Still under the spell of Damavand’s impressive silhouette, before we could start our ascent, we first needed to get our climbing permits. Turning in 10,000 rials banknotes depicting Mt.Damavand for equally beautiful permits showing pictures of the same mountain, we were ready to start our expedition up the mountain.
Today was going to be a light day, the main goal being ensuring we have a good acclimatization. From Polour Village (2200m) we took a 4WD transfer up the mountain to 3000m, our final point for the day and the actual start of the trek up Damavand. Since most of our time we live at sea level altitude, it would have been unwise to head any higher.
Most local guiding companies encourage their clients to sleep their first night at Polour Hut (2270m), and the next day head up all the way to 4200m at Bargah Sevom Hut. Probably this climbing scheme is easier for them to organize, however, it’s a guaranteed recipe for bad acclimatization, since altitude symptoms can occur starting from roughly 3000m up. Sleeping at 2200m won’t be of much help, and climbing a 2000m altitude gain is way more than the daily recommended gain for a safe acclimatization…
Upon reaching Goosfand Sara (3020m), contrary to the information distributed on the internet or by the local guiding company, we found a pleasant and quiet spot dominated by a small green-gold mosque. Goosfand Sara is home to a family of goat herders and a group of muleteers who support climbers to carry their bags to Bargah Sevom (4200m).
We pitched our tent above the mosque, to have a “room with a view” over the beautiful panorama of the Alborz Mountains and Mt.Damavand towering behind the tent.
Grey clouds were still shrouding the summit, but we weren’t worried since there were two more full days before we were going to climb it.
Joyful little Zahra, spoiled by all the trekkers, was filling the atmosphere with her innocent laughter as she was happily dangling in a swing. It was our first encounter with an Iranian child, and as always meeting local children is a picturesque experience 🙂
Goats of all ages and colors, with their dangling bells, were territorially reigning on lava boulders, scouting the horizon, and occasionally playfully banging their heads.
Mules and horses were running freely, grazing the mountain pastures, bringing to mind Mongolia’s high steppes.
Occasionally, local Iranian trekkers were heading up the mountain, or others were coming down. Completely unexpected to us, most of the groups were stopping to ask where were we from, and if they could take a picture together with us.
Over the next days, we were going to find out that this behavior is commonplace when meeting foreigners, and in some moments it would prove hard for us to advance, since we would pass from one group to the next one asking to take pictures with us :))
One such group was from Mashhad, the second most populous city in Iran, located in the NE of the country. They were also spending their first night at Goosfand Sara, and they were so delighted to meet us that they invited us to their home, to stay with them, and visit their city.
While climbing Damavand we were going to have a firsthand experience of the friendliness, generosity, and hospitality that the Iranian people so famous for. And yes, it’s real! 🙂
Both young and middle-aged Iranian men were boldly heading up the mountain. Some were returning after a few hours, when symptoms of altitude sickness were kicking in, due to their too daring fast ascent without proper acclimatization. Others, we were going to find out the following day, were trying to sleep off their symptoms at Bargah Sevom (4200m).
As for us, we were resting, free of any altitude symptoms, enjoying the scenery while savoring local cantaloupe, which doesn’t resemble our Romanian ones, neither in shape nor in texture or taste.
Sunset with its golden hour, sent long shadows over the mountains bathed in warm light, while seas of clouds began to cover the valleys below and the muezin’s truly beautiful call to prayer filled the evening air with melodious sounds.
Once darkness embraced the mountain, a small distant light began to shine higher up on Damavand. It was the solitary light from Bargah Sevom Hut, guiding back any late trekkers descending from the summit.
Together with this light, the night-sky began to sparkle with altogether different constellations than the ones we were used to back home, as we were on a different continent and thousands of kilometers away from our Old Europe. Even the clouds freed Damavand from their embrace, revealing the snow-coated summit as if radiating against the clear night sky.
Tomorrow we were going to ascend to 4200m, to get our first real feel of what it means to trek on Damavand 🙂
Keep close, there are more stories to come of the next days up on Middle East’s highest mountain…