Our train arrived late but in time for us to have lunch in Erzurum and do some brief sightseeing. We visited the Cifte Minareli Medrese (or Medresse) which is generally accepted to have been constructed at the end of 13th century as a theological school. It is noted for its twin fluted towers seen here from the outside and here from the courtyard inside. From Erzurum we took a long bus ride of some hours to Dogubeyazit, getting our first glimpses of Ararat as we approached our destination. At our hotel there were hot showers and sit-down toilets - what luxury!
This morning we had our first proper, albeit hazy, views of Mount Ararat photo and photo, on our way to see Noah's Ark at the Durupinar site. Details of this find are available on Wikipedia. On our return to the hotel we were able to leave some of our luggage in store and have lunch. Afterwards were driven in two off-road vehicles to Cevirme. It was a spine-jolting trip. At the road end our kitbags were loaded onto mules and we made our way up to base camp. Ararat looked even more imposing on the way photo and when we reached the camp it looked even better photo.
Today was an acclimatisation day. We climbed up to our high camp and returned to base camp for the night. Mules were carrying our kitbags but foals went up with them unladen. Here is one such. The path got more boulder-strewn as we climbed. Our high camp was to be higher than the main high camp. The place was in chaos when we arrived. A climber had tumbled about 100 feet down a snow slope and was being prepared to be stretchered off the mountain. It was a warning to all of the dangers ahead. Our guide stayed to help with the rescue and allowed us to walk back down to base camp on our own. It was not difficult. Back at camp we found fresh water was being piped down to the camp from above through a temporary hosepipe. The sun was heating the water as it flowed to about 30 Celsius, good for a most enjoyable wash.
Today was the easiest of days. We said farewell to base camp, our camp of two nights, as it disappeared in the distance photo, and climbed up to and settled into our high camp. There is very little flat ground here so we had an extra layer under our sleeping mats to iron out the boulders. We had all expected it to be cold but it turned out to be our warmest night under canvas. We soon settled down as we had a very early start the next morning.
We rose at 2:00 a.m. to get ready and have a snack before setting off at 3:00. We climbed in the darkness following one of our mountain guides. The other was nearer the back of the group. By the time we reached the snow line it was light and we had put away our head torches. Now we donned our crampons. Further up we could see the shadow of Ararat falling on the surrounding countryside. It was a tough climb but our goal came into view, urging us on. We reached the summit at 7:30, four and a half hours after setting off. Our front group had spread out on the final ascent, but no one was far behind. I looked back the way we had come then we all joined together for a group summit photo taken by one of our guides. It was cold and windy so none of us wanted to stay very long. We set off back down to high camp where we had hot drinks and packed our belongings before setting off back down to base camp where we were spending the night. It was a long hard day - with over 1000 metres of ascent and 2200+ metres descent - but worth every moment. We heard thunder as we arrived and saw dark clouds approaching. We had only a few spots of rain as the clouds were diverted to the north by the mountain.
The morning was fair but the storm clouds had gathered over the summit of Ararat. We had been lucky to have climbed it the day before, no one would have wanted to be up there today. After breakfast we descended to Cevirme where the two vehicles awaited us for the journey back to Dogubeyazit and our hotel where we had left surplus baggage. From here we went to visit the Isak Pasha Palace whose construction was started in 1685. It is built on a hill at the side of a mountain photo 5 km (3 mi) east of Dogubeyazit and is being extensively restored. Inside we saw an impressive dome, room, courtyard and decorative doorway. Outside was the main gate. Finally we got back into the bus for our journey to Van.
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