Monthly Archives: November 2012

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GPS location Date/Time:11/30/2012 18:53:41 GST


Exploring the jungle in Taman Negara, Malaysia!

Explorando la jungla en Taman Negara, Malasia!

The challenge of exercising and staying hydrated under extreme weather conditions

When you live in the desert you realize how important hydration is to perform well on you outdoor adventures. Also performing your outdoor adventures becomes quite challenging if you are not willing to “hibernate” in your AC cooled “cave” in Dubai during the warmest months. As opposed to that, performing your favorite sports under very cold conditions is another joy many would refuse to take unless they know for sure they can return to their comfort zone right away. That is the secret recipe of successful businesses likeSki Dubai, the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East and largest indoor snow park in the World, where people can enjoy freezing temperatures and going back home on the same day through the sandy roads of UAE. Staying hydrated under extremely cold conditions is also crucial and surprisingly difficult if you don’t have the right experience and gear.

For some people like me, learning how to stay out of the comfort zone and performing well for long periods time is crucial in order to achieve our goals, such us climbing the highest mountains in the World. For the last two years I’ve been training regularly outdoors and practicing my adventure sports even when the temperature goes over 40°C and 80% humidity. I’ve been also jumping for these hellish temperatures to subzero conditions in just few hours or days. During all that time I have heard many stories and learned many lessons on the way…

Feel likes temperatures

Many times when you watch the weather forecast or you read it in you mobile phone app, you hear about the Feels Like Index, which normally differs from the actual temperature one can expect to see in the display of your adventure watch. This is a factored mixture of the Wind Chill Factor and the Heat Index.

Wind Chill Factoris the apparent temperature felt on exposed skin, which is a function of the air temperature and wind speed. It is always lower than the air temperature, except at higher temperatures where wind chill is considered less important. In cases where the apparent temperature is higher than the air temperature, the heat index is used instead.

The Heat Indexcombines air temperature and dew point in an attempt to determine the human-perceived equivalent temperature. The human body normally cools itself by perspiration, or sweating, which evaporates and carries heat away from the body. However, when the relative humidity is high the evaporation rate is reduced, so heat is removed from the body at a lower rate causing it to retain more heat than it would in dry air. Measurements have been taken based on subjective descriptions of how hot subjects feel for a given temperature and humidity, allowing an index to be made which corresponds a temperature and humidity combination to a higher temperature in dry air.

At high temperatures, the level of relative humidity needed to make the heat index higher than the actual temperature is lower than at cooler temperatures. For example, at 27°C the heat index will agree with the actual temperature if the relative humidity is 45%, but at 43°C, any relative-humidity reading above 17% will make the Heat Index higher than 43°C. Humidity is deemed not to raise the apparent temperature at all if the actual temperature is below approximately 20°C.

Heat index is based on temperature measurements taken in the shade and not the sun, so extra care must be taken while in the sun.

Summer trad climbing in the Emirate of Ras al Khaimah. With temperatures around 40°C, the humidity is so high that visibility is reduced on long distance

Training in Dubai, day or night?

Solar radiation can be extreme if there is little humidity to block the sun’s rays. Desert surfaces receive more than twice the solar radiation received by humid regions and lose almost twice as much heat at night. During the summer the temperature in the desert goes to extreme values and the warm air is captured in humid coastal areas like the city of Dubai, where relative humidity levels normally reach the maximum around 12am. At the same time inland desert areas cool down dramatically since the dry air does not capture the heat.

According to this, the heat index in Dubai is problematic during both night and day times. And solar radiation hardens the conditions during the day. Both heat index and solar radiation are not an issue at night in desert areas away from the coast. Therefore the ideal training scenario is located somewhere in the desert sometime during the night.

If you have to train in the city like I do most of the time, you should consider doing it in the evening after the sunset, and before or after the maximum humidity levels are reached. I normally use wunderground.comto observe these values through the year.

