Ascent of Mount Ararat on 2011-07-29

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Ken Jones -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Richard Tibbetts
Andrew Tibbetts
Adrian Rayner
Ian Charters
Pauline Charters
Wayne Herrick
Date:Friday, July 29, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Ararat
    Elevation:16854 ft / 5137 m

Ascent Trip Report

Ararat was the culmination of a 2 week trip bagging Turkish Ultras.

Tue 26 July we arrived at Dogubeyazit late evening after our Suphan climb. We stayed in the Golden Hills Hotel: high rise building by main road at N39.55434 E44.06234. There is no air conditioning although some of us slept ok with the window open...

Wed 27. Left hotel at 0930, visited the military base N39.53909 E44.09491 to get clearance to climb the peak. The formalities had already been taken care of by Anatolian Adventures: copies of our passports had been sent in months ago and this was just a formality but our guides were gone for about half an hour, while we sat in the shade at the conveniently situated refreshment stall next door enjoying views of our peak. Talking of formalities, we had been advised that we would need to visit our local Turkish consulate in our home countries to collect our Ararat visas. However on querying this, we were told by Anatolian that theye is really no need for this, as the military already have our names and passport copies. We had simply paid for a Visa On Arrival at the airport.

Accordingly, all was in order for our ascents and we completed our journey to the trailhead, turning off the main D100 at N39.55680 E44.17264, 1512m and following an increasingly rough (but ok in minibus) dirt road to where some mules were waiting: this was the trailhead, N39.63889 E44.24286, 2174m. Our baggage, food and water were loaded onto the mules and we started hiking at 1145. The wide stony track zigzags all the way up to green camp; the foot trail takes the same general route but more directly: we meet just one mule party. We see a few kids en route, sheep-minding, selling, begging or just making conversation with our guides (we have two: our full time minder Burak plus a local mountain guide; yesterday's guide Mehmed was now our cook and had gone ahead with the mules).

The route was pleasantly green throughout, with Ararat always visible ahead. We passed the ararat cafe (just a traditional walled tent structure, a bit too close to the trailhead to do much business); further up we made a few stops including lunch. A nice leisurely ascent got us to camp in 4 hours; Mehmed had tea and biscuits waiting for us; we spent a lazy sunny afternoon in the rock strewn grassy oasis that is green camp, N39.67872 E44.27000, 3338m. Good dinner, bed by 9.

Thur 28. Up 0530, an hour's rock thrush and sunrise watching. Several camps in view including a party of disabled Iranians we watched returning to camp last evening, several of them on crutches - good effort! Good breakfast then off at 0850. The trail is well defined, mostly stony and unlike yesterday we shared the route with the mules, having to step aside several times to let them past. This was no hardship: we had plenty of time, arriving at high camp in a leisurely 3h30 after several rests. As with low camp, the guides had a mess tent in place for the season and mehmed was ready with hot drinks, nuts and biscuits. The sleeping tents and overnight gear had come up by mule.

High camp is situated on a boulder spur at N39.68963 E44.28481, 4158m with views dominated by the summit towering above snow and rock slopes, and the shapely cone of Little Ararat to the SE, 200m below our current elevation. This is close to the Iranian border and difficult to ascend - mainly due to land mines, we are told. Here at high camp the corvid of choice is yellow billed chough more common here than the more usual red billed.
Dinner was at 5, bed at 6 ready for an early start for the summit.

Fri 29. Summit day. Quick breakfast, away at 0200, following the guide up tight zig zags ascending the steep S ridge. A few ice patches: care needed. Strong cold wind (the wind isn't supposed to start until 0900 but it was windy all night). The gradient eases, we are on good snow. We have crampons but most of us do without them. Dawn comes; the light is superb. Our peak casts a long shadow making a wonderful photographic background. The slope gives way to a snow ridge then a steep slope leads the the summit, marked rather disappointingly with a large model of a Varta battery. Little Ararat looks superb silhouetted against the early sun. I am the summit by 0600, stay an hour and am back at high camp by 0800. Ice below the snow line causes quite a traffic jam but the descent is generally easy; a little loose and bouldery in places. Back at camp mehmed sorts out some food and drink then we descend to low camp, vacating the rather cramped high camp for the next batch of summitteers. Descent takes about 2h. Lazy afternoon. We work out what tips to pay (30USD/50TL each, split between tour guide, cook, mountain guide and muleteer in that order) and present them after dinner. Clouds still moving quite quickly across the summit - it's been a windy day.

Sat 30. Breakfast at 6, we hike down just after 7, a leisurely 2h30 to the trailhead. Some youngsters looking after livestock come running over and walk with us bringing with them a cute goat kid. They get a few chocolate bars (we don't get the goat). We pass through a few small tented summer quarters; youngsters come out with items to sell. We stop at a tent. It's the muleteer's; we sit on a rug and are served tea in glasses in traditional style - charming and very refreshing.

Ararat photos

From the trail head we are driven back down the rough track to the highway and back into Dogubeyazit to retrieve our remaining gear from the hotel. Then we make a quick tour of Ishak Palace: an interesting old fortified structure in a superb mountain setting (but no view of Ararat). Then back to our favourite (?) Kebab restaurant before driving to Van where we're to spend the night, before flying home the next day. En route we are stopped by the military police (nice machine gun!). This had happened a few days earlier; this time they want to see passports; no problems.

Logistics: we were a group of 8 on an Ultra bagging trip arranged through Anatolian Adventures. They arranged accommodation, a guide/translator Burak Gülmez, a local mountain guide, pack horses and tent accommodation.

Sun 31. Internal flight Van-Istanbul: Suphan, Nemrut; superb crater lake just w of Lake Van; Keban Baraji reservoir complex, Erciyes cloud capped and complicated. Then we took our various ways home.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:9753 ft / 2971 m
    Total Elevation Loss:9753 ft / 2971 m
    Round-Trip Distance:14.2 mi / 22.8 km
    Grade/Class:YDS 2+
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Guide, Animal/Pet, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:3 nights away from roads
    Weather:Cold, Windy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:9737 ft / 2967 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 9721 ft / 2963 m; Extra: 16 ft / 4m
    Loss on way in:16 ft / 4 m
    Distance:7.1 mi / 11.4 km
    Route:SW ridge (normal route)
    Start Trailhead:from southwest  7133 ft / 2174 m
    Time:1 Days 18 Hours 15 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:9737 ft / 2967 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 9721 ft / 2963 m; Extra: 16 ft / 4m
    Gain on way out:16 ft / 4 m
    Distance:7.1 mi / 11.4 km
    Route:SW ridge (normal route)
    End Trailhead:southwest  7133 ft / 2174 m
    Time:1 Days 3 Hours 

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