Travel G-spots

TRAVEL DIARY: Ascending Mt Ararat, Turkey

Bah! I must have been the dumbest person ever to walk on this earth. (maybe not earth per se, but definitely on Mt. Ararat)

I have my American Express and VISA cards (!!!) in one pocket together with the questionably useful medical insurance cardS, passport in the other, TL in yet another … and … and compact flash cards!!! WT{blip}!!! I had worn the wrong cargo pants!

Through the din of light, I looked for anyone nearby. Mostly couples or solo seasoned male trekkers were in our group of 12; cook, guide and porter not included.

The trekkers were no doubt way ahead. The couples? God knows!

As I climbed, keeping close the foot path – or what I assume is a foot path – I cajoled one leg ahead of the other imagining that soon I would be burning protein and sustaining internal bleeding in my muscles that was by now, beyond the pain one feels from lactic acid accumulation. With laboured breath (yet enough to curse silently under my breath), a leaky nose (unsure if it was mucus or I had snapped a capillary), I hung on to the vision of a silhouette that seems to be grounded at the spot some 5 metres ahead, silently swapping curses for prayers that I am not hallucinating.

Relieved that it turned out to be my guide, I sank into his opened arms and embraced him for the longest of time before wilfully accepting the rubdowns on my arms, cheeks, back … and to be entirely honest with you, I didn’t even care when his hands lingered on way too long at strategic areas or when he had his arms around my waist for the next 20 metres … I am warm, safe and well padded like Mrs. “Michelin“, so he can grope and touch all he wants – it’s just Gore-tex and duck down!

The views on the way up Mt. Ararat; before sunrise and as altitude increases (freezing cold) and around midday (freaking hot!)

In time to come and for the remaining trek, I had a free potter, always an ever willing out stretched hand to assist and pull my weight at slippery and difficult terrains, more piping hot apple tea, extra warm blankets, energy bars when mine ran out (not entirely good at rationing; I had zero energy bar left by the crack of dawn the following morning), and most importantly makeshift shade for siesta when the sun is too hot … all courtesy the trek guide in exchange for some well padded hugs, silly whispers and little ‘you are special’ gestures and attention from time to time.

So yeah, I made it to Mt. Ararat … and at 3,200 metres I finally identified with Abraham Maslow and his famous hierarchy of needs … I sure need those emotional ones stacked right at the pinnacle of his pyramid to get to Mother Nature’s pinnacles.

pHaque Mt Ararat Turkey 03

Photo of the group waiting for sunrise at base camp … I had thought sunrise and sunsets are the most overrated thing people go for until I saw the burning ball of inferno rising in the horizon opposite the moon that continues to shine on for an hour before totally ‘disappearing’ into the clear blue almost cloudless skies.

pHaque Mt Ararat Turkey 04

The trek guide – this photo could have pass off as “Ice, Ice Baby” – Vanilla Ice Album cover – check out the hairdo!

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USEFUL FACTS ABOUT CLIMBING MT ARARAT

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Mount Ararat Trek
Continent: Asia
Country: Turkey
Region: Anatolia
Latitude: 39.7 N
Longitude: 44.3 E
Elevation: 5,165 m; 16,945 ft
Difficulty: walk up
Year first climbed: 1829

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Best months for climbing:
June – September

In the summer, the weather on Mount Ararat is sunny, warm and dry. In the winter and spring, cold and harsh conditions prevail and mountain climbers occasionally face blizzards and turbulent weather. The last 400 meters are snow-covered year-round. For your safety, the government of Turkey requires all climbers on Ararat to be led by a Turkish guide

June 1 – September 15

summer climbing season

July 15 – September 5
best climbing; warm and dry

September 15-February 29
Blizzards may delay climbing. Only the fearless or foolish climb in these months.

March and April
best ski months

May and June
highest rain and hail

At camp 2, even in August, temperatures turn extremely cold after sunset, and you crawl into your sleeping bag to arise at 1 AM for the summit climb. The last 400 meters are snow- and ice-covered year-round requiring crampons. Winds can be 40 knots or more on the summit, making it bitterly cold even in August. You must dress in layers to keep warm, including your hands.

Equipment to bring:

trekking boots with ankle support

good sleeping bag

down jacket

warm gloves

water bottle

sunglasses and sunscreen

headlamp

crampons (if trekking all the way to the top)

walking poles

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araratmap

Climbing Permits – The government of Turkey requires climbing permits. The cost is $50 US and is included in your tour price. Your trekking company will obtain the climbing permit for you. Local trekking companies with a legal company license can get them from the Agri government office instead of through Ankara. If you don’t have a climbing permit and need to call for medical help, you can forget it. However, there are people who climbs Mt. Arart without permits; hence the lower/ cheaper price offered by some trekking companies. 

Overcrowded – July and August are the peak months for climbing Ararat. The mountain is over-crowded. There may be over 100 climbers a day headed for the summit. The two camps are at 3200 and 4200 meters.

Dangers – High-altitude mountain climbing is dangerous – period. Trekking companies are not liable nor financially responsible if something bad happens to you, including injury, kidnapping, terrorist attack, diarrhea, twisted ankles, broken bones, food poisoning, being kicked by a horse/ donkey or bitten by a flea, freezing to death in a blizzard, or any other things you can think of. If you’re not up for the adventure, note that a four-wheel drive can get all the way to base camp at 3200 meters – this of course comes with the risk of altitude sickness with the fast ascend.

Altitude Sickness – Some people get altitude sickness. This can happen to you even if you are physically fit and have climbed other, higher mountains with no problems. Altitude sickness is common. The symptoms to look out for includes nausea, vomiting, headache, aching, dizziness (vertigo). If you feel ill at any time, let the guide and your team members know before it becomes a crisis – people have died of altitude sickness. So, do not jeopardize your health or your life or the success of the entire team. 

Extreme Weather – You will climb from hot (summer) to extreme cold (winter) temperatures. The snow conditions and temperature on Agri Dagi or Mount Ararat can be very hot (32C) to very cold (-20C). It can rain, hail, and snow. You can suffer frost bitten toes and fingers. To put it mildly, the wind is extremely strong – it can blow you down and of course your tent away. The sun on the other hand can cause heat exhaustion. After mid-September the weather can turn to winter conditions and snows even lower on the mountain. Dress and equip yourself appropriately.

Heat Exhaustion – Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion often begin suddenly, sometimes after excessive exercise, heavy perspiration, and inadequate fluid or salt intake. Signs and symptoms resemble those of shock and may include: feeling faint or dizzy, nausea, heavy sweating, rapid weak heartbeat, low blood pressure, cool moist pale skin, low-grade fever, heat cramps, headache, fatigue, dark-colored urine. Read the Mayo Clinic’s advice on how to treat heat exhaustion.

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