UK Mountains Walking, Mountaineering and Equipment Reviews
Mount Ararat
Peaks Bagged
Artos (3,550m)
Ararat (5,137m)
September 2023
Mount Ararat (5,137m)Day 1: Travel to Turkey.

After a relatively bad nights sleep in a very basic B&B near Heathrow we set off for the airport. Twenty minutes later I was loading my big bag and small carry on onto a trolly. Goodbyes done, I headed for the longest queue, figuring it would be the right one, a quick check, Turkish Airlines to Istanbul, it was! Around 4:20am it opened for service so I'd only waited for twenty minutes which I thought was okay. Another thirty minutes and I checked my big bag in. It was under the weight limit so a big sigh of relief. Next stop, the security. Easily through and I headed off to the gate, planning on breakfast. I wasn't disappointed, a Cafe Nero was on hand for a bacon roll and coffee for £7.

Some more hanging around until eventually I located Simon, Jagged Globes' Managing Director, but this week, just another adventure holiday maker. Shortly afterwards two more trip members, Mark and Carolyn appeared and we greeted each other. Eventually we boarded and I discovered my first schoolboy error, I'd picked a seat right at the back but there are no overhead lockers there so I had to walk back against the flow of passengers to locate space in one of the overhead bins. I eventually found space about ten rows forward. It is a standard case with no special markings and it did worry me that someone might pick it up by mistake. I vowed to keep a carefully eye on proceedings once we landed. Next time, I'll add a pink bow or something to it!

The four hour flight went well enough and we were served breakfast eventually which was okay; some sort of spinach omelette, some bread and jam and orange juice. After that I took a nap and managed to sleep for a good portion of the flight. Istanbul airport is huge and has twin parallel runways. It was fun to watch another aircraft landing at the same time as ours. After landing we must have taxied for fifteen minutes before finding a stand. Travelling to Van is slightly complicated by the fact that we had to collect our luggage at Istanbul and re-check it in for the Van flight. Something to do with the lack of Customs at Van. We had some hassle with the 'system' that complained our bags were all overweight. Finally we found a Supervisor who cheerily (not) dealt with it.

Conforium Hotel, Van

Onto the two hour Van flight via some lunch at the airport. We were fed again on the flight and I managed to sleep most of the way. Van itself is a much smaller airport and we were soon out, being met by our Turkish hosts; Bezir and Yildirim. Once outside the airport we realised just how hot it was. Shorts and T-shirt definitely the order of the day. The hotel was a short drive away and we were quickly checked in with the help of our hosts. We also took Turkish tea which, to my uneducated palate tasted exactly the same as PG Tips but I said nothing. That done, we headed to our rooms to get sorted. My room was huge, clearly a double room with single occupancy. There was a double bed, table and chair, huge TV, separate comfy chair and side table and acres of space. The bathroom was also big with a full length walk in shower. Shame we're only here for a couple of nights.

Gear stashed, we elected to go straight out for dinner and went to a traditional restaurant where we were swamped with waiters and pre-starter food comprising bread and dishes of tomato, cucumber, onion etc. Yildirim explained what each of the dishes comprised, most of us electing to have some sort of kebab. Rather disappointingly the restaurant didn't serve alcohol so it was water with the meal. The meal was finished with Turkish coffee which, quite frankly, was disgusting but had to be tried. It is gritty and comes in a very small cup which seems to be half filled with sludge. From there, we went for dessert to a Baklava cafe. That was inspired! With ice cream, it was marvellous.

Back to the hotel and to sort my room. The hotel doesn't serve alcohol either which was a great shame. Apparently each hotel and restaurant is free to choose whether or not they serve alcohol. If it had been in the UK, I doubt it would be popular! I'd emptied my bags trying to find my clean clothes and was convinced I had forgotten them - I hadn't. I also couldn't find my travel rucsac and was convinced I had forgotten that too - I hadn't. A shower and bed. It had been a long day and I was tired so slept like a baby, camping after this will be tough.