Summer mornings in the desert offer beautiful skies compare with the foggy city

The benefits of training in extreme heat

Failing to prepare properly for training in the warmer months in Dubai can lead to the following:

  • Training during the day can lead to Sun stroke (AKA Insolation, Thermic Fever or Siriasis), term applied to the effects produced upon the central nervous system, and through it upon other organs of the body, by exposure to the sun.
  • Training during the night can lead to Heat stroke, which is a form of hyperthermia, an abnormally elevated body temperature with accompanying physical and neurological symptoms.

However, when approached correctly, training under warm conditions has its benefits and is known as heat acclimatization training.

According to a study published by Aoyagi, McLellan, and Shephard, the potential benefits of heat acclimatization training are:

(i) improved aerobic fitness and thus a greater cardiovascular reserve (probably seen mainly after training)

(ii) a lower resting body temperature that allows greater heat storage (probably seen mainly after acclimation)

(iii) a decreased energy cost of a given intensity of exercise (seen after acclimation and also as the learning component of training)

(iv) an enhanced sweating response at a given percentage of maximal effort (probably developed by both treatments)

(v) a slower increase in body temperature owing to (iii) and/or (iv) [seen after both treatments]

(vi) a reduced cardiovascular stress because of changes in the autonomic nervous system (probably realized mainly by training), expansion of blood volume (seen after both treatments) and/or a decreased peripheral pooling of blood (probably found after both treatments)

(vii) improved subjective tolerance reflecting a decrease in the relative intensity of a given activity (probably seen mainly after training), a reduction in the physiological strain (found after both treatments) and/or habituation to heat-exercise stress (probably developed by both treatments)

Factors affecting improvements in physiological and psychological responses to a given set of conditions include:

(i) the individual’s initial fitness and acclimatization to heat

(ii) age, gender, hydration, sleep deprivation, circadian rhythms and in women the menstrual cycle

(iii) use of ergogenic aids such as fluid ingestion, carbohydrate and/or electrolyte replacement and blood doping;

(iv) event or test conditions such as the mode of exercise, the severity of environmental heat stress and the type of clothing worn

(v) treatment conditions such as the intensity, duration and frequency of exercise and/or heat exposure, the length of any rest intervals and cumulative depletion of body water and minerals

When training in high temperatures these are some factors to take into account

  • There are certain times in a day when both the solar radiation and heat index are minimum. In Dubai I find perfect training around 9pm when solar radiation has been partially dissipated and heat index remains “low”
  • Running long distance is not a good idea, since is very difficult to re-hydrate on the go. If you chose to train long distance, rather than intervals or speed, use a good hydration system to be carried in a backpack or belt
  • Opt for the lightest clothing you can find and make sure it can handle the excess of sweat. Some fabrics like cotton tend to absorb and retain liquid preventing evaporation of sweat, thus leading to the risk of heat stroke. On some good training clothes made of synthetic fabrics you can easily see the sweat dripping from specifically designed areas, and when you finish the training session they dry out quickly and do not retain odor.

Wonderwall in the Emirate of Al Ain is shaded most of the day and since it’s well inside the peninsula the humidity tend to be low in summer

The importance of staying hydrated

Water makes up about 70 percent of the muscles, organs, and solid tissue in the body and is crucial to many of the body’s processes. Dehydration negatively affects such functions as eliminating toxins, delivering nutrients, carrying oxygen to the cells of the body, producing energy, and lubricating joints. Dehydration can impact proper balance of vital electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, which are also essential to healthy functioning of the body.

The body normally generates heat as a result of metabolism, and is usually able to dissipate the heat by either radiation of heat through the skin or by evaporation of sweat. However, in extreme heat + high humidity + vigorous physical exertion, the body may not be able to dissipate the heat and the body temperature rises, sometimes up to 41°C or higher. The main cause of heat stroke is dehydration. A dehydrated person may not be able to sweat fast enough to dissipate heat, which causes the body temperature to rise.

