Daily National Intelligencer, Washington, D.C
This is the complete text of the article on the first ascent of Mount Ararat from the American newspaper "Daily National Intelligencer". The article apparently was taken from another journal article written by Dr. Frederick Parrot. The unit "werst" is probably the same as the old Russian unit "verst" and is about 1.1 km. Bayazeed is probably the present day Dogubayazit.

Friday, October 2, 1835

Ascent of Mount Ararat

From the New York Journal of Commerce

Since the days of Noah, it is not know that any human has reached the summit of the Great Ararat, until 1829, when the feat was accomplished by Professor Parrot. Taking with him Mr. Behagel, a mineralogist, Messrs. Hehn and Shiemann, medical students of Moscow, and Mr. Federow, astronomer, of St. Petersburgh, he commenced his journey on the 20th of March 1829, and arrived at Tiflis on the 6th of June. Owing to circumstances, which we need not explain, they were unable to leave Tiflis till the 1st of September: the distance to Mount Ararat being by the road about 280 wersts, (say 200 miles.) The annexed description of the mountain and its ascent is taken from a work recently published by Prof. Parrot, at Berlin, as quoted in the Foreign Quarterly Review:

"The mountains of Ararat rise at the Southern extremity of a plain, which the Araxes traverses in a considerable bend, and which is about fifty wersts in breadth, and more than 100 in length. Ararat consists of two mountains, namely, the Great Ararat, and its immediate neighbor, the Little Ararat, the former lying to the northwest, the latter to the southeast, their summits ten wersts and a half apart from each other in a right line, and the base of both mountains united by a broad level valley. This is occupied by herdsmen for the pasturage of their flocks, and was formerly used as a safe retreat by the predatory Koords, by which they were enabled to keep up an easy and safe communication between the northern and southern provinces."

"The summit of the Great Ararat is situated in 39 deg. 42 min. north latitude, and 61 deg. 55 min. east longitude from Ferro; its perpendicular height is 16,254 Paris feet, or nearly 5 wersts, above the level of the sea, and 13,500 Paris feet, or rather more than four wersts above the plain of Araxes. The northeastern declivity of the mountain may be estimated at twenty, its northwestern at thirty, wersts in length. In the former we recognize at some distance the deep black chasm, which many have compared to an extinct crater, but which has always appeared to me to resemble a cleft, as if the mountain had once been split from above. From the summit, for about one werst in a perpendicular, or four wersts in an oblique direction, it is covered with a mantle of eternal snow and ice, the lower edge of which is indented according to the elevation or depression of the ground. On the whole of the north side of the mountain, however, for about 13,300 Paris feet, or rather more than 4 wersts above the level of the seas, it runs along in one rigid crust, broken by but few projections of rock, up to the summit, over which it extends down to the southern side to a less considerable depth. This is the hoary head of Ararat. The Little Ararat lies in 39 deg. 39 min. north latitude, 62 deg. 2 min. east longitude from Ferro. Its summit is elevated 12,284 Paris feet, rather above 3 ¾ wersts perpendicular above the level of the sea, and 9,651 Paris feet above the plain of Araxes. Notwithstanding this considerable elevation, it is not covered with perpetual snow, but in September and October, and probably in August, or even earlier, it is quite free from it. Its declivities are considerably steeper than those of the Great Ararat; in shape it is almost a perfect cone. Numerous small furrows which radiate from the summit give this mountain a peculiar and very interesting character."

"Although the two Ararats have no appearance whatever of forming part of any chain, but stand independent, they are not wholly unconnected with other mountains. While the southwestern declivity is lost in the Mounts Bayazeed and Diadina, which contain the sources of the Euphrates, the northwestern declivity of the Great Ararat is connected with a long chain of hills which runs along the whole of the right bank of the Araxes, and in which some very steep cones strike the eye. The western extremity of this chain winds round the sources of the Araxes, touches Erzerum, and crowns the left bank in the same manner as the right, with a chain of mountains, some of which, especially in the direction of Kars, must be of very considerable height, as I saw their summits in October, a time when in general the Great Ararat alone is mantled in its eternal snow, covered to a great depth, and to an extent of about 20 wersts, with a thick layer of snow. These mountains are probably the Saganlug and a part of the Taurus."

