In 1999, Iran was a country emerging from 20 years of isolation from the west, following the revolution in the late 70’s. Mohammad Khatami was president, elected in 1997 with 70% of the vote on a platform of freedom of speech and liberal reform. There was a real sense of excitement amongst young and old alike, that the country was once again open for business.
In this blossoming period, I travelled to Iran to witness the solar eclipse in Esfahan and to climb Iran’s highest peak, Mt Damavand (5,610m).
As a 15-year-old, I had succumbed to altitude sickness on Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest volcano and mountain, so I was determined to succeed with this mountain.
To increase our chances of reaching the summit of Mt Damavand, the World Expeditions’ itinerary allowed ample time for acclimatisation, spending one night at the base, before stopping to camp half way up at about 1,000 metres below the crater summit. We stayed overnight in a simple hut, which has I understand has since been rebuilt.
On summit day, we set out in the early hours, reaching the half way point to see a magnificent sunrise. The going was tough but we had time and persevered. We knew we’d reached the summit, when we whiffed a strong smell of sulphur fumes.
Standing above the magnificent crater which loomed below, a true sense of accomplishment brimmed within me having climbed Asia’s highest volcano.
There is a sense of magic when you reach the top of any mountain and are rewarded with incredible views, the exhilaration of not having to climb further and the feeling that you actually achieved your goal.
Returning to the hut was a four hour effort, and whilst I suffered a slight headache due to the altitude, the experience was invigorating and, best of all, we were on our own, with no other climbers in sight, despite being in peak climbing season.
A quick descent to lower altitude on volcanic scree topped off this outstanding mountain experience – we literally floated down the side of that perfect cone.
The question I now have is, ‘Was this ascent an Australian female first?’
Words by Kate Baker who travelled on our Damavand Expedition Iran. World Expeditions began operating trips in Iran in 1998.