|South Col Adventures|
About Damavand and the Central Alborz Mountains
Damavand is a dormant volcano, located in middle Alborz Range and and is the highest peak in Middle East, and the highest volcano in Asia. The mountain is located near the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, in the Mazandaran province, 66 km northeast of Tehran. Zoroastrian texts and mythology, mention the three-headed dragon AziDahaka was chained on Damavand, there to remain until the end of the world. In a later version of the same legend, the tyrant Zahak was also banished there after being defeated by Fereydoun.
The Singapore team began at the Alam Kooh/ Takhte-Soleyman ( Throne of Solomon ) area in the Alborz where a large number of 4000m peaks lie. After a 6 – 8 hike to the Sarchal shelter, the team climbed two peaks ( see below ). After these climbs, the team travelled to Damavand to make an attempt on its longest route, the northeast ridge. So little information in English is available about this route – the longest on the peak, that it is hoped that this page will make good this gap in information and allow climbers to learn more of this peak.All photos © David Lim and Grant Rawlinson unless otherwise stated.
Top: Poppies by the thousands below Damavand. Illegal, but you can get a puff of opium if you know where to look……..
PHOTOS OF THE CLIMB:
|Grant and David on the summit of Damavand 5671m, 1030am, June 22. Powered up by Klassno! Many thanks to our friends at Food Empire||Shadow of Damavand at sunset; taken from Takhte-Fereydoun 4400m||The approach route for the Takhte-Fereydoun shelter – there is no trail! The upper red line denotes the summit route. From the trail head, you have 1300m vertical relief to the shelter or campsites, 6 – 8 hrs. Long day!|
|The team aimed for the gap in the crater rim. Grant was way ahead ( circled in red ), and chilling out on the sulphur stained volcanic rocks||Pretty tired: Dave ” Two Legged Dead Donkey ” Lim approaching summit crater rim. Dave took 8 hours to summit, Grant more than an hour ahead||Scrambling on the Northeast ridge of Damavand. From the 4400m shelter, there is a 1300m vertical relief to gain to the summit on class 3 scrambling and 45 degree snow ( last 500m ). Steep drops off the Yakhar Glacier to the left. you can just make out the crater rim on the upper skyline ( paler rocks )|
|Dave scrambling on Rostam Nesh , 4500m, summit climb, June 19||Circled in red is the constant ‘puff’ of sulphur fumes ejected by Damavand. The red line denotes the summit route. The ridge on the right hand skyline is the North ridge, serviced by two shelters at 4100m and 5000m. The first 300 vertical metres of the northeast ridge is a hike up scree, followed by 3rd class rock for another 500m, and then 500m of snow to the 5600, crater rim. the summit is a further short traverse to a collection of plaques and memorials erected by the Iranians. A strong stench of sulphur can be detected at the top. Keep moving!||“Ace Dude” Grant on steepening snow, Mian Sechal, 4300m+ ( Alam Kooh area ). The team backed off the route shortly afterwards.|
|The 800m ‘ big wall’ – the north face of 4850m Alam Kooh at sunset||Unbelievable at first – but you can see rice paddyfields in Iran. On the wet coastal areas south of the Caspian Sea, rice is grown, and a thriving holiday business exists with 2nd homes by the rather grey and lukewarm Caspian. The team had a scrumptious lunch at the Lavidj Restaurant – the only food respite between the Alam Kooh climbs and the Damavand ascent. Fried trout, chicken kebabs, fresh herb salad, thickened yoghurt and Delster non-alcoholic Iranian beer made for a short but unforgettable visit through the Caspian Sea region before hittting once more, the arid region of the Mazandaran province of Damavand.PS: In case you want to know, the beer is very ‘ malty’ and ‘ hoppy’ in taste and a bit on the sweet side. Avoid the lemon or other ‘ flavoured’ versions. This is the closest you’ll get to the real stuff in ‘ dry’ Iran.||Dawn on Damavand. Looking down the northeast ridge|
|Dave leading the way to Mian Sechal. Afetr dangerously soft snow thwarted the team, they made a 2nd attempt via the Pa Takht glacier – without success. This time – to overly loose rock on a long traverse. You win some, you lose some…..and bring a longer rope next time!||Making new friends with a kid. After the descent from Damavand, June 23||Steep snow on Rostam Nesh. The team summitted both Rostam Nesh ( 4500m ) and Takhte-Rostam ( 4330m ) on the same day|
