2019 IRAN TURKEY CAUCASUS MOUNTAINS ROCK CLIMBING EXPEDITION
7 APRIL – 27 SEPTEMBER
After successful our Eastern Europe Rock Climbing Expeditions we took a break from organising expeditions. Now we invite keen climbers to participate in our already 3rd expedition. We offer five months plus of intensive rock climbing trip through a loop:
Greece, Turkey, Iran and Caucasus Mountains in Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Georgia again, Turkey and back to Greece
The proposed route will take us for the well known and not that well known but still the best rock climbing areas in all these countries. We will go into beautiful mountains, where climbing crags can easily compete with the rock climbing sites in Western Europe i.e. Spain or France; and where the mountains are higher than those in Alps.
ROCK CLIMBING in GREECE
Area: NAFLPIO, Greece
We will bring our expedition truck EMMA to Nafplio in the mid of March, 2019, and do some preparations of it for the coming expedition. So, anyone who would like to climb extensively in the area of Nafplio and further south, in Leonidio, before we take off, should consider doing that before the date of the planned start of the expedition of the 7 April 2019.
All joining at the start will have a chance to climb great crags around Nafplio, be it the cliffs immediately above the sea or a bit higher inland on Karathona Beach, on the first two days of the expedition.
Departure from Nafplio is planned for the 9 April. We shall drive/float EMMA to Turkey. We will drive to Piraeus, port in Athens, take an overnight ferry to Chios, an island close to Turkish border, where we will take a morning ferry to Cesme in Turkey.
Scroll down for the highlights of the climbing sites we plan to visit. You can click on tags on side to learn Expedition Dates and General info.
ROCK CLIMBING in TURKEY
Area: Kaynaklar, Turkey
Situated just outside Izmir, main city of the beautiful Aegean region, this site with a great camping site is well developed by the local climbing community with some 200 various grades climbs. Some say there potential routes for lifetime. It will be a great place to start a trip; plenty of mid range climbs in the 3a to 8b grade range. Many crags on up to 30 meters high, vertical and overhanging rocks with a legendary route Odin 8a+, main wall is 300m long.
Area: Pamukkale, Turkey
Before we get to our next climbing area we shall have a great time in thermal pools of Pamukkale, a very unusual place on our planet. Pamukkale famous for its hot springs and massive white limestone terraces. The thermal pools were enjoyed by Greeks of the holy ancient city – Hierapolis. Pamukkale-Hierapolis has been declared UNESCO World Heritage site.
Area: Datça, Turkey
Datca area offers both, traditionnal climbing and sport climbing. This new Turkish “gem” offers nearly 300 sport climbing routes, spread over 15 crags, grades from 4c to 9b; it is developed over the last few years on a the rocks of a peninsula in the SW Turkey. The style of the climbing varies from slabs, vertical walls with pockets or small crimps, to overhangs with tufas, and monster overhanging caves. These overhanging caves are where the harder routes are found with Can Baba being the main cave, which has lots of tufas. If the winds do not blow us away, we may spend there a bit of time. Visit to remains of an ancient Knidos at the tip of peninsula will take us back in time.
Olympos will be our next stop, an excellent sport climbing area, with several crags. Popular amongst climbers as well as travellers, Olympos, south of Antalya, offers over 300 routes on perfect limestone rock across all grades; slabs with small pockets, tufas and huge roofs. Some of the crags are located only a few hundred metres from the beach. In this area also are several walls that are suitable for deep water soloing with the sea being deep enough to attempt routes from 8 to 20m long (approach by boat only). Olympos is also famous for campsites/hostels with “houses on trees”; one of the most famous hostels in Europe is kadirstreehouses.com/ and for beautiful beaches and Roman ruins.
Area: Geyikbayiri, Turkey
Some three times more sport climbing routes than in Olympos will await us in our next stop, one of the most pristine and scenic areas of Turkey, the Geyikbayiri. Geyikbayiri, the largest sport climbing area in Turkey. The main crag is 1.5km long, plus other areas provide over 800 routes across at all grades from the easy (5a) to the difficult (8c). Still potential for many more! The rock is superb limestone rock, with many features such as slabs and faces with small crimps to big overhanging tufas and roofs. The majority of the routes are single pitch though; some 2-pitch routes as well. All of the routes have good quality bolts. We shall spend maybe even a week at a campsite at Geyikbayiri. After long hard days work there will be ways to relax in local restaurants, meeting local and visiting climbers.
