Notes on Mount Ararat, from a trip in July 2002
By Richard L. Carey
The town of Dogubayazit is the starting point for most climbs of Mount Ararat. This is a long way, about 1300 km from Istanbul, and unless you want to endure a 30-hour bus ride the best way is to fly. The nearest airport is in the town of Agri and there are flights from Ankara several times a week. From Agri it is 90 km by road to Dogubayazit.
It is also possible to fly to Van, which is 185 km by road south of Dogubayazit. Van is a large city that has daily flights to Ankara and a nonstop flight to Istanbul.
This is a town of 49,000 people located about 25 km (15 miles) southwest of the mountain. It has a number of decent hotels. We stayed at the Hotel Isfahan that was in the past frequented by a lot of climbers. The Rough Guide gave this hotel a poor recommendation, but we found it to be fine. The rooms in the new addition are quite large, unusual for Turkey. They plan to convert the upper eastern floor to an outdoor café that will have nice views of the mountain.
Dogubayazit has many restaurants, markets and several Internet Cafes. There are also two ATM machines along the main street that worked well for getting cash. At the Hiper Market you can get most food items you might need for the mountain. They have plenty of pastas, dried fruits, nuts, candies and chocolates. They didn't have cereal like oatmeal so it is best to bring that from home if you want to have it on the mountain. We used premium, unleaded gasoline for the stove. I am not sure white gas is available. We had some problem using this fuel and I suggest having a filter funnel to keep the fuel clean and free of particles.
Route on the mountain:
Heading east on the main highway you will need to present your permit and passport for the mountain to the military guards at the Dogubayazit Komando Post. About one km east of the Post turn off left (north) onto a good dirt road that heads through two villages and then climbs the slopes to Eli. It is here that we unloaded our gear and started the hike. A horsepacker that our guide had made arrangements with took most of the heavy items up to Camp 1.
Clouds formed each day over the mountain and we had about an hour of rain or hail in the late afternoon so a good tent is needed. It is not especially cold at night in mid summer even at Camp 2, so a lightweight sleeping bag good down to freezing is adequate. The usual practice is to use two camps on the mountain. Distances and elevation gains that I measured are as follows:
Eli to Camp 1 = 8.2 km (5.1 miles), gain of 1340 m (4400 ft.)
Camp 1 to Camp 2 = 2.4 km (1.5 miles), gain of 810 m (2660 ft.)
Camp 2 to Summit = 2.5 km (1.5 miles), gain of 987 m (3240 ft.)
I didn't actually get to the summit due to sickness so my distance from Camp 2 to the top is an estimate. The elevation gain here should be accurate. Most people are able to go from Camp 2 to the summit in 4 ½ to 5 ½ hours. After a 2 to 3 hour descent most climbers pack up and hike all the way out. This makes for a long, hard day with a gain of 987 m and a descent of about 3140 m (10,300 ft.). I have a GPS route file posted that can be loaded into a Garmin receiver. It does not have the route above Camp 2, but still might be useful on the descent from Camp 1 to Eli. The house at Eli is not visible until you get close to it and the route can be confusing. Mt. Ararat Route file
There was abundant water flowing from a snow bank at Camp 1 while at Camp 2 one had to traverse a talus slope to find a trickle coming down under the rocks. I recommend filtering or boiling water at both camps.
Other sights near Dogubayazit:
1. The meteor crater, which is close to the Iranian border, is worth a visit. Drive east on the main highway and just before the border turn left onto a good dirt road. There may be military guards along here so be careful to identify yourself and have a passport handy. They should let you past to visit the crater.
2. The Noah's Ark National Park is up in the hills also east of the Komando post and south of the main highway. This has an interesting display of documents that supposedly "prove" that the geologic formation on the slope south of the building is the remains of Noah's Ark. It looks like a natural formation to me that has some resemblance to the shape of a large boat. There is a web site about this: http://www.anchorstone.com
3. The Ishak Pasa Sarayi. This is an impressive old palace on a bluff south of town. Admission fee is 5,000,000 Lira and is well worth it. The carvings on the walls are detailed and make good photos. This structure took 99 years to build and was completed in 1784. The gold entrance door was taken by the Russians and is now at The Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg.
1. "Turkey Unveiled - A History of Modern Turkey" by Nicole and Hugh Pope, The Overlook Press, Woodstock & New York, 2000. The publisher has a website at: www.overlookpress.com
2. "Transcaucasia and Ararat - Being notes of a vacation tour in the autumn of 1876" by James Bryce Bryce, reprinted by Elibron Classics. They have a web page at: www.elibron.com
3. "The Turkish Time Machine" by Monica Jackson, Hodder and Stoughton Ltd., London, 1966.
4. "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Turkey" by R. Ergener, Istanbul, 2001. The author has a website at: www.dreamtours.com
5. "The Mountains of Turkey", Karl Smith, Cicerone Press, Milnthorpe Cumbria, England, 1994.
6. "Ascent of Mount Ararat" by Dr. Frederick Parrot, 1835 article in the Daily National Intelligencer. Reprinted here at this website.