Day 2 : Akdamar Island and Van Castle.

We had a late breakfast as we need to wait for the rest of the team to arrive. Breakfast was an interesting mix of fruit, salad, eggs, bread, cheese and, I think, spam. Once we were all assembled we headed off to Akdamar Island for the church. It was about a forty minute boat ride to the small island which contained the 10th Century Armenian Church. Inside there were a few faded paintings and a couple of rooms, nothing special. Outside we saw the Monks cells and incredible views across to Mount Artos, our destination for tomorrow. It was a very hot day so full sun screen, hat and sunglasses were the order of the day. There is a small gift shop and cafe on the island and I decided it would be appropriate to purchase my first ice cream of the trip and a small souvenir.

Akdamar Island

Back on the mainland, we had lunch at a restaurant very close to the jetty. I call it lunch, but by the time we started it was already 3pm. I elected to have chicken wings. Lunch fare appears to be the same as last nights dinner with far too much food on the table. This restaurant had the foresight to serve beer so most took advantage. Lunch done, we drove back to Van and visited the castle overlooking the city. The timing could not have been better as we were there to watch the sunset over the lake, which just happens to be the largest in Turkey, being 74 miles at its widest point and sits at about a mile above sea level.

Van Castle

That done, we walked back down to the mini-bus in the dark and back to the hotel for a shower and rest before going out for dinner at 8:30pm. Just as I was about to get into the shower, I realised that there were no towels! The maid had taken the ones from last night and not replaced them. I dressed and went down to the lobby to ask for more. Another big meal this evening. I am already thinking it is unlikely that I will be losing any weight on this trip, although back at the hotel my body was failing to cope with the different diet and making its feelings on the subject known! I took the precaution of taking a couple of Imodium tablets to be on the safe side.

Day 3 : Ascent of Mount Artos (3,550m) : 4 hours

We had an early start today, with breakfast at 7:00am. By 7:30am we were set to go with an hour or so of driving to Gevas in Eastern Anatolia, which is 1,800m above sea level, then we swapped mini-buses for the drive up to the start of the climb. To say the track was in poor condition is an understatement and we rattled and rolled our way up for around an hour, even having to stop at one point to allow the engine to cool down a little. Dropped off, it was now around 2,600m and hot. The summit was around 1,000m above us which would be excellent acclimatisation for Ararat.

Ascent of Mount Artos

The first section was on a good track which zig-zagged and wound its way steadily upwards. At the col, we stopped for lunch, although after last night, I didn't feel like eating. We noticed that it was now quite cold so most added an extra layer. I put on my Alpkit mid-layer which worked a treat. After lunch, the second section went steeply up on open scrub land, with no path but easy going. I have to confess to feeling a little light headed on the way up and my stomach was not happy, with a constant ache. One or two others had also mentioned that they too, were not feeling 100%. Hopefully it will pass before the climbing get serious.

At the top of the steep slope, the wind had picked up, so I added my Stellar windproof which pretty much closed the door on the wind. We had reached a long ridge which weaved its way along small rises until the very final climb to the actual summit. The ridge continued to what looked like a higher summit but apparently it wasn't. My altimeter showed the correct height so we were happy with that. We all sat and relaxed, breathing in the thinner air, prompting bodies to begin the extra red blood cell production that would be crucial for success on Ararat. That's the beauty of acclimatisation, the best way is to sit around doing as little as possible! I still didn't feel like eating, but forced myself to drink water which I'm not enjoying, Oh for a can of diet coke!

Ascent of Mount Artos

Eventually we started back down which, as with most mountains was much faster than the ascent. At more or less the place we put on our extra layers, they came off again and we headed down in ever warming conditions, the ridge nicely blocking the cold wind. We finally reached the mini-bus and looked back at the mountain we had just conquered. The trip back down to Gevas was equally uncomfortable but we got there and transferred to our luxury mini-bus, getting back to the hotel around 5:15pm. We were told that tomorrow would be a leisurely day but that we had to take all of our gear with us, even though we would be back on Sunday. In my room I decided to relax on the loo for a while, but the Imodium seemed to be working its magic and all was well, although I did still have a nagging stomach ache.