Area: Dedegöl Dağlari,
Some 150 km north from Antalya there is a huge massive of Dedegöl Dağlari, mountain reaching just almost 3000 meters above sea level. This may be our next stop. There are some of the longest trad climbing routes in Turkey. Climbers come there in summer and in winter. Today the place is in of danger of to be destroyed/restricted access, as there are preparation for mining of murmur. Trad climbers will love this place. There is also an area with a very smooth granite slab to climb, but as Brendan says “you don’t take friends to climb slabs”. It maybe an option for the expedition to get to this area.
Pictures show nice lines of multipitch routes with grades up to 8a on some sections. Details on: http://www.tuncfindik.com/dedegol-eldere-yeni-geleneksel-rota-vira-vira/, http://www.takoz.org/page.aspx?id=21&makid=49
Area: Cappadocia Region,
Stone: Vulcanic tufa
A definite place to see while in Turkey is Cappadocia. Cappadocia is out of this planet with its lunarscape panoramas. The Drift Planet calls it the most magical place on Earth! (https://drifterplanet.com/cappadocia-is-the-most-magical-place-on-earth/)
Cappadocia, a semi-arid region in central Turkey, is known for its distinctive “fairy chimneys,” tall, cone-shaped rock formations clustered in Monks Valley, Göreme and elsewhere. Other notables sites include Bronze Age homes carved into valley walls by troglodytes (cave dwellers) and later used as refuges by early Christians. The 100m-deep Ihlara Canyon houses numerous rock-face churches. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cappadocia)
Now designated a World Heritage Site the rock sites of Cappadocia and Göreme National Park are described by Unescoas “one of the world’s most striking and largest cave-dwelling complexes. We should spend few days in the area. And go hot air balooning!
Area: Ala Daglar National Park,
Outside Cappadocia there is also good rock climbing in nearby Taurus Mountains, in Ala Daglar National Park. There are more than 60 peaks over 3,000m high, the highest being Demirkazik at 3,756m. This area is described as the most beautiful climbing region in Turkey and it offers everything from sport, traditional and alpine rock climbing. Here you will find some great climbing in a beautifully remote place, with very few other people and the opportunity to bag some new routes. Sport Climbing in Aladaglar is just outside of Karamuk village (also known as Demirkazik village) in the Cimbar valley – one of the main sports climbing areas, along with the Pinarbasi Canyon. These limestone crags offer everything from single pitch to multi-pitch sport routes; mainly slabs and vertical walls with small pockets. There are around 250 routes, mainly single or 2-pitches routes, range of grades from some 5s to mainly 6s and 7s (F); multi-pitch routes up to 200m long. This all according to: http://www.climb-europe.com/RockClimbingTurkey/aladaglar.htm
On the way from Cappadocia to border with Iran
After the Cappadocia plus area we shall head east to the border with Iran. Soon will come to Kayseri, a most Islamic city after Konya in Turkey, a “tiger” industrial place today, which boasts with large castle constructed by Romans, several Seljuk and Ottoman times mosques and medreses. Driving further the road will take us through ancient Persian-Greek territory. Outside Malatya we may go to Nemrut Dagi to walk the hill with the “thrones of gods”. Depending on the weather we may decide to watch the sun going up or down, or both! Camping overnight in the area may be justified.
Further drive will be through Diyarbakir to Tatvan, on the western corner of large Lake Van and along the southern bank of the lake to Van town, from where to the border crossing to Iran. There is an airport in Van and it could be a point where one can conveniently join the expedition.
ROCK CLIMBING in IRAN
On the way from the border with Turkey
Lonely Planet’s guide book to Iran starts with the words: “Welcome to Iran. Welcome to what could be the friendliest country on earth” … and further: “Iran is a treasure house for some of the most beautiful Islamic architecture on the planet”. We must experience this “only on the planet place”!
