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.

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