Expedition to Mount Damavand in Iran
By Jaime Vinals

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Expedición al Monte Damavand en Irán

My top number 27 in the list of the 50 world's most prominent summits. With its 5.671 meters above sea level, is the highest mountain in the Middle East and the highest volcano in Asia. It is located in the Alborz Mountains, 89 kilometers from Tehran Larijan district. Twelfth is the world's most prominent summit. Reaching the summit of Damavand, the highest mountain of Iran, is not just an expedition climber, is a challenge to the loneliness and uncertainty.

It all started to leave Guatemala on April 8, full of illusions and uncertainties of what I might bring a controversial country like Iran, a country that stopped me for more than a year to enter his land and climb the famous volcano, that for political reasons mainly. But this has been solved finally permits and contacts are made by a person out there in Iran. The time came, and this was met off the plane that took me to the ancient city of Tehran, Iran's capital city, after midnight on April 10, 2010. Leaving the airport, I met with my local contact Ardeshir Soltani, who has helped me enormously to get the usual permit ingress and to climb Mount Damavand, is an excellent person with great charisma, proud of their Persian roots and of Mount Damavand.

Damavand Mount Iran
Majid Droodgar, Jaime Vinals, Hadi Aghaei
Photo by A.Soltani

Immediately after the relevant health, we got into his car to travel 35 miles to the city, then cross the gigantic city of just over 15 million inhabitants, who at that hour of the morning traffic is very light, then 90 miles more the road to the Caspian Sea (north) is curious and interesting is also lowered in a dusty village in the middle of the road, set by some small shops are bright in the middle of nowhere. No one speaks a language other than the farsi, no tracks or traces of climbers to be told that we are in the right place, of course no stranger. But I am consoled by the impressive view of the surrounding mountains, away but still tempting to look beautiful in the moonlight.

Finally near dawn stopped for breakfast (rams' heads) in the region of Reyneh, last inhabited place on access to the South face of Mount Damavand, which is reached from the village of Polur. The Iranians are friendly and hospitable and make great efforts to take understand English, which in that world "farsi speaker" is greatly appreciated. For the success of the climb, at this time that the winter just ended, it is essential the basic equipment of a winter route because the snow is ubiquitous, cold reaches -35 º C There are complications as day summit to be overcome about 2,000 vertical meters accumulated very few miles. The majority of Iranians who try to drop frustrated by the hard, cold and altitude sickness.

Damavand Mt Iran
Mt. Damavand Camp3 Bargah Sevom and New Hut

In Polur no hotel, but the hidden golden statue of a mountaineer pointing in the direction of Mount Damavand suggests we are in the right place. On the outskirts of town is a hostel in the Iranian federation!, Hot water, kitchen, climbing wall, table tennis rooms and "decent." Getting there in the car of my friend Ardeshir Soltani was quite an event. We stayed there to rest and sleep all day Sunday. While awaiting the arrival of my climbing partner, who will be the Iranian mountaineer Doroodgar Majid, experienced and very knowledgeable about the region. The refuge is "enjoying" a tremendous loneliness (from now will be constant) and of Amir, the manager of the place, a friendly and discreet older man in charge of maintaining it.

At the end of Sunday afternoon Doroodgar Majid comes to the shelter. Polur then took the opportunity to buy the minimum that we need: unleavened bread as the Bible, biscuits, some tins of sardines ... tested the "maxigomino" which appear and car carpets are great for food energy. In the village there are places that offer rice, tea and lamb kebab, lamb, cut, in sausage, and other ways of presenting the same ... lamb. There is also a traditional yogurt, sometimes with garlic and parsley, which is not dessert, but to mix with the rice. To my surprise there are large containers Polur the falling water, and inside there are trout of which I can
pick one and eat it.