Turkish car drivers, like most of Europe seem to communicate using the car horn with alarming and annoying regularity. I tried to take a nap before dinner but the constant honking made it very difficult so I gave up, took a shower and washed some clothes, figuring they would be dry for the next day. The evening meal was almost identical to all other meals, but for some reason we walked about twice as far as we had done last night, and that was some distance from the hotel. Maybe walking to restaurants at about a mile above sea level is good acclimatisation too, who knows.

Day 4 : Drive to Dogubeyazit (1,590m) via Muradiye Waterfalls

I felt a little better this morning , I still had a nagging ache in my stomach but not as bad as it had been. Breakfast for me was bread and jam and a couple of boiled eggs, it was enough. We departed at 10am for the long drive to Dogubeyazit via the Muradiye Waterfalls which were particularly unimpressive but made a nice break in the journey. From there we went to the hotel which initially seemed quite unimpressive but it was efficient and the room was equally as huge as the one in Van so happy with that. There was a balcony but the door was locked and the key I had didn't work. We quickly dumped our gear, then off for lunch a few minutes walk away. The town seems quite poor by comparison to Van but the restaurant was nice and the service very fast.

Muradiye Waterfalls

After lunch, quickly back to the hotel to grab cameras, water and whatnots and we were off to the Ishak Pasha Palace, an 18th Century Palace, some fifteen minutes drive away. It was very impressive. although just a shell with nothing to indicate its obvious opulence back in the day. There were lots of information boards with English translations, although clearly the translations had been done by someone who did not have English as a first language. Around the palace, the hillsides were an impressive array of colours and ruggedness. They seemed to tower above the palace. There were dozens of rooms and was very easy to get lost, although everything did centre on a courtyard so returning to that allowed further exploration. The Palace is a mix of Ottoman, Persian and Armenian style architecture and it is easy to see the influence of each on the room construction and decoration. At one point, Simon and I explored the dungeons and as we came back up the stairs, both proceeded to hit our heads on the low ceiling!

Ishak Pasha Palace

That done, we were back to the hotel for a briefing of the days ahead. We had plenty of time to rearrange gear into that to be taken to Ararat and that to be left behind - mainly clean clothes in my case. That took me about an hour to complete so I walked down to the lobby and took advantage of the hotel bar for a well earned beer. Dinner was at the same place with the same menu. At bedtime I noticed my nose running a lot. I either have some kind of hay fever or an allergy to the dust. Luckily I packed my inhaler so made full use of that.

Day 5 : Dogubeyazit to Ararat and trek to Camp 1 (3,200m) : 3 hours

A reasonable start today, breakfast at 8am and ready to roll at 8:45am. Breakfast was the usual fare, I had a couple of eggs, some cheese, ham and bread. My packing had gone well with my Jagged Globe bag more than capable of holding everything I needed to take with me and the mighty Mountain Equipment swallowed not only what I was leaving behind, but also took Mark and Carolyns gear too! We settled our various bills for mini-bars which are actually very cheap, and I was convinced I was undercharged so happy. Just prior to leaving the hotel we were issued with our lunch packs.

The trailhead

Gear loaded, our journey was around fifty minutes to the trail head. All we had to do was to set off, our gear would magically appear at the campsite. Slowly up on a very dusty trail with several good stops along the way for food, drink and general sitting around. The lunch packs were great, a cheese roll, double size, a huge tomato, small cucumber, cake, chocolate bar and drink. My knife came in handy for slicing the tomato and cucumber to add to the sandwich. I had half on the first stop and half on the second. My dodgy stomach had now completely cleared up which was nice.

The trail is never hard and never really steep, just an easy walk at around twenty degrees. Of course, we were in no hurry which helped. I was pleased with my fitness and pace which bodes well for the next couple of days. My heart rate never went over 120bpm. There are a few glimpses of the camp on the way up and also camp 2 can be seen in the distance.