We will get to Iran already during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. We shall drive into Iran at the Kopikoy – Razi border crossing. From Razi we shall head south through Khoy, Orumiyeh, Bukan to Howraman Valley, a magical valley of traditional Kurdish villages.
Further we shall drive through Kermanshah to Bisotun. While in Kermanshah we will look for some crags but mainly will head to Bisotun for a big wall.
Area: Fardah Tarash/Bisotun Wall, Iran
Near small town of Bisotun there is carved into the wall Mt Bisotun a series of bas-reliefs cuneiform inscriptions dating 521 BC! Few hundred meters the is a 1200 m vertical wall offering some of Iran’s most epic climbs. There more than 100 sport and trad multipich routs, with the grades for everyone. The wall is known as 5 major climbing parts. There are also shelters high in the mountain placed on wide ledges.
Yafteh is a massif 8 km long limestone wall near Khorramabad. There are many cliffs and countless routes, some amount to 1000 meters with various technical difficulties. The highest point is 2762 meters above sea leve. it resembles Bisotun Wall though it is somewhat cooler. There are some other undeveloped crags in the Khorramabad area which we may visit when there.
The next stop will be architectural gem, the city of Isfahan, Iran’s top tourist destination. Few days in town to see its boulevards, Persian gardens, picturesque bridges and those beautiful important Islamic buildings in the city center listed on the Unesco heritage list.
Area: White Mountain, Iran
While enjoying Isfahan we may climb cliffs of the White Mountain. It an amazing crag. The rock offers perfect grip and steep part of the rock with mega holds give a nice climb. The routes are well protected and are mostly bolts .
From Isfahan we will head north to the capital city of Iran: Tehran. We will drive trough Natanz with it beautiful mosque, Kashan with cluster of architectural wonders including famous bazar and city garden.
Tehran bustling capital spreads at the feet of the magnificent snowcapped Alborz Mountains. This is Iran’s most secular and liberal city. The places to see include glittering Golestan Palace, Grand Bazaar, beautiful Azadi tower, famous museums: Treasury of National Lewels, Islamic museum. Close approximity to the mountains allows to ride a gondola to Mt Tochal (3933 m), or hike up into the foothills of the mountains
Mountaineering near Tehran
Being so close to the real high mountains will give an opportunity co climb Mt Damavand (5671 m), a potentially active volcano, or some other high peaks as there is about a few dozens of peaks higher than 4000 meters! A guided tour or own setup may take one over three – four days to the summit of the highest peak of Iran. A real wall climbing is offered on 800 m high near vertical granite wall on Alam Kuh (4850 m).
Rock climbing outside Tehran
Polekhab is suggested as the best sport /trad climbing area close to Tehran; only 2 hours of driving from the city. Compact rock, 2000 meters above sea level, up to 100 meters high and more than 1 km wide. More than 100 routes most recently rebolted offer safe climbing. The wall is surrounded by many high mountains and this makes the surrounding nature unbelievable. http://www.iranclimbingguide.com/Polekhab.html
Leaving Tehran district will take us west to Tabriz; a city, biblically speaking, placed at the gate to the Garden of Paradise. This Silk Road city still boast with its thriving Grand Bazaar, known as the largest roofed bazaar in the world and the oldest one in the Middle East; today Unesco heritage. Tabriz is also famous for its carpets and teahouse hammams. From Tabriz it will take us a day to get to the border of Iran with Armenia.
ROCK CLIMBING in ARMENIA
Armenia is a country locked in the middle of the Cucasus Mountains between its neighbours Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey. It’s a country of ancient churches and monasteries which can be classified a world’s treasure of architectural tinkering. It’s a country of breathtaking natural beauty and deeply hospitable people; of two Christian and one Islamic countries and at least 16 local languages (as per Lonely Planet).
Area: Noravank Canyon, Armenia
From the border in a day we should get to Noravank Canyon, the most developed area for sport climbing and trad climbing in Armenia. Its located 275 km from the border with Iran, on the main road to Armenian capital city, Yerevan. http://www.uptherocks.com/index.php/rock-climbing-in-armenia. There is also a must see desert canyon Noravank Monastery.
