Saturday, May 3, 2014

Up Next - Mt. Ararat!

After our celebration dinner in Kathmandu and emotion filled farewells to our Sherpa friends and fellow team members, Denise and I turned our attention to Turkey. We flew to Istanbul yesterday at the western edge of the country (Istanbul is a rare city in the world with the distinction of sitting in two continents) and today we took a flight to Van located near the eastern edge of Turkey. Syria and Iraq are to the south of us and now we are quite near the border of Iran to the east. The Kurds are the predominant ethnic group here so we aren't exactly waving the American flag around to make friends.

Nonetheless, this region is the site of Mt. Ararat, the highest peak in Turkey at 16,854 feet and its summit is our next objective. It is higher than any mountain in the continental United States or in Europe, outside of the Caucasus. Ararat was a part of Armenia until the Armenian Genocide in 1915 when Turkey took over that section of Armenia. The mountain is a dormant volcano with the last eruption in 1840, so at least we should be safe on that front!

Mt. Ararat is also known for its historical significance as the likely final resting place of Noah's Ark. It is specifically referenced in the Bible in the book of Genesis, Chapter 8, 1-5. Over the years various groups have explored Ararat in the hopes of finding remains of the Ark. Both Josephus in about 70 A.D. and Marco Polo about 1300 A.D. mention its existence on the mountain, but conclusive artifacts have yet to be discovered. If we come across any telltale pieces of wood from the hull, or anybody who looks like Russell Crowe (from the movie Noah) we'll be sure to make another blog post about it! :-)

Although Ararat has a glacial cap year round, most people climb it in August, when there is much less snow on its flanks. As a result we will be using crampons/snowshoes and ice axes far closer to the base of the mountain this time of year in May. Hopefully the weather will cooperate with us as well, it's currently cloudy up on the mountain and looks like snow from here at our current location in Doğubayazıt.  We drove apprx. 2 hours north from Van to get here, and in the morning we will drive a bit further to the trailhead and begin the climb!

Downtown Doğubayazıt, across the street from our hotel.

Note: We're not sure whether we will have the ability to post from the mountain, so it may be three or four days until our next update.

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