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To The Summit
Van - Dogubayazit
Day 1 - Towards 3200m
Day 2 - Acclimatization
Day 3 - Towards 4200m
Day 4 - Summit Day
Issues & Thoughts

Day 1 - Towards 3200m

23 August 2005. Today's target is to get to 3200m. We wake up early. The sun is out since 5:00 am here. My brother goes for a 10K run and I do my yoga practice. I dedicate my salutations to Ararat. We get our gear ready and go for breakfast. This was our view from the balcony. Unbelievable to have breakfast under the shadow of Ararat. Our excitement and joy can't be contained. Everyone is ready to start the climb.
As time passes the weather and visibility is getting better and better. We are all hoping that the weather will stay like this. Others that have already been on the peak tell us that Ararat has its own weather. It does not follow the weather reports and it can change any minute. At that point I start feeling that the Mountain is watching us. It was a strange sensation.


9:00 AM. We load our stuff on the truck and get ready to go through our final military check. We drive to the nearby commando Camp. Some are concerned. I have already realised that the people here are not very bright and clever. So I take it easy knowing that we are all in the clear.


9:30 AM.The check did not take a long time. After 10 minutes we are ready to go. The truck starts to drive towards 2500m. After that we will continue by foot. Next to me is Gioxu. While I am on the truck I explain to him that I am Armenian and that on these lands, 100 years ago, there were Armenians living. I asked him were are they? He does not give me an answer. Instead he tells me that this is a case of the past ... it's history. But like any responsible country Turkey has to recognize history. He also tells me that I am lucky because my ancestors left this land and I am born in Europe. Because of that I live a good life. I tell him that I live a good life because I fight for it. It is not given to me just because I live in Europe.


The road is rough and dusty. We start getting a first taste of the mountain. Every one is quiet and gazed on the peak. The view is breathtaking. Ararat is still watching us from above. It's watching every one. I start thinking about the events that took place here 100 years ago. People were probably fighting on those hills.


On the road we pass by some Kurdish nomads. They live in mud houses and in filthy conditions. I am sure that the Armenians living here in the past lived in more decent citcumstances. All my life I grew up with photos, pictures, and songs of Ararat and I am not the one living under the great Mountain. Yet those people that do, neither understand the significance of this Mountain, nor care about it as much as I do, but have the luxury of enjoying this view from their "houses."


After a one hour drive we reach the end of the road. We are at 2500m. We can see donkeys, mules, horses and some local Kurdish villagers waiting for us. There are many local kids that are begging for money "para, para" they shout. The arrangement to carry our belongings with them happened very fast. Quickly they load our stuff on the donkeys. We do a last check on our gear, take some team photos, and we are ready to start.


11:00 AM. We start the walk, which seems to be very easy in the beginning. The weather is beautiful and hot. It's probably 25 Celsius. Our second mountain guide, Hussein, seems very experienced. He has a steady and slow pace. Some of us decided to go up a bit faster so we split and leave the rest of team behind. The mountain is very dry, dusty, and extremely rocky. We take short 2 minute breaks every half an hour. After a certain point, I start having a light headache but I do not pay attention to it.


1:06 PM. It takes us 2 hours and 6 minutes to finally reach base camp 1 at 3200m. We choose our tent and wait for the arrival of the donkeys. We unload our stuff and we start to arrange our things. This is going to be our home for the next two days. We decided to go up a bit higher so that we can start the acclimatization sooner. We reach 3900m. At 5:00pm we get back at our camp-site to have dinner. We are starving. The food tastes great event though it's just soup with rice. At 6:30pm it was already starting to get dark. It's also getting colder as the sun is setting. This is my first sunset on Ararat. It is beautiful.


8:00 PM and everyone starts getting into their tents. I already start to develop a good relationship with the Turkish guides. We are friendly with each other and they invite me to their tent. There are some other guides from another group. We all get into one tent to smoke and play cards. One of the guides is very friendly and has a happy face. His characteristics are exactly like an Armenian. Dark colors, full lips, curved nose. I tell him: "You have to be Armenian. You look exactly like an Armenian." Smiling, he responds that he is from Erzourm! I tell him that Erzourm was Armenian once, before the Turks deported all of its inhabitants during the genocide. Then he tells me "My grandmother is Armenian".
We talk and we laugh. At that point I realize that I know more Turkish than I actually think. One of the guides tells me that he wants to learn Armenian. That surprised me! Another guide asks me to tell him the story about the church on Ahtamar island.
9:15 PM I go back to my tent walking in the absolute darkness. This is Ararat! My brother is busy filling up his dairy. We start an endless laugh. We can hear Garo's voice from across the camp. We laugh more. There is a slight incline which causes us to slide in our sleeping bags. There is a hole underneath us in which we continue falling. The laugh is unbelievable. We can't sleep! We measure our heart rate. It's 100. Not very normal. It should be around 60.

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