Thursday, July 16, 2015

Mt. Erciyes, Central Anatolia, Turkey

Mt. Erciyes via East Ridge
July 14, 2015

Mt. Erciyes is a large stratovolcano that towers over the city of Kayseri and much of Central Anatolia. The mountain stands alone rising above the Anatolian Plateau to an elevation of 3,916 m (12,848 ft.) and is visible from almost anywhere in the region. As a result, the mountain receives significant snow fall and is home to the areas only ski resort and an abundant amount of alpine climbing and backcountry skiing opportunities. The standard climbing route follows the prominent, elongate and arcuate East Ridge to the summit and starts at the base of the ski area in the ski town Erciyes.

After a month of geology field work in the region, I decided to attempt Erciyes despite not having any of my climbing gear with me. Normally in mid July, this wouldn't be a problem. However, this year Erciyes received an abundant amount of snow and a lot still lingered on the steep slopes that lead to the summit. So despite the lack of appropriate gear and sparse info on the route itself, I convinced a new friend of mine to attempt the mountain with me.

The night before our climb, we went to the Jandarme Search and Rescue Station in Erciyes (right off the main road) and attained a free permit to climb the mountain. They took our passports and held on to them while we climbed the mountain. We went to bed early and started our trek the following morning at 4 am - we wanted to see the sunrise while high on the mountain and avoid any afternoon cloud build up that is very common on the mountain.

We parked at the base of the ski resort walked up dirt roads in the dark for an hour or so until we reached the beginning of the proper trail and had our first close-up views of the mountain; we arrived just in time for the sunrise and the accompanying alpenglow. The trail isn't well marked but it's impossible to to get lost (get on the ridge and follow it to the summit). Despite the straight forward nature of the route, the ridge is much longer and steeper than it appears from below. We hiked up and over several minor peaks passing steep couloirs still filled with snow on our right. Some minor snow still lingered on the ridge itself, but it did not hinder our progress until we reached "Camel Hump Rock." The only way around Camel Hump Rock is by passing it on the steep right (north) side, which was covered in snow. Without an ice axe, we decided to turn back. We enjoyed OUR summit for a bit and made our way down. We spent 7 hours on the mountain - 4 hours up and 3 hours down.

Erciyes from my hotel room in Kayseri 
Kayseri from Erciyes

Stephanie charging up the trail. East ridge starts on the left and works it's way to the summit on the right
Sunrise on Erciyes
Sunrise dancing
Alpenglow on Erciyes at sunrise
Cruising up a nice portion of the ridge
Stephanie risking her life collecting litter
The summit was so close. Note Camel Hump Rock on the ridge and the steep snow slopes on its right side. 
Our summit jump
Cinder cones and stream channels on the south side
View of the mountain from the trailhead