|Scrambling up the rocks off the flanks of Mian Sechal ( 2nd attempt )||Stuffing a lambskin with fresh curds and salt – making goat cheese, Iranian style. These friendly shepherds took the team in after their descent, and shared their food with them. Goats’ brains were eventually on the menu!||The infamous, Paykan, Iran’s national car modelled after the 1960s Hillman Hunter. It guzzles a litre of petrol every 5km. At US$0.10 per litre, who cares – in Iran anyway…….Surviving Tehran’s white-knuckle traffic experiences must count as tougher than climbing Damavand.|
This is our last dispatch from Teheran. We’re enjoying the ; dizi’ or traditional meals like abgusht (beaten lamb stew), museums and dodging the deadly local traffic where obeying traffic lights is optional. The Iranians have been warm and hospitable, and none more than the shepherds who greeted us on our return from the climb on Friday, put us up for the night and shared their bread, cheese and lamb stew with us. As guests, this includes partaking in sheep’s brains. Delightful…
“Ace Dude” Grant and ” Two Legged Dead Donkey” Dave (as a representation of our relative speeds on the mountain) worked well as a team and there will be more details of our climbs on Rostam Nesh ( 4500m ) , Takthte Rostam ( 4330m ) and of course the mixed rock and snow ascent of Damavand on Thursday when we summitted at 1030am – the KLASSNO flag flew high on all occasions. Off belay, David+Grant:
Today we took a leisurely 4 hr hike around the smaller mountains as we descent down the mountain. The wind that started blowing yesterday is still going strong. We have moved down and are now at the foot of the mountain, wandering around where the grass still grows. This is a summer pasture for the nomadic herders in this region. Time has not moved much for the last 100 years in this land.
Right now we are hanging out with some shepherds. They are making tea for us. This is certainly not an English tea with scones but there is a certain rustic charm. Stripped of language barriers we feel comfortable with just the big smiles from the shepherds. To them we are just two travellers. They make strong tea with goats’ milk for us. Sitting next to us are a few huge working dogs, gnawing at some rather large bones. Not too friendly, these dogs. I guessed that in the winter months, these dogs will work their keep. Someone’s bringing cheese over. Tastes rather good. They just made the cheese, churning the goats milk in a portable thingy. This cheese does taste good!! Brup!!
We will spend the night here at the Shepherd’s hut. Both of us are well, aches aside. Made satcom calls to the wife and Grant to his girlfren. Will take a car ride into Tehran tomorow. We have 1 1/2 days sightseeing in the city. Flying back on Mon, arriving Tues am
Started the summit attempt at 0230hrs. We climbed up via the northeast ridge. Summitted Damavand at 5671m, after a long hard climb at about 9-10am (Iran time). A long 7 hours of physical and mental struggle. This was a very challenging climb. We did a two stage climb. Carrying loads to a mid-camp about 1400m above basecamp. And from there we made our summit attempt, the summit is another 1400 vertical meters from this camp, but with lighter loads. It was still tough but at least, at this midpoint, we have our backups in case the weather turned nasty while we are on the big hill.
We had to do a lot of climbing over rock faces and uneven terrain. There was quite a bit of rock climbing as we move upwards on the mountain. And when we got over the rockfaces, we get soft snow where we had to plough through upwards at about a 45 degree slope. It was tough ploughing through the soft snow. We had to keep lifting our legs high with every step we take. At high altitudes, it is already tiring just to keep moving upwards. And there is the added uncertainty of not knowing what lies underneath. It could be a sharp rock or a wobbly stone that can make us fall. Falling on a 45 degree slope will mean a long slide down if we cannot stop in time. We were roped up. Practicing the necessary ‘safety procedures on mountains’ here.
