The Alborz mountains

Tehran - north, with Alborz mountains
Tehran - north, with Alborz mountains

After an awesome trip to the Alborz mountains where I climbed up Mount Damavand, I am now back in Tehran. My legs are really sore now :)


Mission erfolgreich abgeschlossen: Ich hab den Damawand, höchster Berg in Iran (5671m) geschafft. Jetzt bin ich wieder in Teheran und hab einen ordentlichen Muskelkater.

To safe energy and time I hitched a ride with this guy and his truck
To safe energy and time I hitched a ride with this guy and his truck

Day 91: I left some of my luggage in my guest house in Tehran when I left early on Thursday morning. I stopped at the German and the Uzbek embassy to finalise some paperwork for various visas and headed towards the village of Polour at the foot of Damavand.

It was a beautiful day of cycling. I passed many medium sized villages, rode through several tunnels and met a few locals along the way. I stocked up on food and found a guy who gave me a lift across a high mountain pass. I cycled more than 100km and about 2000hm; I thought that was enough and felt a need to safe energy to climb Damavand. I got dropped off in Polour from where I kept cycling further up the mountain to about 3000m were I camped.

On the trail towards Damavand
On the trail towards Damavand

Tag 91: Ich bin gleich früh mit dem Rad zur deutschen und anschließend zur usbekischen Botschaft gefahren um die restlichen Formulare abzugeben. Danach bin ich Richtung Damawand weiter geradelt. Es schien kompliziert, die Logistik für die Besteigung zu organisieren. Ich entschied, einen Teil meines Gepäcks im Hotel zu lassen und mit der anderen Hälfte bis 70km außerhalb von Tehran zu radeln. Dort wollte ich in einem Dorf Proviant besorgen und dann per Anhalter über eine Pass-straße fahren (die Besteigung auf 5671m ist anstrengend genug). Es hat alles prima geklappt und am Nachmittag war ich in Polour am Fuß vom Damawand. Von hier bin ich weiter geradelt bis auf 2800m wo ich mein Camp aufgeschlagen habe. Zum Glück hab ich jemanden gefunden, der mich mit über den Pass genommen hat. Von rund 1800m ging es auf knapp 3000m, auf einer Strecke von ca. 25km. Insgesamt bin ich heute dennoch knapp 110km und 2000hm gefahren. Morgen geht's weiter, ganz entspannt bis auf 4150m und übermorgen von dort auf den Gipfel (5671m). Im Moment bin ich zuversichtlich, dass ich es schaffe.

Donkeys carry things to camp 3 (I carried everything myself though)
Donkeys carry things to camp 3 (I carried everything myself though)

Day 92: Today's goal was to go to camp 3, the high camp at 4200m from where I want to climb Mount Damavand (5671m) tomorrow.
Last night's camping spot at 2800m was beautifully set amidst some stunning mountain scenery and I enjoyed a nice breakfast in the morning sun.
It took me only half an hour to reach the official camp 2 at about 3000m where I left my bike and repacked.
I felt great and around lunchtime I reached the high camp. I had plenty of time to rest and acclimatise to the altitude. I ate a ton of food as well, some Iranians gave me some delicious snacks. I am feeling great, in fact I don't think I could feel any better and I am confident that I can summit Damavand tomorrow. It'll be tough, it's about 1500m more to go up.
Camp 3 is pretty nice actually: It's a mountain hut very similar to the ones in the Alps. There are private rooms and there is a big public sleeping room (30+ people, luckily not even half full, price per night: 5 U$ / 4 €, I sleep here).
There is a shop here too. They sell foods and drinks which is of course much more expensive than down in the valley but to be honest still pretty cheap considering that they bring everything up on donkeys.
There is no running water but there is enough snow around to melt for tea or cooking.
Overall this trip to Damavand has been a good experience so far.

Am nächsten Tag wollte ich bis zum Camp 3 aufsteigen, von wo ich am folgenden Tag den Aufstieg zum Gipfel in Angriff zu nehmen plante.

Es war ein wunderschöner Tag mit tollen Aussichten. Gegen Mittag hab ich das Camp erreicht und konnte mich ausgiebig ausruhen und an die Höhe (~4200m) akklimatisieren. Viele Hobby-Bergsteiger kommen hierher, die meisten lassen sich bis zu Camp 2 (3000m) fahren und gehen direkt weiter bis Camp 3, ohne Akklimatisierung. Die Folge ist, dass eine Vielzahl an Leuten in Camp 3 höhenkrank wird. Nachts im Schlafsaal hört man ständig, wie sich jemand übergibt.

Ich hab mich allerdings prima gefühlt und gut gegessen. Ich bin bereits um 2:45 Uhr zum Gipfel aufgebrochen, es war mir einfach zu unruhig im Schlafsaal.

Damavands conicle shadow in the morning
Damavands conicle shadow in the morning

I didn't sleep well. People were noisy in the public sleeping room, some were throwing up because of altitude sickness.

There are many tourists here in camp 3, trying to climb Damavand. A lot of people take some form of transport to camp 2 at 3000m and immediately walk up to the high camp at 4150m. No acclimatisation and it seems like every second person comes down with altitude sickness.. 