"The impression which the sight of Ararat makes on every one whose mind is capable of comprehending the stupendous works of the Creator, is awful and mysterious, and many a sensitive and intelligent traveler has endeavored, with glowing pen and skilful pencil to describe this impression; and in the feeling that no description no delineation, can come up to the sublime object before him, every one who has made such an attempt must certainly have experienced how difficult it is to avoid, both in language and in sketching, every thing that is poetical in expression, or exaggerated, in form, and to keep strictly within the bounds of truth."

"At seven o'clock in the morning of the 12th of September, I set out on my journey from the Convent of St. James near the foot of the mountain, accompanied by Mr. Schiemann. We took with us one of our Cossacks, and a peasant of Arguri, who was a good huntsman, and our route was first in the bottom of the valley, then up its right acclivity towards the spot where there are two small stone houses standing close to each other; the one formerly a chapel, and the other built as a protection for a spring, which is considered sacred."

"From the chapel we crossed the grassy elevation which forms the right declivity of the cleft; we suffered so much from the heat of the day, that our Cossack, who would probably much rather have been seated on a horseback and galloping about on the Steppes for three days than scrambling over the rocks for a couple of hours, was ready to sink from fatigue, and we were obliged to send him back. At about six o'clock in the evening, when we were also much tired, and had almost reached the snowy region, we chose our night's lodging in the clefts of the rocks. We had attained a height of 11,675 Paris feet; in the sheltered places about us lay some new fallen snow, and the temperature of the air was at the freezing point. Mr. Schiemann and I provided ourselves tolerably well for such an undertaking; besides, the pleasure of the expedition warmed us; but our athletic Jager, Schak of Arguri (Isaac) was quite dejected from the cold, for he had nothing but his summer clothing; his whole neck, and also his leg, from the knee to the sandal, were quite bare, and his head was only covered with an old handkerchief. I had neglected to think about his wardrobe before setting out, and, therefore, it was my duty to help him as well as I could; but, as neither of us had much clothing to spare, I wrapped up his neck and bare limbs in sheets of blotting paper, which I had taken with me for drying plants, and this was a great relief to him. At daybreak we pursued our journey towards the eastern side of the mountain, and soon reached the declivity which runs immediately from the summit. It consists entirely of pointed rocky ridges coming down from above, and leaving between them ravines of considerable depth, in which the icy mantle of the summit loses itself, and the glaciers of great extent. There were several of these rocky ridges and clefts of ice lying between us and the side of the mountain which we were endeavoring to gain. When we had happily surmounted the first crest and the adjoining beautiful glacier, and reached the second creat, Schak had no courage to proceed. His benumbed limbs had not yet recovered their warmth, and the icy region towards which he saw us hastening, did not hold out much prospect of relief. Thus one remained behind from heat and another from cold - only Mr. Schiemann, though unaccustomed to these hardships, did not for an instant lose his courage or his desire to accompany me, but shared with alacrity and perseverance all the difficulties and dangers we had to encounter. Leaving the Jager behind us, we crossed the second glacier, and gained the third rocky ridge. Then, immediately turning off in an oblique direction, we reached the lower edge of the icy crest at a height of 13,180 Paris feet, and which, from this place, runs without interruption to the summit. We had now to ascend this declivity covered with perpetual snow. Though the inclination was barely 30 deg. This was a sheer impossibility for tow men to accomplish in a direct line. We therefore determined to advance diagonally towards a long pointed ridge which runs far up towards the summit. We succeeded in this by making with our ice-poles deep holes in the ice of the glacier, which was covered with a thin layer of new fallen snow, to slight to afford the requisite firmness to our steps. We thus reached the ridge, and advanced towards the summit by a track where the new snow was rather deeper. Though we might by great exertions have this time reached the goal of our wishes, yet the fatigue of the day had been considerable, and as it was already three o'clock in the afternoon, we were obliged to think of providing a lodging for the approaching night."

