Unsuccessful climbing Mount Ararat: what you should know in advance

Moh failed climb the great biblical Mount Ararat - a sad fact for me personally, but certain conclusions and circumstances of the situation will undoubtedly help someone avoid my mistakes, and simply be prepared for a possible development of events. The story is already quite old, but much of it has not changed at all.

Where is Mount Ararat and what country does it belong to

A few words about the greatest and most famous mountain of the Armenian Highlands. More precisely, about the mountains, because these are two peaks located at a distance of almost eleven kilometers from each other. They are called so, Big and Small.

For many of us, who, due to the simplicity of our souls, did not think about the belonging of this natural structure, Ararat is undoubtedly the state of Armenia. After all, everything from the famous cognac, the image on the coat of arms of Armenia, the Yerevan-Ararat football team, and the very name of the highlands simply screams to us that this is really Armenia.

Ararat in Armenia Yerevan city
View of the great mountain from Yerevan, the capital of Armenia

In principle, it was so, but only until the year 21 of the last century, when, under the Treaty of Kars, part of the territory of the Armenian SSR was ceded to Turkey. Exactly. And since then, this place, famous for the stories of Noah's Ark, is easily located on the map of Turkey.

Ararat first acquaintance
View of the great mountain at the entrance from Turkey - Mount Ararat photo

So, Ararat - highest peak in Turkey. The height of Mount Ararat is 5137 meters above sea level. The place itself attracts many mountain lovers, or rather those who not only like to be impressed by the stunning mountain landscapes, but also conquer these mountains. As a rule, all "mountain climbers" or "mountain climbers" (we are not talking about sports mountaineering here) begin their journey from arriving in the small town of Dogubayazitwhich is located in the east of Turkey…

Dogubayazit is a city for which Sultan Bayezid would be ashamed

According to one version, the city, founded on the site of the Armenian Daroink settlements, was named Dogubayazit in honor of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire Bayezid the First, who was respectfully called Lightning Fast behind his back. I think, if so, he would not like to see the city of his name in the state in which I saw it.

My personal impression of the city, to put it mildly, is "not very". To be honest, for me, Dogubayazit even stands out for its ugliness when compared with other cities in eastern Turkey. Its chaotic streets intersect at random angles. Many of the sidewalks along the streets are more run down than anywhere else, and signs and billboards are everywhere, annoyingly urging you to urgently order some service or buy something.

Streets of Dogubayazit
Dirty streets of Dogubayazit

When a foreigner gets out of the car in the center of Dogubayazit, he immediately becomes the center of attention. At least that's how it happened to me. A group of children and teenagers noticed me first, but the driver of the car that brought me to the city quickly drove them away.

They moved away, but not far, and froze in anticipation just a few meters from me. I said goodbye to the driver, who, smiling, slammed the car door and quickly left. That's when they returned. A group of seven or eight boys, somewhat similar to each other.

They acted like an organized pack. Please do not judge, but this was the first association that came to my mind. One simply held out his hand and begged, "Money, mister, money." Two others were already trying to grab my hand, saying, "Restaurant, kebab, yum-yum, go, mister," and guiding me towards the restaurant. It was my understanding that these three occupied the highest position in the "pack" hierarchy.

Two or three others took out shoe brushes and vying with each other began to offer me to clean my shoes. They were not even embarrassed by the fact that I was wearing soft, almost weightless sneakers from Riker, which, in principle, cannot be cleaned with a brush and cream. But they announced the price: only two dollars. The "cleaners" had a chance to "stick" to me only when the efforts of the "top of the clan" were unsuccessful.

Dogubayazit city in Turkey
Residents of Dogubayazit in Turkey

And now about what I would call shock for myself. There were two small boys in this group who gestured that they were ready to provide sexual services. They kept in the shadow of "comrades" and clearly avoided possible confrontation with older or more important "clan members". They were waiting for their moment, perhaps their only chance, when the rest would move away from the person they want money from.

When I had to pass through groups of people or past parked cars, the group dispersed a little and the latter had such an opportunity. Kneeling down, they used their hands to demonstrate what exactly their proposal meant. Just thinking about it literally made me sick. Is it extreme poverty or the terrible influence of tourists, what bastard told these 10-year-olds that they could make money doing this.

Types of Turkish Dogubayazit
Streets and views of Turkish Dogubayazit

I understand that local adults usually do not get into a showdown. These, they say, are not their children, and, accordingly, not their problem. I saw them get embarrassed and turn away. From time to time someone reacted in a human way, tried to shame them or just dispersed ... Until the next time, and again "money", "restaurants", "shoe shine" and "services".

It's best to ignore them. They understand the word "no" in Russian quite well. Any simple gesture of refusal is completely understandable to them. But the fact is that visitors, as a rule, have money, and much can be achieved by perseverance. The most important thing is not to let them feel that they can actually get them. In this case, their perseverance will be on top. It is better not to ask about anything, including how and where to go. Any contact will serve as an incentive.

Dogubayazit is a strange city. Poverty encourages children to do wrong, and tourists who come to see the Biblical Noah Mountain or historical palaces show them that with due perseverance, anything can be achieved.

Climbing the Biblical Mount Ararat

A long climb starting in the wilderness of the foothills, a trail and an ice cap that hides the peak at temperatures in May that range from minus 10 to minus 20 degrees Celsius. But this is all that is here and all that is needed.