There are different methods to diagnose dehydration, such as a complete blood count or urine specific gravity tests. But when we are up in the mountains the only and best method is using common sense, and thirst is the first indicator of dehydration. A properly hydrated climber drinks small amounts of water constantly so that thirst do not manifest as symptom of dehydration state. Other indicators are dry mouth, decreased urine output and increased urine osmolality (concentration of particles in urine), dry skin, headache (especially in the morning) or constipation. I personally pay extra attention to the color or my urine. Lightly colored urine is produced under normal hydration (euhydration). Completely clear urine indicates hyperhydration, which might become an issue in high altitude especially for people prone to develop AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). Too little and highly colored urine reveals hypohydration (dehydration).

At high altitude it is normal to be urinating more than usual. That is due to some changes taking place in the body’s chemistry and fluid balance during acclimatization. The osmotic center, which detects the “concentration” of the blood, gets reset so that the blood is more concentrated. This results in an altitude diuresis as the kidneys excrete more fluid.

If you are not taking a leak frequently during your ascent, it’s a clear indicator you may be dehydrated, or you may not be acclimatizing well. The most effective solution for the latter is the treatment with acetazolamide (Diamox®). This is a medication that forces the kidneys to excrete bicarbonate, triggering some effects that will help on acclimation and fighting AMS. Since acetazolamide works by forcing a bicarbonate diuresis, you will urinate more on this medication.

At extreme altitudes the digestive system becomes inefficient, and it’s crucial to get rid of the toxins, therefore we should pay extra attention to visit the loo to make water and all the rest regularly. A proper hydration will facilitate the formation and displacement of sediments in the intestines.

There’s always a climbing partner playing games with my camera, LOL

Dehydration at high altitude and subzero conditions

Many people confuse the symptoms of dehydration with altitude sickness, but at moderately high altitudes dehydration is responsible for more illness than oxygen insufficiency.

There are different reasons why people dehydrate faster at high altitude. With lower pressure, moisture from skin surface and lungs evaporates faster, sun and wind exposure is also higher, accelerating evaporation. Relative humidity is generally low at high altitude, which facilitates perspiration during periods of intense physical activity. With lower oxygen levels, breathing patterns change and bigger amounts of moist are exhaled.

And there are many factors that make rehydration difficult at high altitude. Water sources are generally limited and they have to be transformed from solid states and treated to prevent illness. As a rule of thumb during my expeditions I never drink water from springs or rivers. On short trips the presence of virus or parasites in the water is not a big point of concern, but when I’m embarked in a long and demanding expedition I always take the precaution of filtering and purifying drinking water. Once the water is prepared, it has be stored and carried up the hill. In certain situation this becomes sort of a challenge. During alpine ascents the amount of gear carried up the hill has to be reduced to the bare minimum and sometimes we have to restrict the amount of bottled water we take with us. Also we have to be precise with the amount of fuel to transport since this will determine the amount of water we can prepare throughout the ascent. Under very cold weather conditions, preventing the water from freezing is also very challenging. Many times we find ourselves with plenty of solid water stored in our heavy backpack, that has become totally useless, and we can’t even get rid of it! To sum one more difficulty to the process of being hydrated, it worth mentioning that many people do not feel as thirsty in higher altitudes as they should. Besides that, we are normally busy with the technical aspects of the ascent, therefore we cannot get easy access to our water bottles, we tend to forget about drinking, and we dehydrate unconsciously.

In future posts I will go through some tips & tricks I use in my expeditions to process, disinfect and transport water. I will also explain which products can be used to improve the water characteristics, helping keep body chemistry in balance and accelerating recovery.

No time to melt ice, and your tongue gets stuck!