"We had attained the extreme upper ridge of the rocky cleft, an elevation of 14,560 Paris feet above the level of the sea, (the height of the top of Mount Blanc), and yet the summit of Ararat lay far above us. I do not think that any insurmountable obstacle could have impeded our further progress, but to spend the few the few remaining hours of daylight in reaching this point would have been worse than madness, as we had not seen any rock on the summit which could have afforded us protection during the night; independently of which our stock of provisions was not calculated to last so long. Having made our barometrical observations, we turned back, satisfied from the result that the mountain on this side was not inaccessible. In descending, however, we met with a danger we had not anticipated; for if in the descent of every mountain you tread less safely than in going up, it is still more difficult to tread firmly, when you look down upon such a surface of ice and snow as that over which we had to pass for more than a werst , and where, if we slipped and fell, there was nothing to stop us but the sharp-pointed masses of stone in which the region of eternal ice loses itself. The danger here is perhaps rather in the want of habit than in real difficulties."

"My young friend, whose courage had probably been proof against severe trails, lost his presence of mind here. His foot slipped and he fell; but, as he was about twenty paces behind me, I had time to thrust my pole firmly into the ice, to take a sure footing in my capital snowshoes, and, while I held the pole in my right hand, to catch him in passing with my left. My position was well chosen, but the straps which fastened my ice shoes broke, and, instead of being able to stop my friend, I was carried with him in his fall. He was so fortuntes to be stopped by some stones, but I rolled on for half a werst, till I reached some fragments of lava near the lower glacier. The tube of my barometer was dashed to pieces - everthing had fallen out of my pockets, but I escaped without severe injury. As soon as we had recovered from our fright, and thanked God for our providential escape, we collected the most important of our effects, and continued our journey. We were soon afterwards delighted to hear the voice of our good Schak, who had very prudently waited for our return. Having made a fire, we passed the night in the grassy region, and on the third day reached the convent, where we were regaled with an excellent breakfast. We however took care not to tell the Armenians anything about our accident, as they would certainly not have failed to ascribe it to a judgment from Heaven for our presumptuous attempt to reach the summit, which they say has been prohibited to mortals by a divine decree since the time of Noah. All the Armenians are firmly persuaded that Noah's ark exists to the present day on the summit of Mount Ararat, and that, in order to preserve it, no person is permitted to approach it. We learn the grounds of this tradition from the Armenian chronicles in the legend of a monk of the name of James, who was afterwards Patriarch of Nissibis, and a contemporary and relative of St. Gregory. It is said that this monk, in order to settle the disputes which has arisen respecting the credibility of the sacred books, especially with reference to their account of Noah, resolved to ascend to the top of Ararat to convince himself of the existence of the ark. At the declivity of the mountain, however, he had several times fallen asleep from exhaustion, and found on awaking that he had been unconsciously carried down to the point from which he first set out - God at length had compassion on his unwearied though fruitless exertions, and during his sleep sent an angel with the message, that his exertions were unavailing, as the summit was inaccessible, but as a reward for his indefatigable zeal, he sent him a piece of the ark, the very same which is now preserved as the most valuable relic in the cathedral of Etschmaidsin. The belief in the impossibility of ascending Mount Ararat has, in consequence of this tradition, which is sanctioned by the church, almost become an article of faith, which an Armenian would not renounce even if he were placed in his own proper person upon the summit of the mountain."

After recovering in some measure from the effects of his fall and attack of fever which ensued, the Professor set out on the 18th of September to make a second attempt to gain the summit, taking with him a cross ten feet high, which it was proposed to set up on the top of the mountain, with an inscription in honor of Field Marshal Count Paskewitsch, by whose victories the Russian dominions had been extended to this point. They chose this time the northeast side of the mountain, by which the way was much longer, but not so steep. But as the second attempt also failed, we pass over the account of it, and proceed without further preface to the third, which succeeded. They however erected a cross on an almost horizontal surface covered with snow, at the height of 15,138 Paris feet above the level of the Euxine, or about 350 feet higher than the summit of Mount Blanc.

