Thursday, March 26, 2009

More on Climbing Mount Sabalan

I originally wrote this entry on September 10, 2004, and published it on

I had written earlier about how I planned to climb Mount Sabalan during my vacation this summer but didn't follow up with any further news or pictures.

Sabalan (Ardabil, Iran) is a great introductory climb and many use it for conditioning purposes on the way to higher mounts.
In fact, there is a Sabalan Summit Log that has several others' experience climbing the mountain.

This is the view from the base camp.

I'd promised there, that I would write more about the climb and include some pictures, here.

So, here it is, and I've kept my promise.

One thing is for sure. As Leif Fredriksson testifies in his summit log, Mount Sabalan and the area around it are absolutely beautiful. I would like to climb Sabalan at least a few more times in my life.

Base camp is a spec in the distance below.

Well, I did climb the Mountain on Friday, July 23, 2004. We started in the city of Ardabil at 4:20 am. I had only had 2 hours of sleep the night before.

At about 7:05 am, after two hours of driving an old car, and then another 40 minutes of riding in an even older Land Rover ("made in Iran," it said), we arrived at base camp (3500 meters) and immediately departed for the summit which rose more than 1300 meters above the camp.

The final ridge to climb.

It took us 5 hours to get to the summmit and another 3 hours to come down. When I got back to the apartment where I was staying, my host was waiting with some chicken soup, and a bed into which I slipped for the next 12 hours.

Except for a few months during the summer and early fall, the summit lake remains forzen. The glaciers have carved a huge valley of cliffs on the other side of the mountain.

My young companion and the son of a family friend, Hadi, had very little trouble during the hike. (He's 22 and had just finished his political science studies at the University of Zanjan.) In fact, he got down much faster than I.

Our climb took place on a Friday, and there were about 150 climbers trying to make it to the summit.

Of course, not all made it.

There were some younger climbers who were literally running down the mountain hopping from boulder to boulder. I also saw a man, obviously from a small Azeri town, in his blue suit, regular shoes and his 10 year-old son who'd just finished the climb and were coming down at a quick pace. It was an incredible, surreal sight.

My daughters and I take a short hike on the foothills of Mount Sabalan.

While the mountain is absolutely beautiful, and the climber is excited and at ease to climb it (Class 2), one or two days of acclamation in Tehran and one or two days in Ardabil may be worth the time.

The day before the climb to the summit, my daughters, my wife and I took a short hike on the foothills of Sabalan. My mother blamed this for my extreme exhaustion during the climb. I blamed my lack of sleep.

Next time, my wife and I may do the climb together, and when my daughters are a bit older, I'd like to climb Mount Sabalan with both of them. Another incredible place to visit would be the glacier-carved Shirevan Valley on one of the many sides of Mount Sabalan. It is certainly far less explored and can be seen at a distance en route to the base camp.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Climbing Mt. Agassiz

I originally wrote this entry on August 4, 2004, and published it on

Our base camp at the foot of the Mt. Agassiz peak.

Earlier, I'd written about climbing Mt. Agassiz. We did this on June 27, 2004. Two of us made it quite close to the peak, and two others were split. So, we called the final climb off.

Here's a photo of our base camp.

There are better, larger photos of Mt. Agassiz around. If you look at a larger photo from higher up, you'll see three small lakes at the foot of the peak. We camped near the outer edge of the middle, larger lake, circled it and climbed the plateau to the upper right and then start the climb up the middle crest. Just below the plateau, we had to use our crampons. On the left there's a vast slide, perfect for practicing basic ice axe skills.

With a short web search, I also found also some naturalist paintings of Mt. Agassiz.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Darband, a much easier climb

I wrote this entry, originally, on July 10, 2004.

Compared to the climb to Tochal two days ago, which probably took us up to some 4,960 meters, our climb to Pas-Qalleh today was a very easy hike from Darband.

Climbing Tochal

I wrote this entry, originally, on July 8, 2004.

Well, Thursday July 8, 2004, was my first day of vacation.

My wife, Liana, and my daughters, Negin (6) and Yasmine (10), went on a hike up mount Tochal, north of Tehran. The view from the peak was absolutely beautiful as Tochal is one of the highest peaks near Tehran. There are other peaks, much higher, but at some significant distance from the capital.

Negin did quite well although her mother and I had to carry her on our backs for part of the way. Yasmine climbed the whole distance by herself.

We did cheat quite a bit because we took the telecabin all the way to the 7th station, which was just about under 1000 meters below the peak.

The telecabin costs about $6 a person. It is quick way to the top if one is interested not in intense exercise but in height training.

