Turkey Holiday

September 2022


Overall the "holiday" was hard! Steve and Andy Heading planned it and the plan was to fly out to Van and then use Mount Artos to acclimatize as it's 3500m before heading to Dogubazit and climbing Mount Ararat at 5100m. Initially all the travel went to plan however we did spend a night in Antalya airport as the flight to Van was 7 hours later. So we arrive rather tired but that was fine as we had that day to wander and recover. We then headed out to Mount Artos not realising that no-one goes up it at all (well 10 people on Wikiloc ) and so there are no paths! What there is a hot dusty track to the base at 2200m then a straight up through prickly bushes and rocky sandy stuff intermingled with shale/scree. We had two days of trying to get up it and the highest we got was 3100m!! So onwards to Dogubazit we went!! We met up with our guide Ferat from Taf Travel over dinner and agreed to set off at 10am the next day and spend three days getting to Camp Two, then one day to summit and hike back to 2200m where we could get a vehicle.

The weather was hot at 1700m so shorts and T-shirts but we knew it was to get colder as we climbed higher so we had brought lots of clothes and minus rated sleeping bags. Taf Travel were providing tents, mats and all the food we needed. This is a new experience for me and Steve as all the mountains we have climbed before (Bolivia in (4800m) 2014  , Ojos de Salado (6893m) in 2010 , El Cocuy trek and Ritacuba Blanca (5400m)  in 2011 Nevados de Cachi in Argentina (5400m) in 2018) have all been self organised by me and self supported so we carried tents and food and everything!  It really felt slightly like cheating to have horses to carry our stuff and as I was adding luxuries such as a book, I was mentally apologizing to the horses!!

I was suffering from a very bad stomach and spent the night before mainly on the toilet. I did come to the conclusion that if I couldn't shake it off by 4200m then I wouldn't summit. Andrew had also given Steve and Amanda his bad cold so they were bunged up and coughing before we even started! Not great and it did dampen our spirits a lot!

Day 1 - We were collected by minibus and drove up to 2200m for the first day of 10 miles and 1000m. I must say I don't remember a whole lot of the route as I didn't have much energy and the worry of my stomach was just making me subdued. I plodded along though determined not to get out of breath which is a system that Steve and I have employed ever since our first altitude ascent of Ojos de Salado when we were told by two very experienced Austrian climbers to "slow down". And when we watched them they meant "slow". It was too late really for it to help our headaches on that ascent but on every one since it has worked. That and drinking a lot. So we reached Camp 1 and were greeted by Mamoot who had tea and cakes ready! Although I wasn't hungry I knew eating as much as I could would help repair my guts and give me some energy. We then put the tents up that the horses had carried up, and unpacked our bags with sleeping stuff. With not sleeping much the night before I climbed into the sleeping bag and went to sleep however spent at least an hour arguing with myself about the fact that I should change out of my walking clothes and put a long sleeved thermal on. Eventually I won and made myself change and felt so much better for it - which I knew I would!!

Steve had left his day pack outside and I woke to a rustling which I thought was just plastic blowing in the wind but then it sounded more like something trying to open something to eat and I realised it was the camp dog who had got Steve's rucksack. The dog had managed to open the rucksack and get out the lunch that we were given and hadn't eaten. That was fine as we weren't going to eat it. But now he was trying to open a packet of biscuits. I ran out and cautiously took the biscuits off him! After that we did throw him remnants of our lunch everyday and some spare dry biscuits. He was "attached" to the horses and wherever they were he was. His job was to guard them against wolves and apparently bears - he took upon himself to steal whatever food he could and I saw him with an empty yoghurt tub the next day!

That night Mamoot cooked up chicken and rice and I made myself eat it. My stomach was getting slowly better every day. Steve and Amanda were coughing and that also seemed to be getting better. The scenery was harsh as Mount Ararat is an old volcano and so it's all black rocks everywhere and because it was the end of summer there wasn't a blade of greenery left. The skies were always hazy and so the views were limited. The best views were in the middle of the night when the skies cleared and you could see lights and stars for miles and miles.

Day 2 - We agreed with Ferat to hike to Camp 2 and a little further to about 4200m and then return to Camp 1 to sleep. I was the slowest but I was also slowest on purpose as I was trying not to over exert myself. I got to 4200m and that was enough for me because my stomach was hurting. This was all rather worrying but the stomach was an improving situation. It was getting colder with a chilly wind and I was glad that we had taken up most of our luggage allowance bringing our -40C sleeping bags! We descended to Camp 1 and had a relaxing afternoon. Mamoot had cooked a beef stew which again was really good and I found good to eat.

Day 3 - We packed up the camp and set off again to Camp 4. This was a relatively easy day and I was finding the climbing easier now. We had a long lunch break on route to allow the horses to catch and overtake us. And Mamoot to get to Camp 2 and get the pot of tea on the boil for when we arrived! He really was brilliant!! We set up our tents again when we arrived and then headed to the Tea Tent for tea and biscuits (and melon!). Now we were above all the other mountains around and the view at night was incredible. I had thought that we could still hear traffic below but Ferat explained that the Turkish army use drones to patrol the Turkey/Iran border overnight and that is what we could hear!! We got ready for Summit day by packing our rucksacks and putting all our layers on. The wind was very cold and it froze overnight at Camp.

Day 4. We were woken at midnight - although I hadn't slept - now being hungry all the time and so was nibbling biscuits all night! and rose to eat some breakfast and have tea in the Tea Tent. It was very cold and I was glad of our proper mountaineering sallopets and boots. Setting off we set a pace that everyone could sustain and the ground was very steep, rocky and hard work. It just went on and on, straight up but I'm glad we couldn't see it actually. I was feeling better than I had all week and Steve was also coughing less. Andy started to struggle with a headache but Ferat was happy and we just slowed the pace and waited for Andy. Slowly we crept up and getting colder and colder, so putting more and more layers on. About 300m from the top we met ice and so put on crampons and Micro spikes. Me, Amanda and Andy had Micro pikes as Ferat had said they would be good enough. About 100m from the summit though the ice was so solid that the spikes wouldn't dig in and Amanda fell over. Ferat swopped her micro spikes for his own crampons and we continued up. I wasn't happy at all - climbing was ok but I had no ideas how I would get down again. Anyhow the sun was coming up and it was getting light which we all enjoyed. We summited and took photos ut it was too cold to hany around which was a shame. We had to descend! I just took it slowly and was very glad to reach the end of the ice. After that we descended through all the morrain we had climbed - quite amazed at just how steep it really was! Andy's head ache subsided and by Camp 2 it had gone. Mamoot had tea ready !!!

We then packed up camp and set off all the way back down to 2200m with the temperatures getting warm then hot! We passed a huge group on the way up going to summit on Sunday but I was thinking I was sure it was going to snow on Sunday. I was glad I had taken some trainers to swop into. My boots are wonderful but really heavy and very hot when the temperature warms up! We were all looking forward to a shower and a proper bed. The mini bus met us and we off loaded the horses into it.

The next morning we woke to grey skies and rain! Sunday morning! We had a bus to catch and as we left we all thought about being on the mountain in such awful weather. Tal who had summited with us sent me the photo below taken on Monday morning as the skies had cleared. We were so lucky with the weather!!

Full set of photos showing the rest of the holiday - ie travelling to Ankara then Istanbul. And then a ferry ride and a couple of museums in Instanbul - Turkey 2022