Photo essay: I have climbed many mountains, and though I find them all beautiful, big or small, this one has a special place in my heart
January 29, 2007
Damavand towers magnificently 50km North east of Tehran, and as a child I would gaze endlessly at it’s mesmerizing permanent snow-capped peak, whether it be from the slopes of Dizin, the drive down to Shomal. If I was lucky, I would be treated with a glimpse of its beauty whilst in Tehran, although, unfortunately that has become a thing of the past, thanks to pollution.
I have climbed many mountains, and though I find them all beautiful, big or small, this one has a special place in my heart. Therefore, I was so excited when my old climbing partner Yazdan Aghaghiri told me that he was planning on going to Iran in December, 2006 and discussed attempting a winter ascent of Damavand. Standing at 5,761m (18,605 ft.) it is not a technical mountain to climb, however, during a winter ascent you are confronted with a number of challenges that need to be taken seriously. Its impressive height and classic volcanic shape grant it dominance and isolation, and its isolation makes it is prone to very powerful winds, which howl on its slopes and make the biting winter temperatures feel like you’re in Antarctica.
Our climbing team consisted of myself, Yazdan Aghaghiri from Northern California and our good friend Mohammad Hajabolfath from MountainZone.ir, a great guiding company headquartered in Tehran. We, and a two-man Slovakian crew, were the only ones on the mountain.
We only had a limited time in Iran and thus had to make full use of our time. This year, Iran had an exceptionally cold winter with very heavy snowfalls. In fact, the locals in Reyneh mentioned that it hadn’t snowed this much in December for a long time. We had to delay our trip to Damavand a number of times due to the storms hitting Iran, so we took the opportunity to make two trips to Tochal with Yazdan. On our first trip we did a night climb to Shirpalah followed by a one-day ascent to the summit of Tochal a few days later. Finally, we had a break in the weather, but only for a few days, and with it came the opportunity to make this meaningful climb a reality.
Damavand granted us four days and three nights on it’s soil. We were forced to turn back after reaching 4,300m (14,107 ft.) due to a fast-moving storm that was approaching, which was reported to us, luckily, by cell phone. God bless Iran’s telecommunication services, as our cell phones worked all the way up the mountain. Our decision to leave turned out to be the right one, since the next day the storm dumped a foot of snow just in Tehran. The Slovakian team 12 hours ahead of us also turned back at 4,300m, but in their case, it was due to exhaustion. Lucky for them, because they were not aware of the storm moving in.
The following pictures are a glimpse into my experience this winter climbing in my homeland!
"On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude." – Lionel
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