The views and the height of the telecabin is also quite impressive. I've been on it four times in the last 12 years and this was the first time when I felt comfortable looking down into the valleys over which it rises.

I heard someone at the peak say it was 3960 meters high. "Only if they would build a 40 meter edifice here that I could climb," he said. "Then I could claim a 4000 meter summit climb."

Climbing does wonders

I originally wrote this entry on June 30, 2004.

In an earlier Web-log, I had noted my plans to climb Mount Sabalan during my vacation this summer.

While on the plane from San Francisco to Frankfurt, I ran into the Economist's obituary for Ulrich Inderbinen, the world's oldest mountain guide. Just take a good look at his face in the photo Economist has published.

He was 103 when he died. At 90 he was still nimble as a climber. At 92, he wanted to go to a trek to Kilimanjaroo. For his 95th birthday, he was given an ice axe and put it to good use on some last climbs.

So, what does Ulrich's long life tell us?

I'm really not sure. One thing I do know is that when I climbed Mount Agassiz (as a practice for Mount Sabalan) with a friend from Force 10 Networks, I felt great when I came back to the office.

When one goes climbing with a group, something else you learn is that there's a large variety in the level of individual skill, tolerance, needs and goals in the group. So, group climbing is a great exercise in team-spirit and a good way to learn to be more tolerant and respectful of others . . . An obsession, like all obsessions, of course, can lead to a self-centered mentality . . .

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Findighligh Forest, Sabalan Foothills

You hike.

And you pick flowers.

Wild flowers with amazingly distinctive colors.

You hike and you can get lost, literally, and lose your way, literally, and find yourself far away, hopefully, near a remote village.

That's the story of these foothills.

Findighligh Forest, Sabalan Foothills

This is not a normal mountain.

This is not a normal forest.

We are at the foothills of Sabalan.

The mountain of wild grass and no barbed wires.

The place where the best honey and the best creme comes to be.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Hiking on Mount Damavand

This summer, one Friday and Saturday in mid July during my vacation, while my daughters spent time with my parents in Tehran, I joined some relatives for a hike on Mount Damavand.

We started with a drive from Tehran to the village of Reyneh, where we left the car at a station sponsored by Iranian Mountaneering Federation. (See DamavandIran for more on this mountaineering station in Reyneh.) The station is run by Mr. Reza Faramarzi who is also a physical education teacher at a Reyneh public school. The station is operated primarily in the summer time. Faramarzi has worked with the station for some 40 years. According to him, up to about 30 years ago, most attempts at Damavand's summit would start at the Reyneh station. The station offers a place to rest and acclamate before the Land Rover ride to Damavand's commonly used southern trail head.

On Friday, we took (an Iranian-made) Land Rover to Ghoosfand Sara (Sheep's Home) at the trail head.

We rented some mules there to take our larger bags forward and started our hike at about 10:30 am arriving at the shelter some 1200 meters higher at about 5 pm. The elevation at the shelter was 4215 meters. Someone in Tehran had recommended that I should try to hike some more 500 meters higher before returning to the shelter. I tried this but the sun began to set and I only could make it to about 4450 meters before returning to the shelter.

The night sleep at the shelter was not very pleasant. We were all very uncomfortable and unable to get enough sleep. We also had some trouble with the elevation and had left some of our food back in Tehran. At about 3 am, on Saturday, we decided that we would not make the attempt for the summit. In the morning, at about 8:30 am, we were ready to return to the trail head. We left our packs at the shelter for the mules to return to Ghoosfand Sara and loaded our day packs with more than enough food and water for the 1200 meter descent, which took us from 9 am to about 1:30 pm. Ghoosfand Sara has a very basic shelter where we waited a bit for our Land Rover ride to arrive. We then rode our car through Reyneh back to the Haraz highway to Tehran, arriving at 6 pm.

So, although we left the actual attempt at the summit (some 1400 meters further up from the shelter) for another day and returned on Saturday, the hike and the elevation experience (literally, the head aches) were well worth it.


  • For a detailed account of a climb and ski adventure from the top of Mount Damavand by Dusan Golubic and Matjaz Roter, see here.
  • A description of Mount Damavand as a ski mountaineering objective can be found here.

Skiing in Iran

Below, you partake of a youthful skier's visit to Iran on YouTube. (It was the first video listed under Iran on YouTube.) The video takes you through various resorts in Iran.

You need to be patient through the introduction but I think recreational skier Jasin Nazim has done a much better job of reporting than many other professional journalists who have visited the country. I certainly learned quite a lot from the video and it motivates me to ski the same mountains!


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Top of Tochal

Here's my photo at the top of Mount Tochal.