Area: Hell’s Canyon, Armenia
Stone: not known
The Hell’s Canyon is only 20 km north from Noravank Canyon towards Yerevan and is also one of the most beloved rock climbing place by Armenian rock climbers. There are two sectors with some 25 routes sport routes of mainly mid grades.
Area: Arpa and Garni Gorge, Armenia
Perfect for climbing, but now only perfect to see. Formation of a regular array of polygonal columns, a geological structure of columnar jointings were once rock climbing playground in Garni Gorge and Arpa Gorge for the climbing local and visiting community. Now, National Monuments, where climbing is strictly prohibited, are still very much worth the see. We shall pop in for a visit before getting to Yerevan.
Yerevan. There are some crags in the capital of Armenia almost in the city center, and at very right spot: at Spitak Rescue Center! While in Yerevan most probably will go sightseeing having a break from climbing. Although thecity is older than Rome, as the roots of Yerevan go near 3000 years back, there is not much of the older structures to be seen. City Centre encompasses the most interesting places to visit such as Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum, History Museum of Armenia, Cafesjian center for the Arts.
ROCK CLIMBING in GEORGIA
From one capital city to another one – from Yerevan we will drive just 300 km to get to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, a gem of Caucasus Mountains.
Georgia, a country with deeply complicated history at the intersection of Europe and Asia, spreads from the beaches of the Black Sea through and over the Western Caucasus Mountains to their center. It’s famous for a cave monastery dating to the 12th century, and the ancient wine-growing region Kakheti, claiming also that the country is the birthplace of wine! Georgia is one of the most beautiful countries on earth, according to travelers.
The capital, Tbilisi, is known for the diverse architecture and mazelike, cobblestone streets of its old town. That much Wikipidia and Lonely Planet. Pictures copied from: https://www.mywanderlust.pl/georgia-tbilisi-pictures/
The rock face in the Tbilisi Botanic Garden has been climbing playground for a long time. However only a half a dozen out of two dozen route has been bolted; for the rest there is top rope protection. It as well may be our first playing field.
Climbing in Georgia is mostly in the form of mountaineering on high snow tapped peaks, such as Kazbek (5047 m), shown below (picture courtesy of http://mountainfreaks.ge/ or Mt Skhara (5293 m). But there is also a few rock climbing sites, some with bolted sport routes.
Area: Arsha, Kazbegi, Georgia
Stone: not known
We will come to Arsha straight from Tbilisi. Arsha is located at the feet of the most famous mountain of Georgia, Kazbek, only 3 km from major town Stepantsminda (Kazbegi) the site offers easy access to climbing wall with nearly 30 sport routes. Trad and multi pitch climbing is also possible on this wall 120 m high and nearly 200 m wide.
Other climbing sites in the centre of the country and on the sea coast we shall visit on our way west when we come back from Russia. From Arsha/Stepantsminda (Kazbegi) we will go on the Georgian Military Highway to drive to Russian border, some 10 or so kilometers only! So get ready for visiting beautiful Caucasus Mountains in Russia.
ROCK CLIMBING in RUSSIA
We will come to Russia and leave this vast and beautiful country probably the same way. Our staying will be for only maximum of 30 days due to visa restrictions, and will involve “a bit” of driving. Having that little time available to us and a lot of work to do where exactly we’ll go: climbing, mountaineering or beaching (Sochi!) we shall decide when there. Below are presented several (not all possible to visit!) rock climbing areas in the north of, or just within, Caucasus Mountains.
If by the time of our arrival in Russia there would operate a ferry service between Crimea and Turkey we may consider to go climbing in the Crimea, recognised as one of the three top climbing areas in Europe, and take a boat away from Russia to Turkey. We may still consider leaving Western Caucasus by a ferry to Georgia or Turkey, if we choose to go to Crimea or stay for longer in the area of Western Caucasus.
Equally, at this stage consideration is given to take a ferry boat from just outside Crimea (Kavkaz) to Bulgaria (Varna) and go through Bulgaria, which also offers very good climbing, to Greece.
