Explore Lake Van and the southeast
Few mountains west of the Himalayas have as compelling a hold on Western imagination as Mount Ararat (Ağrı Dağı in Turkish). And for once this huge volcano – where Noah’s Ark supposedly came to rest – manages to deliver that promise in reality. Traditionally, Armenian monks considered Mount Ararat holy and nobody was allowed to climb it; it was not until 1829 that Dr Johann Jacob Parrot, a German academic, conquered the peak. Numerous other ascents have followed, but even today some villagers believe that it’s not possible to climb the mountain, and Turkish officials did not allow it until the 1950s.
Despite the efforts of American astronaut James Irwin and others, no reliable trace of Noah’s Ark has been found. Locals, however, insist that the oval mound of earth spotted by a Turkish airforce pilot on a routine flight is the “Ark”, which now boasts a visitor centre and is routinely included in tours of the area. Ararat, of course, may simply be the wrong place to look. Genesis 8:4 reports the Ark as coming to rest on the “mountains of Ararat”. This is prone to misinterpretation, as Ararat was the Assyrian rendition of Urartu, the ancient empire centred on Lake Van, meaning the Ark could have come to rest anywhere within the empire’s bounds. According to the Koran, the Ark was deposited on Mount Cudi, hundreds of kilometres to the south near Cizre.Read More
Ararat is a serious mountain (two Italians died in a blizzard descending the peak in August 2006) and you will need proper equipment, including an ice axe and crampons. The main climbing season is June to September.
Treks are normally of three to four days’ duration, and are supported up to Camp 2 by mules. The starting point is Eli (2150m), some 10km north of Doğubeyazıt, from where it’s a half-day walk to Camp 1 (3200m). Camp 2, at 4200m, is a strenuous six-hour march higher. From Camp 2, a 1am start is needed to reach the summit (five hours) before cloud cover becomes too thick. At around 4900m the stones give way to permanent snowpack and then glacier. The views on a clear day are stupendous, compensating for the hard slog of the ascent. Most groups head straight back to Eli from the summit, and return to Doğubeyazit the same day.