"In the meantime the sky cleared up, the air became serene and calm, the mountain too was more quite, the noise occasioned by the falling of the masses of ice and snow grew less frequent - in short, every thing seemed to indicate that a favorable turn was about to take place in the weather, and I hastened to embrace it for a third attempt to ascend the mountain. On the 23rd of September I sent to ask Stepan whether he would join us, but he declined, saying that he had suffered too much from the former excursions to venture again so soon. He however promised to send us four stout peasants with three oxen and a driver. Early the next morning, four peasants made their appearance at the camp to join our expedition, and soon after a fifth, who offered himself voluntarily. To them I added two of our soldiers. The deacon again accompanied us, as well as Mr. Hehn, who wished to explore the vegetation at a greater elevation; but he did not intend to proceed beyond the line of snow. The experience of the proceeding attempt had convinced me that everything depended on our passing the first night as closely as possible to this boundary, in order to be able to ascend and return from the summit in one day, and to confine our baggage to what was absolutely necessary. We therefore took with us only three oxen laden with the clothing, wood, and provisions. I also took a cross carved in Oak."

"We chose our route towars the same side as before, and, in order to spare ourselves, Abowiam and I rode on horseback, wherever the rocky nature of the soil permitted it, as far as the grassy plain Kip-Giholl, whence we sent the horses back. Here Mr. Hehn parted from us. It was scarcely twelve o'clock when we reached this point, and, after taking our breakfast, we proceeded in a direction rather more oblique than on our former attempt. The cattle were, however, unable to follow us so quickly. We therefore halted at some rocks which it would be impossible for them to pass - took each our own share of clothing and wood, and sent back the oxen. At half past five in the evening we were not far from the snow line, and considerably higher than the place where we passed the night on our previous excursion. The elevation at this point was 13,036 Paris feet above the level of the sea, and the large masses of rock determined me to take up our quarters here. A fire was soon made and a warm supper prepared. I had some onion broth, a dish which I recommend to all mountain travelers in preference to meat broth, as being extremely warm and invigorating. This being a fast day, poor Abowian was not able to enjoy it. The other Armenians, who strictly adhered to their rules of fasting, contented themselves and the brandy which I distributed among them in a limited quantity, as this cordial must be taken with great caution, especially where the strength has been previously much tried, as it otherwise produces a sense of exhaustion and inclination to sleep. It was a magnificent evening, and with my eye fixed on the clear sky and the lofty summit which projected against it, and then again on the dark night which was gathering far below and around me, I experienced all those delightful sensations of tranquility, love, and devotion, that silent reminiscence of the past, that subdued glance into the future, which a traveler never fails to experience when on lofty elevations and under pleasing circumstances. I laid myself down and under an overhanging rock of lava, the temperature of the air at 4½ deg., which was tolerably warm, considering our great height."

"At day-break we rose, and began our journey at half past six. We crossed the last broken declivities in half an hour, and entered the boundary of eternal snow nearly at the same place as in our previous ascent. In consequence of the increased warmth of the weather, the new fallen snow, which had facilitated our progress on our previous ascent, had melted away, and again frozen, so that, in spite of the still inconsiderable slope, we were compelled to cut steps in the ice. This very much embarrassed our advance, and added greatly to our fatigue. One of the peasants had remained behind in our resting place, as he felt unwell; two others became exhausted in ascending the side of the glacier. They at first laid down, but soon retreated to our quarters. Without being disheartened by these difficulties we proceeded, and soon reached the great cleft which marks the upper edge of the declivity of the large glacier, and at ten o'clock we arrived at the great plain of snow which marks the first break on the icy head of Ararat. At the distance of a werst, we saw the cross which we had reared on the 19th of September, but it appeared to me so extremely small, probably on account of its black color, that I almost doubted whether I should be able to find it again with an ordinary telescope from the plain of Araxes. In the direction towards the summit, a shorter, but at the same time a steeper, declivity, than the one we had passed lay before us, and between this and the extreme summit, there appeared to be only one small hill. After a short repose we passed the first precipice, which was the steepest of all, by hewing out steps in the rock, and after this reached the next elevation. But here, instead of seeing the ultimate goal of all our difficulties, immediately before us appeared a series of hills, which even concealed the summit from our sight. This rather abated our courage, which had never yielded for a moment so long as we had all our difficulties in view, and our strength, exhausted by the labor of hewing the rock, seemed scarcely commensurate with the attainment of the now invisible object of our wishes. But a review of what had been already accomplished, and of that which might still remain to be done, the proximity of the series of projecting elevations, and a glance at my brave companions, banished my fears, and we boldly advanced. We crossed two more hills, and the cold air of the summit blew towards us. I stepped from behind one of the glaciers, and the extreme cone of Ararat lay distinctly before my enraptured eyes. But one more effort was necessary. Only one other ice plain was to be ascended, and at a quarter past three on the 27th of September. O.S. 1829, we stood on the summit of Mount Ararat!"