My original Buff® – an essential piece of gear

I’ve been enjoying outdoors since I was given to birth. My parents were raised on the country side and they moved to the big city to start a new life and build a family. We used to escape from the city every single weekend, expending time in the nature with cousins as a big outdoor loving family. Then I became a mountain bike freak, before I discover my true addiction: mountain climbing. One of my first pieces of gear I’ve got was an original Buff®. Original because by that time it was a very innovative headgear and no one else in the market was producing something similar. My friends used to wear regular winter hats, neck gaiters and balaclavas, but I was an enthusiast of all-in-one clothing and thus I was always substituting these items with my original Buff®.

Original Buff S.A. is a company established in Igualada, a small city 60km from Barcelona where they created the first multi-functional, seamless, tubular headgear in the Buff® brand. In 1995, it began to export to diverse European destinations. Currently, 80% of sales are in exports to over 60 countries through exclusive distributors. One of them is Global Climbing, and they are the only distributor for original Buff® in UAE.

Buff® can be worn in loads of different ways: as a scarf, cap, headscarf, facemask, balaclava, headband, wristband… and that is in my opinion the success factor of this very well know product worldwide. Also the product is available in hundreds of colors and designs like the UAE flag or the traditional Ghutra that many Arabs wear in their heads.

On top of the original Buff®, the company has developed very innovative designs to better accommodate to specific people and usage. They have the WOMEN SLIM FIT BUFF®, one made of REFLECTIVE material, INFINITY LYOCELL long and soft made from eucalyptus wood, WOOL BUFF® made from 100% natural Merino, POLAR versions for very cold weather, HEADBAND, HOODIE BUFF® a stylish and superbly comfortable hooded garment, VISOR BUFF® which mimics a cap, STORM and CYCLONE BUFF® incorporating the amazing Gore Windstopper®, and HIGH UV PROTECTION BUFF® made from CoolMax® Extreme fabric to block 95% UV rays and wick sweat quickly away from skin.

My experience with Buff® has always been fantastic, and after years the last two models are the ones I pick for my outdoors activities these days.

CYCLONE BUFF® is an essential piece of gear whether I’m riding my motorbike in the cold winter in Spain or climbing high mountains somewhere like Nepal. It has two sections, the top with two layer microfiber and the bottom with Gore Windstopper®. The top section is elastic and soft for better fit and comfort, and the tow layer microfiber system has amazing thermal characteristics and works incredibly well keeping the humidity away from the skin. The bottom section has a very wise design: It’s actually made of two different materials, Gore Windstopper® in the front, which today is a standard on wind protection, and a very warm and comfy Polartec-like fabric in the back. The front section is slightly longer going all the way down to the chest, while the back is more elastic. This fantastic design allows the Buff® to seal all around your neck without restricting movement and giving the maximum protection to the front, which is ideal when riding my bike at high speeds while the thermometer drops.


Both sections incorporate POLYGIENE® and Active Odor control technologies, allowing all fabric to stay fresh, and believe me, after a month hiking and climbing in Nepal without showering at all, you’ll really appreciate this… Try to go with one of the Chinese versions of Buff® and even the Yaks will stay away from you on the trail!


We all passionate mountaineers know how important is to keep certain areas of our body sealed to prevent the heart from escaping. There are three key areas to protect, and most newbies forget about them and focus mainly on chest and hands. Most of the heat then tends to scape around the neck, wrist and sculp. These areas are highly irrigated by small capillaries and although it is a myth “40 to 45 percent of body heat” is lost from the head, it’s equally important to protect these areas along with chest and hands.

We also understand how the conditions change from one minute to the other up in the hill, and you need flexibility in your gear to quickly accommodate and prevent overheating and consequent dehydration. That´s why using a balaclava or regular winter hat doesn´t look ideal to me. You have to put it on and off all the time, store in a pocket where it might blow away or you lose it while the conditions are taught… With original Buff® you go from one fitting to other in just one second in order to protect different areas and accommodate to climate conditions. If fits perfectly well under a helmet, and doesn´t feel itchy even after weeks of sweating it out.


