imagination? Is it real?
Yes, it is real. Suddenly after a sharp left turn I see it. My breath falters. My heart pumps wildly. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t believe it. In front of me I see this mountain. It is majestic, breathtaking, surreal.
The van stops and we have the oppurtunity to make a rest to take some pictures. I make some pictures with my digicam. After that I take my video cam and film my first moving pictures of Ararat.
We continue the journey. During the drive I look tensely to the mountain. We arrive at Dogubeyazit. We go to the hotel Isfahan where we get in contact with our moutain guide who is a very symphatic guy.
Later we take our baggage to the other vehicle. It is an Isuzu truck which is modified to a tourist transporter. The journey tooks approx. one hour. The truck stops and we jump out. There are some guys, Kurdish inhabitants, waiting with their horses for our baggage.
After lading the baggage on the animals, we start to hike to the base camp on 3,200m. The point where we started was on 1,800m height. The sun is burning. The landsape is scanty. We are passing some yaylas (in Turkish it stands for farmers who are spending 3-4 months with their sheeps and cows at the mountain). During our hiking we meet some Kurdish children who are selling cold ayran (drinkable yogurt), selfmade knitwear or just begging for some money. After 5 hours of hard hiking we reach the base camp. Our cook is already there and has built up the cooking tent. We help to build up the other tents.
In the base camp there are other climbers. Most of them are from Iran and France. In the evening some guys and me go to a central tent which is empty. We sit in a circle, drink cold beer (Efes beer) and sing some songs.
Later in the evening, everybody goes to his or her tent. My first night at the Ararat. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get some sleep. I am confused, but happy.
The next day after breakfast we remove our tents and put the baggage on the horses. We take our backpack and start to climb to camp 2 on 4,200m height. The landscape is getting more and more craggy and rougher, it is quite steep. I have some problems but I am clenching my teeths.
I have read some articles which say that Ararat is not so difficult to climb. I wish the writer was here… I am in the right mood to choke him…
After 6 hours we reach camp 2. The view is wonderful. I look up to the summit which is surrounded with clouds. Tomorrow I will be there hopefully. The air is thin. It is difficult to breath.
After lunch, some guys and me make an excursion to acclimatize. After one hour we come back to the camp. The cook is preparing supper. Our mountain guide explains us the detailed programm for the ascent.. to the summit:
breakfast at 1 am.. decampment at 2 am.. the estimated arrival time on the summit is 6:30 am. After the supper, we talk a little bit about the coming day. Everybody is excited, but I am sure no one more than me. At 8:30 pm I go into my tent and try to get some sleep. But as you can imagine I am too excited, too confused and anxious.
In my mind there are so many questions: how would it look like on the summit? How will the weather be tomorrow? Will I have enough power? Enough breath?
I talk to god.
Finally I fall asleep.
My alarm clock rings, it is 00:30 am. It was an awful night, just slept 2 hours. I crawl out my tent. It is dark and in the distance I can see the lights of Dogubeyazit and Iranian border. I try to eat something, but I am not hungry. Fortunately our cook made tea so I can warm me up.
Our guide gives the sign for the start. Everybody switches on the head lamps. It is so cold although I wear my thermo clothing and gloves. We climb in darkness, only our lamps show the track where we are climbing. After one hour a man is cracking up. He shouts to the slower climbers to turn back to camp 2. He is so in panic not to reach the summit. I try to calm him down. We make him the suggestion to make two groups. After a while he agrees. We continue our ascent. In climbing or in extreme situations you can see the real character of a man.
It is really a torture. But our guide encourages me to continue. I keep on fighting. The air is thin and I have troubles to breath. I speak to myself not to give up, to be strong, to remember where I am: 2 hours away from the realization of my dream.
I go on climbing. Despite the fact, that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m the only guy in the team without any mountaineering experience, I am really surprised to belong to the first group. After a while we reach the snowline. We are putting the climbing irons on. But I have problems with these things, my fingers seem to be frozen. The guide helps me to put on my climbing irons.
It begins to dawn. Our guide tells me to look around. Suddenly my breath falters. I see the shadow of the summit. It looks like a pyramid. It is marvelous.
Now, we are on 4,900 m. 250 meters left. The rising sun warms us up. The scenario is indescribable. Climbing on snow and ice with a fascinated look to the summit which is tangible.
I climb like in trance. My mouth is open. I stare to the summit which comes closer and closer with every step. I think I am really on drugs otherwise I have no explanation for the way I feel. Everything is in slowmotion, surreal. I am happy, but I cry mentally. Total silence around me. Total confusion in my mind. A voice in my head orders me to keep on climbing.
And then it happens:Ã‚ 16th of August 2006. 06:45 am, blue sky, no clouds, sunshine.
After 32 years I realiz my dream: I am standing on the summit of Mount Ararat.
Please do not ask me, what I felt at this moment. There are no words to express my feelings.
The only thing I can say is that I felt gratefulness.
please note that my Ararat ascent is without any political or nationalistic intentions.
I am a cosmopolitan with Armenian roots.
I am not and I do not want to be seen as part of a propaganda towards a person, an ethnic group, a culture, a people or a nation.
This journey had only the purpose to realize my personal dream, nothing more and nothing less.
Here are the links for my Ararat-video:
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4e9UEUh1tY
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnTmLSBqjWc
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETg08b1IKks
Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snIhuQ7lKRc
The links for Achtamar-video:
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1gqu_fGQi4
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nknoDvJiDNU