As we ascended, suddenly camp 1 appears. The blurb reckons camp 1 is at 3,200m but my watch said 3,300m. I'll check with the OS Maps app on my phone if it works to see what it says, but I did calibrate the watch at the start of the walk. Turns out, it is 3,200m so once again, Garmin fail to accurately measure altitude! Our walk up from the trailhead had taken three hours of walking, not including stops.

Camp 1

There are a few 'villages' and ours was pretty close to the entry point. We have a mess tent which awaited us with biscuits, nuts and snacks, plus tea and coffee which was very welcome. After the tea break we all helped to put up the tents. As luck would have it, I have my own, so happy with that. Sleeping system sorted, I washed my socks and T-Shirt, plus myself. There is an abundance of water at the camp, being the run off from the glacier high above. I convinced myself that the T-Shirt will be dry by the morning, we'll see! No matter, I have a spare and I'm sure if I leave it in the tent, the sun will do its job. Watch and hearing aids charged, tent reasonably tidy (for me), it was a case of just relaxing and waiting for dinner.

Camp 1 at night

A schoolboy error was to leave my Kindle back at the hotel, I presumed we'd be gathered in the mess tent chatting most of the time, but it seems people prefer to relax or sleep in their tents. Never mind. Dinner this evening was chicken and rice, and very nice it was too, although the seats were uncompromisingly uncomfortable. After dinner, we had a briefing. Apparently our summit day is the worst weather day for the next few days. The decision therefore is to go up to camp 2 tomorrow, stay there and attempt the summit the following day. It's an aggressive profile so we will see. The normal way is to climb high and sleep low, so tomorrow would have been a partial ascent to camp 2, sit around for a while, then return to camp 1. Simon handed out Diamox to anyone who wanted it. Everyone except me took it. We will see how the choice affects us all. Nothing much to do after dinner so it was an early night, although I did spend a little time taking some photos of the camp site at night and one or two of the stars.

Day 6 : Ascend to Camp 2 (4,200m) : 2¼ hours

Breakfast was at 8:00am but I was wide awake by 7:00am so got up and had a very successful toilet trip so happy with that. My earlier issues seem to have gone away completely now which is perfect. There is nothing worse that having diarrhea at a campsite, except having it at a high camp! My T-shirt and socks were all bone dry so I considered the experiment a great success. We had to pack away our gear but not the tents. It was going to be a three hour walk up so I packed my Alpkit mid-layer and down jacket just in case it got cold and just in case we beat our gear to the next camp. I'd been walking in shorts up until now, but packed the extensions as well.

Breakfast was the usual fare. I had some cheese, watermelon, bread and a kind of biscuit, it did the job.

Immediately after breakfast, Yildirim checked our crampons to make sure they were adjusted properly. He made a slight adjustment to mine, so all good for summit day as we will most likely need them for the final section across the glacier.

Walking up to Camp 2

We set off around 9:30am on similar, but if anything slightly more dusty paths. It was a long plod, being relentlessly up. We caught several other groups which caused us to slow down, plus horses carrying kit were coming up and going down all morning so we had to be aware, they won't stop for us and have no spacial awareness - you get out of their way! camp 1 shrunk and camp 2 grew as we approached. We took several good stops on the way for food. Our lunch packs consisted of a pear, a drink, a choc bar and a cake, although it was more snack food than lunch.

The camp came soon enough and our first experience of it was to be shown a collapsed big tent with the thick metal poles bent out of shape. Apparently the wind had done this. We set about putting up our own tents where we could find space. Tent pegs were useless so we used rocks to tie the guy lines, even so, mine almost blew away until it was properly secured. It is a lot windier here than at camp 1 that's for sure. I hadn't needed an extra layer walking up, but now we had stopped I started to feel chilly so added my mid-layer which was enough. Due to the lack of tents, Simon and I were sharing which was fine, tonight would only be half a night anyway. I set about organising my kit, even building a small shelf on the slope side of the tent for my kit bag. It was then announced that there was an extra tent so Simon moved out and I had a tent to myself, happy days.