I got up and left for the summit at 2:45am. I didn't feel great and struggled breathing but it wasn't too bad. And I kept working my way up. The biggest problem was the cold and it got significantly colder the higher I got. Because of the thin air I couldn't push myself to produce more body heat and warm myself up. The sun was about to rise and I was longing for the warming rays of sunlight. 


On the way to Damavand
On the way to Damavand

Ich hatte zu Beginn etwas Probleme mit der Atmung, bin aber trotzdem gut voran gekommen. Mit zunehmender Höhe wurde es am Berg immer kälter.

Gegen 7 Uhr war ich am Gipfel. Leider hst es sich genau dann bewölkt und ich konnte praktisch nix sehen. Zu allem Übel schien die Wolke ausschließlich aus Schwefeldampf zu bestehen. Damawand ist ein erloschener Vulkan, erzeugt aber immer noch starke Schwefelwolken, stark genug um Schafe zu töten, die sich hierher verlaufen.

Peak selfie Damavand (5671m)
Peak selfie Damavand (5671m)

I reached the top at 7am. A big cloud just moved in and I couldn't see anything from there. Even worse: The mountain is a dormant volcano that still produces sulphuric fumes that are strong enough to kill stray sheep. The cloud on top seemed to be entirely made up of those fumes and the fumes stung heavily in my lungs. This on top of the already thin air..

I didn't stick around for long and returned back to high camp where I rested for almost 3 hours before walking back to camp 2. My bike was still there and I cycled back to the village of Polour.

Ich bin nicht lange auf dem Gipfel geblieben. Gegen 10 war ich wieder in Camp 3 und nach 3 Stunden Pause bin ich weiter zu Camp 2 abgestiegen. Mein Bike war auch noch dort und ich bin bis nach Polour geradelt. In Polour bin ich per Anhalter weiter gefahren. Die Pass-Straße schien mir zu gefährlich, insbesondere da es dort einen rund 10km langen Tunnel gab; ein Tunnel ohne irgendwelche Sicherheitsvorkehrungen, ohne Seitenstreifen und mit wenig Licht. 

Mit dem Fahrer hab ich insgesamt Null Worte gewechselt. Ich war auch einfach zu erschöpft. Er hat mich bis Teheran mitgenommen und ich bin zurück in das Gasthaus wo mein restliches Gepäck lagert.

Per Anhalter fahren geht hier übrigens super, selbst in der Stadt. Einfach ein Auto anhalten und auf Google maps zeigen wo ich hin will, los geht's :)

In Polour, Damavand in the clouds
In Polour, Damavand in the clouds

From Polour I hitched a ride to go up the mountain pass back to Tehran. The road wasn't safe for cyclists I decided, and there was a long tunnel (~10km). The tunnels here are different from the ones in central Europe. It's really just two lanes of asphalt going through the mountain, with a little bit of bad lighting. There is zero safety considerations, no emergency exits, no side ways etc. I'm okay to go through short tunnels, where at least you can see the exit when you enter.

My plan actually was to camp somewhere before Tehran. However the guy who rode the truck didn't talk. I think he did not even say one word. I was exhausted and content to stay silent. He drove all the way to Tehran where I asked him to drop me off (I wonder how far he would have driven me..) and I got back to the guest house where I stored my luggage. 

Mein Visum für Usbekistan kann ich hoffentlich am Sonntag abholen. So lange muss ich leider noch hier warten. Ich werde wohl noch den ein oder anderen Trip machen, entweder nach Isfahan oder wieder in die Berge. I'm Norden von Teheran gibt es einige interessante Gipfel. 

I probably have to wait in Tehran until next Sunday when I can pick up my Uzbekistan visa. I thought about a trip to the city of Isfahan but maybe I'll just do another trip (or two) the Alborz mountains. They are directly north of Tehran, separating the Iranian plateau from the Caspian Sea. From the city of Tehran you can see a magnificent mountain ridge that is 12km long and entirety higher than 3500m. Sounds like just the right hiking trail for me..

In Tehran underground
In Tehran underground

Some things about Tehran:

It's not the worst city, it's fairly clean and has some well maintained parks. It's also set just below the Alborz mountains which is pretty cool. The city is hilly, I like that.

There is however not much to pass time: No (decent) restaurants, no cafés, no pools or spas, no bars (no alcohol), I can't really go to cinemas or have picnic in the park (not during day light in Ramadan anyways.

I haven't really talked to women at, it's a big segregation here and women must wear head scarves and cover. I was told that occasionally there are 'razzias' and police check proper female outfits very strictly and women get in big troubles for showing a centimetre of skin on the wrist or ankle (!)

Oh and the traffic: I'd say it isn't super bad, the people just drive like brainless idiots. Not fast, just crazy chaotic. The go both ways in one way streets. Scooters/motorcycles drive on the sidewalk. Zebra crossings have absolutely no relevance, neither do traffic lights. It's worst when it gets dark but traffic is still heavy, about half of the vehicles have no light; try crossing a street in the dark with cars/scooters passing u left and right, going the wrong way with no light and honking. It's a nightmare.