Damavand (5600 metres) is the highest volcano of Asia and the highest peak of the Middle East. Maybe also due to its proximity to Teheran it has become a popular goal for mountaineers, especially in summer. However, recently more and more climbers are attempting it also in winter. Originally, we wanted to try the northern, more difficult route but due to the floods in Northern Iran we were unable to get to Alam Kooh Mountains before for acclimatisation. Hence, we decided to go straight to Damavand.
From mosque to the hut
“Dude, it will be tough to go to a high mountain straight from the desert” we thought while getting on a night bus in the heat of the Dasht-E Kavir desert. The next day evening a few hundreds kilometres further north we arrived to the first camp – a mosque located above the town Pollour.
The next day while walking up along the path we could enjoy the view of wild horses after which we could finally put on our skins and climb to the camp two – a shelter located at 4200 metres. “Can you imagine climbing further 1500 metres higher?” “Not really, but we gotta go anyway before the weather gets bad again”.
At the hut we met a group of German (Sachsen) ski-mountaineers. After enjoying delicious bouillon from M3X Aventure Martin boosted his mood by discussing the whole evening with Rainer the details of various routes in the Elbenstein.
To the summit
In the morning we had to get moving again and fight the starting high altitude sickness. The altitude meter seemed to get stucked and the climb seemed endless. We felt a bit like the last year during the first few days in the Pik Kommunisma base camp, i.e. unable of doing anything.
At the ski depot at approx. 5300 metres we “checked” one of the last symptoms of the high altitude sickness. After emptying his stomach Martin said he felt like after 8 beers. Climbing up in such great shape we could enjoy the natural spectacle around the way to the summit – yellow stones, suplhur vapours and the ever-present smell.
“Man, I feel so good, like after 12 beers” Martin gave an update about his condition at the summit. Up to here, the step counters in our smart Lumias counted over 40.000 steps. What a nice walk. In a while clouds covered the summit area and for us it was the time to head down. Strong wind in the last days removed almost all of the snow from the upper parts of the mountain and pressed the rest of the snowpack into a concrete-hard layer. On such snow the binding on wider skis tend to open while skiing. This proofed to be the case already in the first turn under the ski depot. After the binding opened for the second time I could enjoy a nice slide. After it opened for the third time I had to break over big stones. This resulted in a big hole on my pants and in loss of confidence in the skis for the day. Hence, I decided to descent the remaining 1000 vertical metres to the hut on foot and Martin had the whole concrete-like slope for himself.
Back down in the valley it´s getting increasingly difficult
The next day we skied soft spring snow from the hut and continued on foot down to the road. Later that night while resting in nearby hot springs we found out that the “low altitude sickness” is even more dangerous then the high altitude one. Rainer´s squad helped us to cure it for a while (inter alia by taking us to the Teheran amusement park). However, the nice German guys had to leave and we knew there was only one option for us – to go back to mountains again.
The locals said the Alam Kooh area is not good for skiing since “nobody skis there. And actually, almost nobody even goes there in winter”. Great, that sounds like an ideal place to spend our last couple of days in Iran!
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