Area: Rajek, Vladikavkaz, Russia
Stone: not known
At the approach to Vladikavkaz, the first town in Russia after the border, we will come to a rock climbing area called Rajek; five crags with combined 130 plus sport routes. Could one expect a better welcome to the country! No rock site pictures could presented, but pictures below show the local scenery.
Area: Bezengi, Russia
Stone: not known
Bezengi is placed deep in a valley under the main Caucasus Mountains range, with Bezengi glacier in vicinity of the climbing crag. Bezengi offers a very good rock climbing area, located at the territory of the mountain nature reserve of Kabardino-Balkaria Republic in the border zone of the Russian Federation and Georgia; http://www.bezengi.ru/en/. More than 40 routes 5 – 7c+ with great further potential for the area.
Area: Mount Elbrus, Kabardino-Balkaria, Russia
In the very SW of the Kabardino-Balkaria, an autonomous republic, which lies north of the central Georgia, is located the highest mountain of Europe, Mount Elbrus, elevation 5,642 m. Kabardino-Balkaria region is the base to high Caucasus Mountains for those who want to go higher and reach the snowy summits. There is plenty of mountains and walls to climb; below images of the potential.
East from the Elbrus Mountain there is a range of valleys and peaks with summits well above 4000 m. One of the valleys leads towards the peak of Adir-Su (4,370 m), which the northern slopes has still not been climbed. Inside that valley there are a number of towers, with Nikita Rock being one of them.
Area: Tugan-Džan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Russia
Stone: Limestone, basalt
Limestone and basaltic lava form the rocks of this region, located near Terskol, just West from the Mount Elbrus, where five crags with rocks up to 20-25 m high offer good climbing. Grades are 5a – 8a, but available basically in the summer from June to August. http://www.mountain.ru/article/article_display1.php?article_id=2301.
Area: Guamka, Krasnodar Region, Russia
The best known and for long the most popular rock climbing site north of the Western Caucasus, away from the snow covered range, offers more than 150 sport routes on ten crags, with the grades are for everyone; from 4 to 8с. Guamka climbers village is located in a forested part and the rocks are walking distance away. The rock walls are mostly vertical and up to 45 meters high! The area in the past hosted international climbing competitions.
Area: Indyuk, Krasnodar Region, Russia
Stone: volcanic tufa
Three separate crags are in Indyuk, area, located outside the village of the same name. The area is away from Black Sea some 2 hours driving. There is 135 plus routes set with grades varying from 4 to 8a and from short to multipitch. More information on http://www.climbinduk.org.
Other climbing areas in Russia, Northern Caucasus
Cathedral Rock and Fiszt, some 40 km east from Guamka, and Eagle Rocks near Adler, which is south from Sochi, last winter Olympic place are other areas where we could make a choice of going for the rocks at the very western ends of Caucasus Mountains. Few pictures below.
Area: Crimea Peninsula, Russia
The Crimean peninsula is a great place for rock climbing. Local climbing guru Sergey Sorokin reckons that climbing opportunities in Crimea are similar to those at Mt Arapiles or the Yosemite, the best climbing areas on the planet! That said its definitely a place compulsory to visit if one is in the area!
There are at least four very popular rock sites with about hundred of bolted sport routes each: Nikita, Red Stone, Simeiz, Uarch-Kaya. Other less popular sites like Bakhchisaray, Parus, Sudak or others still offer great climbing. Most of climbing sites are situated near the sea; some straight on a beach. Majority are single pitch routes but there also is many bolted 2 to 11 pitches routes; with grades for everyone. Pictures courtesy of Sergey Sorokin, http://www.travel2crimea.com/.
Apart of the climbing Crimea also offers paragliding, mountain biking, trekking, etc.; there are many lakes, caves, plenty of thermal springs, thousands monuments of history of Crimea and plenty of interesting historical places, palaces and museums to visit. http://www.travel2crimea.com/sightseeing_tours/pictures_private_tour_sights_of_yalta_crimea.html
Rock Climbing in Georgia, on return leg.
