Action Asia - - IRAN -

Mt Da­ma­vand is, at 5,671m, the high­est moun­tain in the Mid­dle East and the sec­ond-high­est vol­cano in the north­ern hemi­sphere. It also hap­pens to have the iconic ta­pered shape of Mt Fuji. Not sur­pris­ingly this makes it very recog­nis­able in Iran, ap­pear­ing on the IR10,000 note and on the pack­ag­ing of nu­mer­ous prod­ucts. Sat within a cou­ple of hours’ drive of Tehran, the moun­tain makes a very re­ward­ing climb for peak bag­gers want­ing an al­ter­na­tive to over­crowded sum­mits like Kil­i­man­jaro. Un­like its African coun­ter­part, as­pir­ing climbers are not re­quired to hire a guide though it would still be a good idea for those less ex­pe­ri­enced at such al­ti­tudes. Make sure you ac­cli­ma­tise prop­erly in or­der to avoid al­ti­tude sick­ness which is best done by mak­ing a slow as­cent over sev­eral days, stay­ing at least two nights at 4,000m be­fore at­tempt­ing a sum­mit push. The best start­ing point is Polour Hut at 2,270m, where re­gard­less of na­tion­al­ity, a per­mit fee of US$50 is levied. The clas­sic route is up the south face, though you can also try the west face which is shorter but lacks in­fra­struc­ture. The north and north­east sides of­fer longer and more dif­fi­cult op­tions. From Polour camp, hitch a ride to the Sa­hab al Za­men mosque, lo­cated at around 3,000m. From here trek to the Baghar Shel­ter at 4,290m, a com­fort­able hut run by the Ira­nian Moun­taineer­ing and Climb­ing Fed­er­a­tion (IMCF). Stay at least one night and prefer­ably two here. Start your sum­mit at­tempt early to al­low enough time for the de­scent. The top is cov­ered by a small glacier and de­pend­ing on con­di­tions, cram­pons may be nec­es­sary. A con­trast­ing haz­ard near the top is that as an ac­tive vol­cano, sul­phur fumes can be an is­sue. Climbers should check the wind di­rec­tion be­fore­hand and bring some­thing to cover nose and mouth. The moun­tain is very ex­posed and the sum­mit can be very cold: in win­ter, tem­per­a­tures can reach -30 to -40˚C. The climb­ing sea­son runs from June to Septem­ber. In or­der to beat the crowds, avoid week­ends and Ira­nian hol­i­days, when the moun­tain be­comes the fo­cus for lo­cal out­doors types. Da­ma­vand is also re­ward­ing for ski moun­taineers with spring snow con­di­tions in April and early May.

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