We were lucky. As we descent, the winds picked up. The mountain wants us off her. By the time we reached basecamp, we can see strong hurricane-like winds on the mountain. Plumes of snow began to fly off the mountain, beautiful sight from afar. But not when you are in it. It was as if the dragon on Damavand awakes and roars at the two of us who stole a climb up her back.
We are now resting at base camp and doing the usual, boiling teas and chewing food. Right now I feel like I have been kicked by a mule or some large animal. Muscles are completely exhausted. It was especially challenging because the rough terrain requires a lot more out of me. Good thing my weak leg held up. Grant is in a better shape. He is a strong climber with great humour. Dave
We have reached Damavand base camp now. A driver picked us up from Roodbarak Village. On the way to base camp, we pass the Caspian Sea and had fried trout for lunch. It was good fresh food. I wonder how the trout would taste if we had it steamed with mushrooms, rice wine, and tofu. The Damavand base camp is at 3000m. Tomorow, we will trek up to our next camp higher up. This will bring us up to about 4300m with all our gear. I expect it to be a long day, plodding up the mountain with gear on our backs. We will be on the look out for any 3 headed dragons. And dragons aside, Grant is looking good. Both of us are acclimatising well and the earlier climbs have been good. We hope to attempt for the summit on Wed if the weather holds. Dave
We summitted Rostam Nesh 4500m and another peak called Takhte Rostam, which is also known as Throne of Rostam 4350m. Even though these two peaks are near each other, it was still an exciting climb, submitting Rostam Nisht and then making our way over to Takhte Rostam. It wa snow climbing to 45 – 50 degrees, and then a simple traverse about 500m to the other summit. Grant being the stronger climber is a very helpful partner to have. We will be walking back to Roodbarak Village which is 5 hours walk away tomorow with all our gear. From there, we will be taking a car to Damavand basecamp. Tuesday will be recce day and summit attempt for Damavand will be on Wednesday.
Running low on food, will top up supply on the way to Damavand. Just local provisions and nothing we can get at home. Dave
Today is an active rest day. We spent the day cleaning up rubbish around our camp site, not just our own filth but also those left behind by the previous climbers. Seems that this is always a problem on every mountain, climbers leaving rubbish behind! Everything is fine, both of us are in good health, weather continues to be good. Very little wind (except in the tent!).Tomorow, we will attempt peak called Rostam which is 4500m.
Running low on bak kwa. Sigh. Dave
We made a 9 hrs attempt to climb MianSechal but was unsuccessful. We had our ass kicked off this mountain. The snow was too soft and at 55 – 60 degrees, it could have just slid right off. We might have belayed except for our rather short rope… it was not safe to go on after about 6 hours of struggling up the hill. We both ended up really dehydrated. For now, it’s boiling water, teas and a bit of food. The thing about climbing on our own is that there was no one else to blame. We are reduced to starring at our own weaknesses and confronting them as they are… enough existentialism… Plan is to rest tomorow and attempt to summit one of the >4000m high peak on Sunday. Will continue for Damavand on Monday. We are in good health and acclimitizing well. Good climbing weather today. Just having a light snack now. Dinner will be tuna and mash potatoes. Dave
Going to sleep soon. Tomorrow, we will attempt a 4000 plus meter peak. We can resist anything but temptation. We had the usual noodles for dinner. Topped it up with a Seng Choon’s tea egg and a few mugs of Klassno’s coffee. The egg tastes great but gave us a bit of gas…. hrumph…. The weather is good. Quiet. Not too much wind outside the tent, but inside, its a different story . We hope that the weather will stay this way tomorrow. Dave
Report made on 15 June 2006, satcoms connections were pretty bad and it took me over 5 hours to send this batch of reports. Dave:
Arrival in Tehran. Grant and I spoke to some locals, checked out local weather conditions. Not much info collected here. We had some discussions on the possible routes up the mountains. But mostly, we just had tea and enjoyed the sights. We checked our gear and food. Spent the a night at a hotel. Hotel is on the same row as the American Embassy!!