HIGH UV PROTECTION BUFF® is my second choice for outdoor activities in the desert or icy mountains. Having to apply high UV protection ointments in your face over and over again is just a hassle you tent to avoid, and then is when problems arise… I´ve just had small surgery done in my left ear to remove a very suspicious lump that was taken under histology to discard skin cancer. Applying full protection sunscreens when you wear globes is not easy (although I have some tricks I´ll explain a separate post) and you are never 100% sure you left some portions of skin exposed, such as ears or nostrils, which commonly are the body parts all of us burn over and over again. The UV Buff® is made from CoolMax® Extreme fabric, which has the ability to block 95% UV rays. This popular fabric is extremely breathable, allowing you to cover your face and mouth even when you are performing cardio intensive activities and you need to respire heavily.


In high altitude and extremely cold conditions this is also a lifesaver when spending a long night wrapped around my subzero sleeping bag. Many mountaineers suffer from what is known as The Khumbu cough or high altitude hack. It is caused by the low humidity and extreme temperatures experienced at altitude. Spending time at extreme altitude (over 5500m) leads to an increased breathing rate, which exposes the delicate lung lining to excess cold air, resulting in dried out membranes and partially damaged bronchi. I still remember my winter climb of Korma Kuh in Iran, where we set up a bivouac with temperatures around -20C and I was comfortably sleeping in my North Face Superlight sleeping bag, with thermal underwear and other stuff. I sealed zippers, velcros, and neck collar in the sleeping bag just to leave my mouth and nose exposed to the air while sleeping. In the morning I had extreme irritation in my throat, and my uvula was the size of an egg! I had ibuprofen, summited my mountain, and went back home with a good lesson learned. Running nose and dry persistent cough can be prevented by keeping the bronchial mucosa moist. Here is where any of my Buff® become an invaluable asset. Breathing through them, especially at night, heats and moisturizes the air. I personally find easier to breathe through my HIGH UV PROTECTION BUFF® than the CYCLONE BUFF®

There are no many things I would improve in these two models of original Buff®, and as I mentioned before the product catalogue is wide enough to cover all scenarios and requirements from outdoors enthusiast like me. There is only one thing I’d love to be incorporated in it, and it’s one of this vapor shield devices that are available in the market these days, like the Psolarmanufactured by EX.Mask

In summary, it’s been many years performing all sort of outdoor activities, and my original Buff® is a piece of gear I trust 100% and I will definitely take with my to the highest mountains on Earth.



Everest 2013 Expedition from Tibet Side

When you hear that someone has reached the top of Mount Everest, you may assume that he or she climbed the Southern Route used by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. After all, this route – which begins with the Khumbu Icefall in Nepal and then proceeds through the Western Cwm, up the Lhotse Face, and to the summit via the South Col and the Hillary Step – is used by more climbers than any other path. There are, however, 14 other routes, and most of them are more difficult than the most popular way.

This is the case of the North Ridge Route, which begins in Tibet. This route has become almost as popular as the South Col route, but is somewhat more challenging. As Eric Simonson of International Mountain Guides explains, not only is the North Ridge technically difficult because of its terrain, but it also requires some particularly careful, even counterintuitive, planning. First of all on the North Ridge climbers spend a lot of time on steeply sloping shale and ice, and “it’s tough to get your crampons into that stuff!” To make matters more difficult, the geography of the North Ridge requires the final camp to be at a much higher elevation than the final camp on the South Col. The result, says Simonson, is that


Another challenge posed by this route is the long traverse along the North Ridge on summit day. The guide explains that “this means you are covering a lot of lateral distance, which really comes into play on the descent“. Here’s where careful planning becomes so important. Because so much of a climber’s time on the North Ridge is spent negotiating sloping rock and ice at the highest altitudes, he must make sure to have plenty of oxygen and energy for use on the difficult descent at least as much as needed to ascend to the summit. Basically, says Simonson, “you have to have enough gas left in your tank (both literally and figuratively) to make the descent. You can’t afford to burn more than 50 percent of your reserves going up, because you’ll definitely need the other half to get down”. The most common problem he’s seen with climbers on the north side is that they underestimate how long it will take them to make the technically difficult, traversing descent to camp from the summit, and they run out of oxygen before they reach the camp. Overall, he explains, “the prolonged time spent at higher altitudes and the time it takes to do that traverse in both directions catch a lot of people off guard on the North Ridge”. Sometimes, it seems, knowing that “it’s all downhill from here” isn’t much of a comfort”.

