Read all about Doug Trumper's epic trek to raise funds for Turunç village school.
"Well, I didn't see Noah's Ark;
in fact because of the clouds ...
I didn't see much at all from the summit of Mt. Ararat.
But I made it up and made it back safely to Turunç to tell the tale!"
Mt Ararat is the highest mountain in Turkey at 16,854 feet (5,137 m). It is located in the Eastern Anatolia Region between Doğubeyazıt and Iğdır, near the border with Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
With typical understatement, Doug had set himself the goal of "climbing the highest hill in Turkey" and, in so doing, to raise much-needed funds for Turunç village school.
Let Doug pick up the story ...
Day 1 ... I met my climbing companion at breakfast. Boris is from Moscow and half my age. There's only 2 of us in the group and a guide, Ibrahim who we meet down in the lobby. He's a small man but looks strong; it looks like I'm going to be the weak link here. We load our gear into a Transit minibus and head out of Doğubayazıt towards Iran but soon turn north onto a track which takes us up into the foothills. We get out at 2000 metres and transfer heavy stuff onto some donkeys. Harun straps everything on while we start walking. At one stop it transpires that Boris is 32, Ibrahim 48 and I'm 64 - we are "Team Hexadecimal".
The pace is steady but Ibrahim is relentless, even over the steeper bits. We follow the bones of an old path but often cutting the corners. Harun and the donkeys overtake us. A few hundred feet up the hill and we pass a burnt out car with a wrecked bulldozer and a grader behind it. There's no story just 3 dead vehicles 2800 metres up a mountain. They hadn't made much of a job of the track.
We cross some snow at around 3200 m then we're into rocks and soon arrive at Camp 1 - 3356 metres (11,046 feet) above sea level. Ibrahim immediately starts work erecting tents and refusing help, telling us to rest. It's a wee bit cooler here and I'm not moving so I pull on my fleece. Ibrahim shouts us for tea and lunch. My heart, which had been working hard has settled down. The tea is good. I take a couple of photos and have a kip.
Day 2 ... Over breakfast we discuss the plan. Normally on Day 2 we'd climb to 4200 metres, rest for a bit then come back down to camp 1. The following day we'd climb back up to 4200 metres and camp 2 However the weather is expected to deteriorate so we discuss going up to camp 2 and staying there. It seems like a plan to me but depends a bit on physical condition. At 4200 m, altitude sickness is a possibility and suffering it would mean going lower on the mountain. So we'll see how it goes.
We head off towards the east, climbing slightly and passing other camp sites then quite suddenly we turn north and start climbing the mountain. The slope is around 20° and steeper in places. We zig-zag across a rock strewn shoulder of the hill forever moving upwards. It seems that the zigs are easier than the zags but in reality it's all hard going. Ibrahim is still relentless but his pace is OK; "Tempo iyi?" he keeps asking. I tell him his tempo is fine but my heart's tempo is not so good. I take plenty of stops. At one point he points out the top of the tents at camp 2. 'We're doing that today?' Deep joy. The shoulder gets steeper, the rocks get bigger, the temperature drops slowly. Why are we doing this? Boris and I share my rucksack. His day sack was too small so he's put his kit in mine. He's very generous and carries the rucksack for probably 2/3rds of the climb. Harun overtakes us with the heavy gear on the donkeys, oh to be younger and fitter.
Great view to the south but to the north all you see is mountain, mountain that you have to climb. There's some bits of cloud around the summit but it's a great day. A lot of climbers are coming down from camp 2 having summited. There's not too many going up, just us and another group it seems. We pass the time of day with Russians, Poles, Romanians, Germans and French. I guess I'm the only Englishman on this hill but everyone is using English to communicate. Suddenly we are at the tents that we could see earlier. Unfortunately they're not ours. Our camp site is higher, another hundred metres higher. We get there and Ibrahim allows us to pitch our tents while he makes lunch. He tells us to rest and to report any ill effects. I tell him that I have no intentions of going back down to camp 1 and then back up again the next day. We laugh but I'm serious.
Little Ararat is to the east, to the north there is still a huge bulk of mountain. Camp 2 is on the side of a big gash in the mountain. You could call it a couloir I suppose but I think it's the site of an old eruption: Ararat is a dormant volcano. There are often falls of rock into it but it's of no concern, we'll be climbing nowhere near it. It's cold and Boris and I get some rest then get up for the evening meal. Things are looking OK for the summit although the weather is still giving a bit of concern. We eat and go back to bed. There are no ill effects so the summit is on if the weather holds. Although we are sharing the camp with the other team, a bunch of Romanians, it's very quiet. Despite resting all afternoon and evening my pulse rate does not go below 110 bpm.
Day 3 ... Around 1am on Thursday morning I hear Ibrahim making tea so get up. The sky is crystal clear and the stars seem close enough to touch. Ibrahim tells me that he and Zeki, the other guide reckon it's good to go so the others are woken up and we eat and prepare to head off. I'm dressed for the cold,: boots and thermal socks, thermal leggings, trousers and water/wind proof over trousers, a Buffalo special 6 shirt and a water/wind proof jacket. On my head is a waterproof beanie hat and headlight. Oh, and I'm wearing gloves.
