I’m now counting down the hours left before I leave to Dubai International Airport . Tonight around 2:30am I will be landing in Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport from where my new extreme challenge will start. This challenge was in my to-do list since I spotted this beautiful volcano in my last visit to Iran on December 2011, when I attempted a winter climb of Pasand Kooh in Alborz range.
Today I’m leaving to Iran to attempt a crazy winter climb of the highest mountain in the Middle East and biggest volcano in the North Hemisphere, Mt Damavand (5610m). I did my first volcano last year (Mt Rainier, the biggest in North America), and since then I’m officially addicted to the sulfuric acid. This time I’m going a bit crazier since I’m doing a winter climb (2013 season already started) on the second hardest route in a country that is going a bit crazy these days (thanks to certain westerner governments). It normally takes 4-6 days but I’ll try to do it in only 3.
The first challenge on this adventure will be to get a Visa on my arrival to Teheran. Right after that, with almost no sleep, I’ll be driving with Salim, a Teherani who knows the Mountain very well, to Nandal village (2400m) where to have some rest before we start our approach on 4×4 vehicle to Gusfandsara, and 5 hours climb to or first camp at Takhte Fereydoon hut (4300m), all of these in just one day. On Thursday I’ll do my summit push and back to the hut to celebrate and sleep before I head back to Nandal and Teheran.
What it makes this climb somehow special is the difficulty of the ascent on a winter climb. The winter season may start from October to November and last to May and April. In this period climbing to Damavand summit is very tough and dangerous. Because of high wind speed and very low temperature, stormy weather conditions, too much snowfall, icy trails and other risks, winter ascend is graded as very difficult. Damavand Weather could change to disastrous in winter, with strong winds more than 100km/h and freezing temperature below -70°C (-94 Fahrenheit).
Right now the weather forecast looks quite frightening with temperatures ranging from -12C to -16C (thermal sensation -27C) at the top on the summit day, -6C to -10C (thermal sensation -20C) at the hut. There is light snow expected to fall from Friday so I have to cope well with the altitude not to delay the summit push.
North-East route is a popular summer route. It goes through the North-East ridge that is called Takht-e-Fereydun. That name comes from mytghological story of Zahhak and Fereydun. There is a hut in this route at the altitude of 4300m. We will spend one night in the hut although we can spend two nights there for acclimatization. Then we’ll go up on the North-East glacier with a fantastic view of steep valley of Yakhar glacier right beside this route.
This what we planned to do, considering the limited timeframe and the restrictions set but weather and acclimatization:
- Day 1 (Wednesday 24th): Arriving to IKA Airport (Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport) at 2:30am. Drive from Tehran to Nandal village (2400m) in northern downhills of Mt Damavand. Overnight in a local house. 4×4 drive from Nandal to Gusfandsara. Climb to Takhte Fereydoon hut (4300m)
- Day 2 (Thursday 25th): Acclimatization and summit push from North-East route. Descent and overnight at Takhte Fereydoon hut
- Day 5 (Friday 26th): Trek down to Nandal village. Drive back to Tehran for rest and sightseeing.
- Day 6 (Saturday 27th): Reserve day for bad weather condition or more acclimatization. Overnight flight back to Dubai on Sunday 00:15
This is a nice North-East route description taken from Summitpost
PART 1 (From road to Takhte-Fereydoon shelter):
After Gazanak village, go from right side of TALKHAAB river in gardens. After one hour you see a spring in gardens. You must take water. This point in the end of gardens .Then you must walk 2 hours and see a little garden and its spring. (This point is the best point for camping in winter) Then you must go forward (from right side of river) and see the last spring. This spring is named Pehen-Kooh spring. This is the last water in north-east route. In this point you see all of the remainder route and main peak of Damavand. From this point you must climb hardly. You can better eat lunch and rest little here and take water. Then you must turn to right on climb from right domain. Now you go up far from the river and bottom of valley. You must climb about 2 hours, so you see a very little spring in grade, you can rest here a few minutes and then go up to a rocky peak. Its name is Menaar peak (Menaareh, 3950m). Before the rocks, you must climb zigzag from a yellow and hard sandy way. Next you must go to round the rocks from left and go up from moraine (stones). When you reach top you will be at top line (4000m). Now turn left on and climb to shelter. After 1.5 hours you reach shelter. Its name is TAKHT-E-FEREYDOON shelter. This shelter in 4500m is solitary shelter in this route. From Haraz road to this shelter takes about 11 hours climbing. Now you are tried. The weather is cold and windy all times. You can rest to next day. If you have not water, you can bring ice from a glacier back of shelter. This shelter was made by students of Tehran University 1978 in commemoration of their friends.
PART 2 (From Takhte-Fereydoon shelter to Damavand peak):
Next day you can stay here to harmony or climb to peak. After shelter the way is clear. First you climb a hill, then climb from a rocky way to top. After this rocks you see another rocks right hand to top. After rocks you must go from a way just top of deep canyon. This canyon is Darre-ye-Yakhaar. It is a glacier canyon. Your way is safe and you like to climb and see beautiful mountain. Here is above 5100m. So you climb from signs and way turn to right. You reach a glacier in grade. You must go across the glacier carefully. This glacier is named Aroosak-haa glacier. Climb and be careful. You smell sulphur and you are at 5500m. Then you see a big glacier named Do-bisel glacier. You must go across it very carefully. Now you are in North route of Damavand peak and near to peak. You climb slowly but after some minutes you will be at top of Damavand peak. From Takhte-Fereydoon shelter to top of peak is about 3.5 ~ 4 hours. You must photograph and return fast because sulphur is dangerous. Also weather is not stable. In return be careful, because two glaciers is in front of you. Also if you mistake in return way, you must go down from North route to other way. Be careful and follow your footprints on glaciers and see the signs .You must reach to Takhte-Fereydoon shelter and rest this night.
PART 3 (Return from Damavand mount):
You must wake up and eat breakfast and return to down, from shelter to village. If you want to return from same route, you can put your backpack in shelter and take a little backpack and climb to peak, but if you want to return from another route to down, you must carry your gears to top of peak and return from any route from top of Damavand peak to down.
If you want to climb in WINTER , BE CAREFUL ! It’s very difficulty and dangerous
This is all for now, I will keep my FB and Blog site updated with my position and progress by using GSM networks and a satellite device. Please subscribe to my blog for updates on my adventures and send me positive energy and oxygen from the distance. I’ll be thinking on all of you from there and send you love and good wishes from the top… inshallah!