Expedition description and Calendar

The Drive to Base Camp
A total number of 8 climbers in this small and exclusive Expedition Team will meet in the capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu where we will stay in the beautiful boutique Courtyard Hotel located in a quiet area of the tourist district of Thamel. After a few days in Kathmandu processing our Tibet group visas and obtaining our climbing permits we drive to the Nepal Tibet border at Kodari where we enter Tibet. We pass through the immigration formalities once in Kodari and then a second time in Zhangmu before officially entering Tibet

Monday 8th April 2013

to Thursday 6th June 2013

Once the immigration formalities have been completed, which sometimes can be lengthy, we start the drive towards base camp. We spend two nights each in the towns of Nyalam and Tingri for cautious acclimatization before arriving on the final day at Old Chinese Base Camp.

Climb Strategy

We follow a cautious acclimatization schedule at base camp spending several nights before taking our first trip up the East Rongbuk Valley and walk on the East Rongbuk Glacier towards advanced base camp. We plan only to trek up to advanced base camp a maximum of two times and this includes the summit push. The walk from base camp to interim camp takes around 4-8 hours.

Our schedule usually sees us walk to interim base camp where we spend two evenings and then continue to advanced base camp. We rest at advanced base camp for several days before tagging camp one and returning to advanced base camp. The walk from interim base camp to advanced base camp takes around 4-8 hours where the camp sits at the foot of the North Col.

After more acclimatization days at advanced base camp and the progress of the fixed ropes being placed towards camp two, we climb to camp one where we spend the evening and then in the following days we climb towards camp two reaching an elevation of roughly 7,500-meters before returning to the North Col. We spend a second evening at the North Col before returning to advanced base camp.

The summit push will see us make our second trek up the east Rongbuk Glacier to advanced base camp where we will spend two or three evenings waiting for a favorable weather report. We then climb to camp one, two and three respectively before leaving for the summit from the high camp late in the evening
All climbers and Sherpas will be using supplementary oxygen from camp two and return to camp two.

The Route

The climbing begins by following the trail out of advanced base camp leading to the gear depot. Some teams leave their heavy mountaineering boots; crampons and axes at this area. We then walk over the flat section of the glacier to approach the foot of the north col. Fixed ropes will be in place and we climb slopes up to 45-degrees before reaching the halfway point up the col. The first aluminum ladder crossing a crevasse is short and the route continues culminating with a short steep slope just before the second longer ladder crossing a deep crevasse before arriving in camp. The climb from advanced base camp to camp one takes between 4-8 hours.

Camp one sits on the North Col between the Everest North Ridge and Changtse. The route continues along the North Ridge using the fixed rope and the terrain switches from the snow ridge to easy mixed terrain at 7,500m (24,600ft) where we continue to our camp two. This is one of the longest days on the mountain and takes between 5-10 hours.

Camp two is located on the North Ridge and the tents are erected on platforms constructed from loose rocks. This campsite is very exposed and receives strong winds. Most climbers, if not already, decide to use their supplementary oxygen from here onwards. The route continues up the ridge before traversing diagonally right across the North Face and then takes a more direct route into camp three. The climb from camp two to camp three takes between 3-6 hours.

Summit day will start early and the route heads on moderate terrain with one technical rock section to pass before arriving on the Northwest Ridge. The ridge is narrow and is followed passing the first step, the crux of the climb, the second step with its two ladders in place and the third step before climbing the summit pyramid and then traversing a rocky section to the snow capped summit. The climb from camp three to the summit takes between 7-11 hours with 3-5 hours for the descent to camp three.

