re-sized Darius the Great

Climbing in Iran

Iran might not seem the obvious place to go on a climbing holiday, but there is more to it than meets the eye. I’ve supplied a link to a series of short videos that give you an idea of what the people in Iran are like – quite apart from the excellent climbing. The link is courtesy of Patagonia:

Dunc, from Hot Rock expeditions, agrees. After climbing in Iran he said: “The people of Iran are the most engaging and hospitable of all the hospitable people we’ve met throughout the middle east, which means they are by far the friendliest we’ve met anywhere on our travels over the last few years. Consider the Iranian climber with whom I’d been vaguely in touch before the trip, who drove 50k each way with a bunch of his mates to help us with our border crossing and 1st night accommodation. Or the guy who picked me up as a hitch hiker, who drove a similar distance in the wrong direction to get me back to the truck. Indeed, every taxi driver and shopkeeper wants to invite us home for dinner (and the occasional illicit whisky.)”

I am in the middle of reading a trilogy of books about Alexander the Great, the second of the books is called ‘The Persian Boy’ – and it’s all about this part of the world, so it’s fascinating for me to be investigating the modern ‘Persia’ – Iran.

Iran is the 18th largest country in the world and its land mass is equal to that of the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Germany combined! It is also one of the world’s most mountainous countries, its landscape dominated by rugged mountain ranges that separate various plateaux from one another. The populous western part is the most mountainous, with ranges such as the Caucasus, Zagros, which has a northwest-southeast direction, and the Alborz Mountains which has an east-west direction. The Alborz Mountains are home to Iran’s highest point, Mount Damavand, Babol at 5,610 m (18,406 ft). This is also the highest mountain on the Eurasian landmass west of the Hindu Kush.

Now, that’s probably enough of a geography lesson! Back to the point of this article… what’s the climbing like?

The magnificent 1000 m buttresses of Bisotun (from the old Persian name Bagestan which means ‘Place of the Gods’) would be a climbing mecca if they were in any other country in the world. More than that,  they’d be world famous if they had but a chance, but in Iran, there isn’t even a guidebook! The local café can give some advice though!!! The owners are themselves climbers. Bisotun Mountain is located 30 kilometers to the northeast of Kermanshahalong along 10 ancient trade route linking the Iranian high plateau with Mesopotamia and there are some fantastic archaeological features on the cliff face, the most impressive being a bas-relief of Darius the Great and about 2,500 inscriptions in 3 languages telling the story of the battles Darius waged in 521-520 BC. These inscriptions date back to 521 – 480 BC. Needless to say, Bisotun is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Darius the Great, Persian ruler tin 520BC

I lapsed into history again, sorry about that, but you might like to know that Bisotun will be the site for the next International Festival of Climbing in conjunction with the Iranian Mountain Federation (FIME) and the Iranian Alpine Club. It is scheduled to take place from 13 – 20 October, 2012 . The cost will be € 200 per person (including transfers, including flights on domestic routes, meals and accommodation at the foot of the wall, but not including flights to Iran). The French can obtain their visas at the airport in Tehran. The English, Americans and Canadians must apply beforehand.

There are about 50 established routes at Bisotun with room for hundreds more. The crag has barely been discovered. The highest section is about 1,200m.

And more on climbing in Iran later…


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