Camp 2

More snacks in the mess hall, meanwhile more tents arrived for other groups, making navigation to and from the tent difficult to say the least. Where previously there were flat sections to walk along, these had now been occupied by tents so the walkway became one of slippy rocky slopes trying to get around the tents without causing a landslide, it was virtually impossible. Later I spent some time organising my gear for tomorrow so that I will have the minimum fuss early doors. It all fits in the rucsac, kind of, but if it is as cold as it is predicted to be, I'll be wearing most of it anyway.

Nothing much to do until dinner at 6:00pm so I relaxed in the tent. After dinner, which was probably the best meal I've had this trip; chicken and pasta, we were away to our beds early, the alarm is set for 1:20am!

As is my normal modus operandi, I have been drinking steadily all day every day and so far, no headaches, I've felt really good and the walk ups have presented no issues.

Day 7 : Summit Day (5,137m) : 5 hours up, 2¾ hours down to Camp 2. Camp 2 to Camp 1 : 1½ hours

I'm sure I slept but it didn't feel like it. Due to being organised, I was out of the tent and across to the mess tent promptly. I had a minor kit change, deciding to leave my Rab mid-layer and the Black Diamond outers behind. In hindsight, the outers would have been helpful as the inners won't go under my waterproof jacket sleeves without help or a lot of faff. We were given a lunch pack which I stowed in my lunch box for safe keeping and at 2:30am, we were off.

Ararat is relentlessly zig-zagging uphill on scree and dust which made it hard going. Heading up, we could see other groups with their lights shining high above us. I started in my Fjallraven trousers, Stellar Overtrousers (for warmth), thermal top, Alpkit mid-layer, Stellar Down Jacket, Rab Gloves and a beanie hat. As we got higher, it got colder so I put on my Rab hardshell and the Black Diamond liners over my Rab gloves. I also added my Russian Hat to keep my head extra warm. I was just about warm enough and we were heading uphill! Dawn came and the headtorch was switched off. The temperature, if anything, got colder and I began to wonder whether I had chosen wisely, but I was okay, chilly but not cold.

Dawn on Ararat

At around 4,700 metres I began to feel the effects of the effort and the altitude and felt distinctly light headed and fatigued but pressed on, keeping up with the rest of the team so happy with that. Eventually we got to the glacier and put on our crampons. It was also a good time for a rest. From there, it was just thirty minutes to the summit although, sadly, it was in mist, so no views when we arrived. To be honest I was too tired to care and sat down, trying, and failing, to eat something. Eventually it was time to go, but before we left, I insisted on standing on the true summit a few metres away.

Summit of Ararat

The descent was steep and relentless all the way, plus very slippy on the dusty rocks but finally we got back to camp 2 feeling very tired, but happy that we had succeeded. On the way down I removed most of my layers as it warmed up, ending up in just the Alpkit mid-layer, no gloves and no warm hat. The round trip had taken seven hours and forty five minutes of walking, not including stops which probably accounted for another thirty minutes. Chatting to the others, I was comforted to hear that most had found it exhausting, it wasn't just me! On mountains like this, it is easy to think that you are the only one suffering and everyone else is having an easy time.

Descending to Camp 2

We had some food but most were too tired to care and we all retired to our tents for a snooze before we had to pack up and head down to camp 1. That was even harder and slippier, testing tired legs to the full, but we made it. Oddly, it is only 2km from camp 2 to camp 1 but it took us two hours and fifteen minutes up and one hour and thirty minutes down.

More food while we waited for our bags to return from camp 2, then off to make up our beds, have another snooze and wait for dinner at 6:30pm. After dinner, a man came selling T-Shirts and badges, of course I had to have one of each. Most were gone to bed by 7:30pm including me. I did have a senior moment trying to find my glasses which turned out to be in my pocket!