Damawand Mount Iran
Damavand Base Camp, From Left
Jaime Vinals, Majid Droodgar,
Ardeshir Soltani, Amir Mohammad Pour

Early on the morning of Monday, April 12 we took leave of Amir at the hostel. From that moment we began the approach to Mount Damavand, walked all day (25 kilometers) to a shelter to 2.975 meters above sea level, where a golden-domed mosque. Spectacular cliffs cut edges, we rub their hands with the view of the mountain and discovered nomadic families who come to their sheep graze in the green meadows. They eat bread, milk and cheese and live in brown canvas tents identical to those used in other parts of the world, as in the Sahara or the Andean steppes.

We spent the night there, the next day we started to walk behind a rock where it seemed out a path towards the mountain. The path runs on a stunning black lava language, but almost all covered with loose snow beneath which lie the verdiales few remaining at this point. Just in front, the summit was imposed all the time, sometimes capricious and put us deep powder sent to freezing cold and heartbreaking ... Calm ... we'll see if it happens ... The bivouac shelter in front, is almost all the time, even at night, because the Iranians, that the mountain does not know the clock, are able to start walking at 6 pm after a day of laziness.

Demavand Mount Iran
Jaime Vinals
A cosy restaurant after Mt. Damavand

Finally after six hours we arrived at the shelter bivouac at 3.980 meters above sea level, is in habitable condition. They fit about 30 people, water is about 100 meters along the path from behind the home side to the glacier to the east. The summit is attacked just after the shelter, make no mistake we see in the Northwest direction is downhill. The route goes through an edge between two glaciers, but maintains a very large gap (from 3.980 to 5.671 meters). On Tuesday we are dedicated to rest and allow us to acclimate to the altitude, we go and explore the surrounding area covered with rocks, snow and ice, with beautiful views of the valleys below us, at night highlights the enormous luminosity generated by Tehran.

On Wednesday April 14 we decided would be the summit day, we prepare for it early in the morning and 5:00 AM, just before dawn start our attack on the summit. After two hours of walking, seemed already touching the top with his hand, was palpable, the air, but it was not true!: It was a mirage. And we ... a step, another step, give me water, where's my glove?, Haste comes another deep powder ... As can enjoy the climb, the landscape, company, solitude, and the nasty wind that blows everywhere.

Damavend Mount Iran
Jaime Vinals, Melat Park, Tehran Iran

Seven hours of good climbing soon reached the summit. The cold took its toll, the height was noticeable and a sulfur belch us at the summit ... but ... Summit what more beautiful!: A perfect white circle, the crater gives himself airs of great volcano and its great plume is a nod to the cold. Full of happiness took pictures everywhere, surrounding the summit crater, the remains of a bronze statue destroyed long ago, ice mixed with volcanic sulfur, half-buried the leg of a sheep next to the monument destroyed and more.

But the blizzard threatening as an enemy, did not let us enjoy the view for a long time, so it down as quickly as possible to avoid being trapped by the dangerous storm. We let ourselves down by a large snow shovel southwest of the crater. Up to half of very long slope was completely frozen: what stress at the top of the impressive slide, does not allow an oversight. The descent is tough, four hours without a break, put the autopilot, but the last sections, loose and deep snow, ice, rock, earth ... became endless.

Damavand Mt. Iran
Jaime Vinals, Melat Park, Tehran Iran

Finally we reached the hut just after 6 pm and less bad, because at that time the clouds did not stop to look beyond the 4,500 meters. Sleep, leg pain, numb fingers, thirst, dust ... I want to drink something .. was late afternoon. I was marked by this solitary experience: a great mountain, a piece of Persia, a milestone in the history and legend ...

Mount Damavand always thank the courtesy of allowing me to meet, play and enjoy the summit. With this summit and took 27 of the 50 world's most prominent peaks, which would not be possible without the support of my sponsors Rayovac and The North Face.


Thanks also to Ardeshir Soltani and Majid Doroodgar for your support, friendship and brotherhood of mountains during my stay in Iran.
Jaime Viñals

Damawand Mount Iran
Jaime Vinals, Tehran Iran
Photo by Mount Damavand Guide

Damavand Mountain
Jaime Vinals, Majid Droodgar and Hadi Aghaei
14 April 2010, on the way to the Damavand Summit
Photo by Ardeshir Soltani

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