It was a 6 hours drive to Roodbarak village (1550m), and then after a short pee stop, we moved off to Vandarbon at 2300m. This is in the Takht-e-Solayman region. We are now in mountain country. Nothing but rock, crickets and the mountains. And the occassional sheep… Slept at the Mountaineering Federation’s base shelter.
We struggled up to Sarchal hut (3800m), we went up 1400 vertical meters, and this took 9 hrs. It was ‘siong’ (tough) because Grant and I both had about a 25kg pack on our backs. Grant was good, he helped me out towards the last leg to the hut. Most encouraging were his jokes. Was a bit dehydrated. Felt better after loads of tea and some bak kwa. We spent the night at hut shelter.
Today was a rest and acclimatize day. Basically, this is mountain talk for sit around and relax a bit before the next stage. We might establish a camp higher up over the next few days. Weather is good, we are fine. We might attempt summiting a peak above 4000m tomorow if the weather stays good.
For now, Dave.
It’s all systems go as we have just received our Iranian visas, and have sorted out the team gear. The expedition story was covered extensively in the Singapore media with features in the Straits Times newspaper June 8th, the freesheets and also on radio nad Channel NewsAsia. Despite the sabre-rattling by the USA and Europe, I am convinced that much of this fails to fully appreciate Iran’s long history of independence and the mindset of a nation that has been invaded and colonised several times in the past millennium.Not to mention the CIA-inspired overthrow of a legitimate Iranian government in the 1950s…. By my experience, its peoples are incredibly warm and hospitable. We shared base camp with their Iran Everest Expedition in 1998 when we were also on our first Singapore expedition to the Big Hill. Our summit success, owes, in part, to the help we received from the Iranians. Hope to meet old friends soon. Stay tuned.
David Lim, team leader: Singapore’s most prolific mountaineer, with over 55 alpine ascents and expeditions including leading the 1st Singapore Everest Expedition in 1998, and the second (from the north ridge, 2001) Singapore Everest expedition. Partially disabled from Guillain Barre Syndrome since 1998, he continues to inspire thousands through his seminars and presentations. Made the first all-Singapore ascent of Aconcagua, the highest peak in North and South America in Feb 2000, soloed Ojos del Salado ( 6893m ) in 2005, and many South East Asian mountaineering ‘ firsts’.
Grant Rawlinson, climber
A Singapore Permanent Resident, Grant has climbed around the world, with ascents in theNZ and European Alps, Mount Elbrus, and a summit of Aconcagua via the more difficult Polish Glacier Direct route. A manager at a technical services company, Grant is a New Zealander .
Main banner photo from NASA archives
Left: Map off iran showing location of the Alborz mountains, and Damavand. Right: Takhte-Soleyman( Throne of Solomon )Peak. At around 4600m, this is the 2nd highest peak in the area and offers a wealth of scrambling and traverse options for the mountaineer. Photo© Nader Honarkhah, used with permission
Mian SeChal ( 4300m ), one of the team’s possible objective near the beginning of the glacier area near the Sarchal campsite. Alam Kouh , 4850m, the region’ smost technical mountain with steep ‘big’wall’ type climbs of up to 800 vertical metres is also featured in this picture. Traverses from MianSecahl to the summit of Alm Kouh are also possible
Photo© Nader Honarkhah used with permission.
Food Empire Holdings, a Singapore-listed company, and their fKlassno range of fine instant beverages is powering the expedition. Food Empire has a steady presence in Iran with teas, coffees and instant powdered beverages.
Singapore mainboard-listed Food Empire Holdings Limited (“Food Empire”) is a leading food and beverage company that manufactures and markets a wide variety of regular and flavoured coffee mixes and cappuccinos, instant chocolate, instant breakfast cereal and flavoured fruit teas. Food Empire also markets a refreshing range of confectionery, snack food and an assortment of frozen convenience food that includes Asian delicacies. Food Empire’s’ products are exported to over 50 countries globally in markets such as Russia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and Indochina..Food Empire has been ranked among the top three most popular instant 3-in-1 coffee brands in the Group’s core markets.