Everything, except for problems. And the problem lies not in the height, not in the difficulties of climbing or the glacier, but in the established rules and norms. In short, greed is the biggest problem, Noah and his ark are just resting...

Climbing Mount Ararat
Climbing Mount Ararat, but unfortunately not mine

The fact is that the ascent to the top must be organized, and only in this way. This is not Russia, France or Thailand, where you can simply decide and climb the mountain on foot. In Turkey, a permit is required to hike. And a guide. And of course, both paid, and the fee is more "European" than in the Alps.

I tried to get an official clarification through the embassy, but for a month it was completely impossible because I could not contact anyone who could deal with such a case. There was no answer. Not being able to clarify what the rules were, all that remained was to use the services of a company that would organize a trip to Ararat. The lowest price for one person for 3 days was 600 USD. But the problem is that the rise was possible only as part of a group. And it could not be formed on the date I needed.

Finally, I was lucky - a group was formed that was going to my date, and (good luck!) It was led by my good friend. As it turned out later, the agreements reached by e-mail and phone are valid until arrival…

Upon arrival, the situation changed. In short, it became like this: a guide is not required and for only 250 USD I can climb the mountain alone. Moreover, everything was agreed with the military at the checkpoint, and the fact that I can be alone. To be honest, the lack of a guide did not bother me. Available real reviews about their professionalism did not suggest that there was someone who would be better versed in mountain safety than I was. You just need a map and a GPS, and I had all that ... But I didn’t have a stove for cooking, they had to provide it.

Of course, I turned with this and other questions to the representative of the meeting party, whose name was Aishe.

- I need a compact gas oven, I just need it, we agreed on this in the process of correspondence by e-mail.

— That's right, I had it, but unfortunately my cousin borrowed it for a while and hasn't returned it yet. However, not everything is so bad, there is a store nearby where you can safely buy what you need.

If Aisha's words were translated into normal language, it meant that I would not get anything from him, and if I wanted to have a stove on a hike, I had to pay another 180 USD.

I took stock of my finances in my mind. Theoretically, I could haggle a little, make a purchase, and then live ... more modestly. I made a decision, mentally gave up on everything and imagining myself already on the path, asked Ayse about the weather.

His answer is that the weather just great reassured me. I even sighed with relief, and then looked at my interlocutor, because today I have not yet looked at the mountains. But yesterday, when I saw them for the last time, they were all covered with clouds. According to weather forecasters, there was a storm over Iran that was moving in an indefinite direction. A vague doubt crept into my soul...

— Ayse, of course I trust you, but I hope you looked at the forecast? I asked.

- What is the use of these Internet forecasts, Ayse answered sincerely, - the mountains are a different life and the weather in the mountains always differs from the forecasts, and you won’t learn anything useful on the Internet.

I thought and said nothing, but resolutely headed for the exit from the office of the firm, almost whispering as I walked that I would be there in ten minutes. Ararat was not visible from the exit from the office, although the clouds, as it seemed to me, were approaching from the east. Having reached the open space, I saw an absolutely depressing picture: my cherished place was completely immersed in dark thunderclouds.

Ararat starts to get a little angry
Thunderclouds completely covered Agri-Dag (as the Turks call it)

When I returned to the office, I was outwardly calm. Aisha looked at me and understood everything. Now we were both absolutely calm. I regretted the lost opportunity to climb, and Ayse about the lost profit...

A few minutes of silence passed, and then Aishe beamed again. A couple of Europeans entered the office. He politely ran up and began to offer an ascent to Ararat, a good original restaurant and a trip to the palace of Ishak Pasha. The only thing I noticed was the inscription on the backpack of one of the travelers - "Champs Elysees", after that I left the office and my Turkish "friend" Ayse.

One thing became clear to me: the organization of the ascent (excursion to Mount Ararat) is somewhat similar to the activities of the children you meet at the entrance to Dogubayazit and who accompany the traveler most of the time, especially in the lanes. Poverty, and this is a very poor place even by the standards of the region, forces one to look for at least some sources of income, and visiting tourists unwittingly teach that they can be “milked”. Experience shows that no standards and rules are applied…

Practical Information: My Honest Advice

  • It is best to go to Ararat with a group of several people. The contract for the cost of services and maintenance should be as precise and specific as possible. But in any case, you should pay attention to possible additional costs.
  • Communicating with the organizers of the lifts, it is difficult to believe in their professionalism, although in the press you can find information emphasizing the high quality of their services. If possible, it is better to use a company that someone has already recommended.
  • Entrance to Ararat is offered at a variety of standards, including the transport of things and the rental of all equipment, including tents and sleeping bags.
  • The best time for a trip to the great mountain is the high season, that is, summer. Leave a few free days in case the trip is delayed or the organizer changes the rules on the fly.

And finally, the positive - do not forget that many people went to Ararat and returned from there with great satisfaction, despite the fact that they also struggled with bureaucratic and life difficulties.

Игорь Коловский

Author on the TRAVEL GUIDE website. By primary education, he is a teacher, a bit of a writer, a builder and, of course, a traveler. He is interested in fishing and “mountain climbing,” as he calls it. Responsible, loves order and precision, but not a pedant and forgives everyone :) Despite his stern appearance, he loves flowers and animals, and his pet Maine Coon really doesn’t like it when his owner goes on trips and misses him...

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