Area: Chiatura, Katskhi, Sarti
As we come back from Russia to Georgia we shall do it the same way we left it. There will be of course a compulsory stop at Mountain Freaks camp and a bit of climbing at Arsha; and in Tbilisi to enjoy again this lovely city.
From Tbilisi we will head west to the Black Sea cost. Half way or so we shall enjoy a climbing crag near Chiatura, 170 km from Tbilisi. A conglomerate rock crag offers 20 bolted routes in mid range of difficulties. Climbing there is good for most of the spring and summer with August not necessarily recommended. Another nearby to the west site is Katskhi offering similar amount of routes of more serious grades.
The same type of rock we way stretch on is in Sari, on the cost, right next to the Turkish border. Site is still under development, but already offers 8 routes in the 5a-6a range allowing for a bit of exercise on a hot August days. Sea breeze however can be a friend there. (http://geo-climbing.ge/)
Rock Climbing in Turkey, on return leg
On the way to Istanbul
After coming back to Turkey we will drive quite a distance, some 1200 km, back to Europe along the Black Sea coast enjoying the sea wherever it will be possible.
Area: Kaçkar Mountains (Kaçkar Dağları)
Stone: granite, other
After less than a couple of hours of driving from Georgia we may detour from the coast inland to go some 60 km south to Kaçkar Mountains National Park or simply Kaçkars, a mountain range that rises above the Black Sea coast in eastern Turkey. The highest peak is Kaçkar Dağı, with an elevation of 3,937 meters is one of the most popular mountains to walk onto in Turkey. The images shown below show very beautiful mountains; if we feel for some rest in a pristine environment we may get it.
Area: Cayirbagi, Turkey
Stone: not known
After 200 km from Georgia along the D010 road, a part of old Silk Route, and after passing ancient city of Trabzon we may travel some 35 km inland to a crag which apparently has two bolted routes plus more in the waiting. Campsite at the top of the rocks is promised to offer very nice views.
From Cayirbagi back to the coast and going west, going to Istanbul, along the coast for the first half of the distance and inland for the latter. Before reaching Istanbul we may stop on its outskirts at Ballikayalar small rock climbing site with two sectors offering combined more than 80 routes. This idyllic place is somewhat of a recreational reserve with a creek running along the valley and a popular weekend destination also for non-climbers, when it can become crowded according to https://www.thecrag.com/climbing/turkey/ballikayalar.
After the rest there will be time for Istanbul. The city that straddles Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait like. The city like no other. Few days in Istanbul will allow to see remains of the past and admire the present. It will be time to see the iconic Byzantine Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Old City, the Sultan Palace.
Rock Climbing in Greece, on return leg
Area: Petropigi, Greece
Welcome back to Greece: this is a nice spot to test your pump; one of the steepest places on our list. The cave, that this place is famous for, looks incredible. With a variety of walls and styles you are sure to find a climb you will love. There will be a lot of fun to have in the cave and other, like Kranochori, climbs in this region of Greece.
Area: Meteora, Greece
Meteora famous for its monasteries is also one of the most famous rock climbing sites in Greece and offers rock climbing on conglomerate rock of huge pinnacles; on top of some of these pinnacles are actually these medieval monasteries. Meteora is a great place to climb with plenty of mid range climbs in the F5a to F6c+ grade range on slabs or vertical rock; harder quality routes are of course available. The routes here are a mixture between bolted and traditional (placing own protection), and vary between single pitch and multi-pitch routes up to 300m long.
On the way south we shale stop at Mouzaki, a crag with a viewing platform and good for any weather, particularly hot days, as the wall is almost always in shade. Long sport routes, some overhanging and beautiful.
Area: Varasova, Greece
The gem on the map of Greek climbing sites, developed 70 years ago. Western walls of Varasova Mountain (960 m high) rise from the sea. The climbs are plenty of, sport and traditional, short and going for few hundred meters.
The next stop will be Nafplio. Closing the loop; coming to happy final of our expedition.
Note: Information presented above has been gathered mainly from various web sites listed below. We take this opportunity to thank all the owners/carers hoping they have no objections that few picture or words of theirs have been copied here.