Day 8 : Descend to Eli Village and return to Dogubeyazit : 1¾ hoursThe Team - credit Simon Lowe/Jagged Globe

Having summited a day early, we could either stay in camp 1 for the day, or return to Dogubeyazit and stay an extra night in the hotel, but we would have to pay for it. It was a no-brainer, the shower alone would be worth the room cost! Breakfast was the usual fare and afterwards we took down the tents - it was the last trip of the season for this organisation. That done, we headed down the hill to the waiting mini-bus. The route down was easy enough but a lot dustier than I remembered it, even though it was just a couple of days ago, so much has happened. It is, however, at a much reduced angle and much kinder on the knees than the upper slopes.

We'd all contributed towards the tips fund for the guides, cook and transport with the promise that there would be the traditional ceremony to hand it over. I was disappointed that it never happened, apparently the tips had been given to Yildirim to distribute last night when we had all gone to bed. Chatting with others, no one seemed to be aware of that apart from one guy who had sat up.

We got back to the hotel and to our rooms. Job 1; toilet, Job 2; shower, Job 3; beer. That done, we met and went out for lunch to the same place that we'd been before with the same food! It was nice, and I had lasagne and chips which was lukewarm at best. After that, to a cafe for tea, or in my case, coffee. The Turks may do a fine cup of tea, but they don't have a clue when it comes to coffee. It's instant from a packet, no chance of a caramel latte here! Then we spied an outdoor shop. I had to take a look even though I already had a T-shirt. I did spot some necklaces which I thought would make a nice gift so got one, although I did have to borrow money off two people to pay for it. From there, a walk back and we relaxed with a beer in the lobby.

Day 9 : Transfer to Van via Noah's Ark

Breakfast done, we took a last look at Ararat from the hotel window, or so we thought. At 10am we set off, via a stop for clearer pictures of Ararat, to the alleged site of Noah's Ark. For me, it wasn't terribly convincing to be honest. It was a vague outline of something ship-shaped but I guess it could be something, and why not?

Noahs Ark

The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent driving back to Van via the waterfalls we had visited on th way over, this time for a tea/coffee stop. In Van, we were staying in the same hotel as before and quickly got our rooms, then off for a light lunch to the same restaurant as previous. It turned out to be anything but light! The rest of the afternoon was relaxing, rearranging a bit of gear in preparation for tomorrows epic journey home. Tonight we went to a steak house which was awesome, the food was spectacular and they even sold beer. Unfortunately, due to the big lunch we'd had, no one could really do the restaurant justice. Also, today was Geerts birthday and a cake had been thoughtfully prepared for him. It was a late walk back but we're in no hurry tomorrow.

Day 10 : Transfer to Van Airport, fly home via Istanbul.

Travel day today. Breakfast at 8:30am,pickup at 9:30am, Van to Istanbul 11:30. Van airport has nothing in the way of facilities apart from a couple of grotty cafes. At Istanbul I said farewell to most of the group, a couple I missed, but not surprising in the melee. Coffee and a bun at a cafe, then nothing much to do for several hours until my flight. Istanbul airport is loaded with shops, unfortunately all they sell is perfume and watches and I don't need either, so I found a corner and settled down with my book to while away the time before the flight.

The flight to Heathrow was nothing special, but once I got there I was on a time schedule to get off the plane, through customs and collect my luggage, then march as quickly as possible to the shuttle transfer to try to get to the coach station to catch the early coach. Due to some confusion I ended up at the wrong terminal, so a quick change of plan and I took the train, or rather several trains. On the first I quickly figured out a plan for the journey home which involved no less than three changes of train. Of course this meant carrying my big bag (21kg) and my suitcase (10kg) up and down stairs to change platforms, luckily I have an excess of red blood cells so it was easily done! Finally I arrived at Gloucester at the appointed hour and more or less the same time as the coach would have gotten me there. My ride home was waiting.

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