Having thus happily accomplished his fatiguing and perilous enterprise, says the Review, our author's first wish and enjoyment was repose. He spread his cloak on the ground, and sitting down contemplated the boundless but desolate prospect around him. He was on a slightly convex, almost circular, platform, about 200 Paris feet in diameter, which at the extreme declines pretty steeply on all sides, particularly towards the SE and NE; it was the silver crest of Ararat, composed of eternal ice, unbroken by rock or stone. Towards the east, the summit declined more gently than in any other direction, and was connected by a hollow, likewise covered with perpetual ice, with another rather lower summit, which by Mr. Federow's trigonometrical measurement was found to be 187 toises distant from the principal summit. On account of the immense distances nothing could be seen distinctly. The whole valley of the Araxes was covered with a gray mist through which Erivan and Sardarabad appeared as small dark spots; to the south were seen more distinctly the hills behind which lies Bayazeed; to the northwest the ragged top of Alaghes, covered with vast masses of snow, probably an inaccessible summit. Near to Ararat, especially to the southeast, and at a great distance towards the west, are numerous small conical hills, which look like extinct volcanoes. To the ESE was Little Ararat, whose head did not appear like a cone, as it does from the plain, but like the top of a square truncated pyramid, with larger and smaller rocky elevations on the edges and in the middle. But what very much surprised Professor Parrot was to see a large portion of Lake Goktschai, which appeared in the northeast like a beautiful shining dark blue patch, behind the lofty chain of mountains which encloses it on the south, and which is so high that he could never have believed that he should have been able from the top of Ararat to see over its summit into the lake behind it.

Mr. Parrot having allowed himself time to enjoy this prospect, proceeded to observe his barometer, which he placed precisely in the middle of the summit. The mercury was no higher than 15 inches ¼ of a line Paris measure, the temperature being 3 7/10ths below the freezing point of the centigrade thermometer. By comparing the observation with that which Mr. Federow made at the same time at the convent of St. James, the elevation of the summit appears to be 10,272 Paris feet above the convent, and, adding to that the height of the latter, the top of Ararat is 16,254 Paris feet, nearly five wersts, above the level of the sea. While the Professor was engaged in his observations, the deacon planted the cross, not precisely on the summit where it could not have been seen from the plain, as it was only five feet high, but on the northeast edge, about thirty feet lower than the center of the summit. The Professor and his five companions, viz: the deacon, two Russian soldiers, and two Armenian peasants, having remained three quarters of an hour on the summit, commenced their descent, which was very fatiguing; but they hastened, as the sun was going down, and before they reached the place where the great cross was erected, it had nearly sunk below the horizon.

"It was a glorious sight to behold the dark shadows which the mountains in the west cast upon the plain, and then the profound darkness which covered all the valleys, and gradually rose higher and higher on the sides of Ararat, whose icy summit was still illuminated by the beams of the setting sun. But the shadows soon passed over that also, and would have covered our path with a gloom that would have rendered our descent dangerous, had not the sacred lamp of night, opportunely rising above the eastern horizon, cheered us with its welcome beams."

Having passed the night on the same spot as on their ascent, where they found their companions, they arrived the next day at noon, at the convent of St. James, and on the following day, Sunday, 28th of September, O.S. they offered their grateful thanksgiving to Heaven for the success of their arduous enterprise, perhaps not far from the spot where "Noah built an altar to the Lord".