We head off, uphill. Almost immediately we cross some snow and twice I stick a leg in up to my thigh. I really don't need this sort of excitement! We slowly make our way up the hill, the Romanians catching us up. I take a break and sit on a big rock. A few seconds later the rock underneath my seat shifts and I fall in a heap, my left arm stuck down in between some fairly large rocks and my legs all over the place. The Romanians lift me up and I check myself out. I have a sore finger on my left hand but otherwise OK except I really don't need this sort of excitement! The Romanians overtake us while I'm settling myself down then once again we start climbing. It's dark of course and looking up all you can see are headlights flashing as the other team climb above us. To the south there are the lights, way below us, of Doğubayazıt and lots of smaller villages.
As we climb higher the cloud starts to roll in and the wind picks up. By the time we can climb without our headlights we can't see very much because of the cloud. We collect one of the Romanians that has dropped off his group and he continues to climb with us. The wind continues to get stronger the higher we go and although most of me is warm my hands are getting cold. The gloves, probably good for around -5° are not coping with the conditions. I've hedged my bets though and break open a chemical heat pad which I put inside my right glove. I'm using a stick in the right hand and it's very cold, the left I can keep in my jacket pocket most of the time. Suddenly Ibrahim calls a halt and we break out our crampons and fumbling around in the bitter cold, strap them on. We step off again onto the summit ice cap, the crampons making it seem like walking with velcro on your feet. Ibrahim doesn't zig-zag but goes straight up the shallower slope. We can see maybe 5 or 6 metres and the wind is howling. The slope increases to around 15° and we do 25 steps and stop, 25 steps and stop. Boris is lagging a wee bit and Christie, the Romanian even more. I seem to have found some extra energy but in all honesty I just wanted to get to the top and finish it. Suddenly I look up and Ibrahim is holding his arms out welcoming me to the summit. We do the hug and touch cheeks (through about 8 layers of clothing) and then welcome Boris and Christie to the summit. I fumble in my rucksack and get out the camera and the flag from the school. With Ibrahim holding one side of the flag I switch the camera on to take a picture of it. The camera starts up, warms up enough and I take a picture. The screen goes grey. I quickly change batteries and although the screen lights up the camera won't switch over to taking pictures mode. I'm gutted. I put all the kit away and Ibrahim suggests we go. Nobody argues.
We leave the summit to the weather and head back down to camp 2 where the wind is just a breeze and it's considerably warmer. An hour's rest, then we pack up the tents etc., load the donkeys and set off down to camp 1. As we get closer, Ibrahim increases his pace and disappears. We know the way and there's no way I could match his pace so I stumble along and eventually stagger into camp. Ibrahim has the tents up and the tea on - there's rain coming in from the west and he wants us to be able to get under cover when it hits.
We spend the rest of the day and the night at camp 1 then in the morning head down to meet the minibus. Before we leave we chat to a team over from California but originally from Armenia, Iran, Serbia and a couple of other places. We wish them well for their climb and head off down to the minibus and on to the hotel. On the way, thunder can be heard on the summit … I met them again at Ağrı airport, we were on the same flight to Istanbul. They had got up to camp 2 and had set out, like us around 2 am to do the summit. They could only climb about 200 metres before the weather conditions forced them back to camp 2. That could have been us if we'd stuck to the original plan of an acclimatisation day!
The summit of Mt Ararat is 5,137 above sea level. It's not a technical climb, just a long slog up a steep hill with an ice cap to finish. Pretty much anyone in reasonable health and good fitness could do it - if the weather allows it. A permit is needed and you must have a guide. The season runs from June through to September. Next time (there'll be a next time?!) I think I'll go in August. Would I do it again? Maybe not Ararat but Damavand in Iran is 5600 metres and supposedly an easier climb ...
Many, many thanks to all of you generous people who
sponsored me for last weeks walk in the park. Despite what a
lot of people may think, doing a 5000 metre peak is not a
simple walk up a hill. A fairly large team who were due to
summit the mountain two days after we did were prevented from
doing so by some serious weather conditions. For myself, I
was constantly reminded that my heart is not 100% by it's
increased rate even while resting at 4000 metres altitude
and at the summit visibility was about 5 or 6 metres and the
temp somewhere around -30°C due to wind chill. However, it
was also in my mind that people were generously handing over
some of their holiday spending money or their living
expenses. It kind of spurs you on.
Thank you all once again - Doug
As a result of his endeavours, Doug raised the fantastic sum of over 2,500TL for Turunç School Funds.
Today fills me with such pride. On behalf of the Parents and Teachers Association we have been around Turunç today collecting the boxes that were put in certain restaurants, bars and travel agencies to collect the sponsor money for Doug Trumper who this last week has climbed the biggest mountain in Turkey: Mount Ararat. He has donated all the proceeds to our local school which we are very happy to say will go towards all new doors that we are in desperate need of.