Speed winter climb of one for the hardest routes of Mt Damavand (5610m) in Iran. From Dubai Marina to the summit in 32h

This challenge was in my to-do list since I spotted this beautiful volcano in my first visit to Iran on December 2011, when I attempted a winter climb of Pasand Kooh in Alborz range.

On October 23rd 2012 late in the evening, I left my house in Dubai to attempt a crazy winter climb of the highest mountain in the Middle East and biggest volcano in the North Hemisphere, Mt Damavand (5610m). 32 hours after that I was standing totally exhausted on the top of the frozen crater surrounded by volcanic fumaroles. I did my first volcano on 2010 (Mt Rainier, the biggest in North America), and since then I’m officially addicted to the sulfuric acid. This new challenge was a bit crazier, since I’m was doing a winter climb (2013 season already started) on the second hardest route in a country that is going a bit mad these days (thanks to certain westerner governments). It normally takes 4-6 days to safely complete this climb from Teheran, but I aimed to do it in only 3.

The first challenge on this adventure was to get a Visa on my arrival to Teheran. Right after that, with almost no sleep, I was driving out of the airport with Salim, a Teherani who knows the Mountain very well. We drove for about 4 hours to Nandal village (2400m) where we had some cheese, bread and tea, and sorted out our gear before starting our approach in a shabby 4×4 vehicle to Gusfandsara, and 5 hours climb to or first camp at Takhte Fereydoon hut (4300m). From Dubai Marina to there in just one day. On the following day, Thursday 24th, we did our summit push and descent back to the hut to celebrate and sleep before heading back to Nandal and Teheran in the afternoon.

What it makes this challenge somehow special is the difficulty of the ascent on a winter climb. The winter season in Alborz Range may start from October to November and last to May and April. In this period of the year climbing Mt Damavand is a tough and dangerous business. With strong winds more than 100km/h and freezing temperature below -70°C (-94 Fahrenheit), winter ascent is graded as very difficult. Damavand Weather can change from very cold to disastrous in winter, and moving fast without missing the route is a key point for success.

The day before leaving Dubai, the weather forecast looked 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. Light snow was expected to fall from Friday, so I had 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 planned to spend one night in the hut although we had the option to spend two nights there for acclimatization.  From then we progress up on the North-East glacier with a fantastic view of the valley and Yakhar glacier right beside this route.



This what we planned to do, considering the limited timeframe and the restrictions set by 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


Everything run as planned, with the exception of the few hours sleep at Nandal, that we had to skip due to the latest weather forecast that was showing very intimidating winds and snow from Thursday evening, so we had to move fast with no margin for a summit bid on Friday. We left the airport around 3:30am and drove all the way to Nandal village (2400m) where we arrived around 9:00.



We had a light breakfast and moved fast on the 4×4 to our start point at Gusfandsara. That made the whole climb extraordinarily hard and also dangerous, since we were so exhausted when we arrived to Takhte Fereydoon hut (4300m) that we could barely prepare food and we hit the sleeping bag right away.



With no enough fuel the summit push on the following day ended up being the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done in my life.



We descended with strong winds and reached the hut at night when the storm was already forming. That night seemed like the end of the world, with that wind hitting the hut so violently that I thought we’d never make it back to Nandal. We were incredibly exhausted after reaching our summit and we lacked of energy even to melt our drinking water. The altitude and exhausting causes your body to refuse any food intake. I was very worried about the conditions to make it back home safely.



The following morning we woke up under a snow storm, but luckily the worst part happened the previous night while we were already sleeping in the comfort of the hut. I cannot even think on the consequences of not being able to find the hut last night. With no tent, and stoves that would have been fatal.



That day I learnt how close we are from disaster if we are too ambitious and we push our limits a bit too far…