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Published: October 2nd 2014
Wake up at 4. Altitude?
Eventually get up and am ready to go when Amir knocks on the door at 0530. Breakfast is an instant coffee and a tomato and cheese omelette- it looks like blended scrambled eggs. Looking down the mountain there are a steady stream of hikers coming up. It's now the weekend in Iran (Thursday, Friday) and Amir says many do it as a day hike getting maximum weekend benefit. We head off as the sun is already coming up. The view is already and it's quite a pleasant temperature, warm enough for a shirt with a base layer singlet.
The path is quite Nepal-esque ( my word), it is primarily dirt and rocks and low brown vegetation. There are only dried flower heads to be seen, no little blue flowers anywhere. It the becomes more barren, very sparse vegetation and lots of chunks of shale rock- the rock that makes that hollowing clinking sound when you walk on it. We pass a familiar sight- a stone tower, I can't resist the temptation to add mine stone. To the east is a huge expanse of rock strata. We stop many times to greet fellow climbers, some
coming down, mostly though we are being overtaken by those going up. They all seem to know Amir. There are 2 men who are very concerned for the "Australian woman's" welfare, insisting I take a bottle of watermelon and lemon juice and Swiss chocolate for "energy". I dip into my bag of Mars bars and hand them out, they always refuse until the 2nd or 3rd offer.
It is pretty hard going and the snow markers become the goals to get to. Tochal is the 4th highest ski field in the world, there are a lot of markers and signs and ropes. Reach a small stone cabin at 3406m- the half way point!
Continuing upwards the telecabin tracks are visible and they have started running, mostly with empty cabins. 100m up the hill there is a full bottle of lemon juice that Amir's friends have left- they wave at us- the generosity of these people is amazing. On, on, on, up, up, up through flat rocks. The wind has picked up and it's time for the gortex. There are more sign posts ahead, I'm really hoping it might be the last one- it's very hard going, I feel
Trekker Gear with Headscarf
Luckily you can take it off as you get further up - Mountain Rules
really breathless after relatively short stretches. Amir is encouraging. All of a sudden Mt Damavand pops into view to the east- you can see the distinctly conical peak poking through the brown haze covering the distant mountains. Looks bloody daunting.
A final slog is required as the mountain hut at the peak emerges, it's a roundish kind of metal structure and Amir's keen to get inside- now that I'm at the top I just want to take pictures. There are about 12 people in the shelter and the wind is howling outside. It's like a gigantic picnic, I pull everything edible out of my pack and share it around... offering the regulation 3 times. Photos taken, the cameras are now turned around on me, most people wanting a photo with me. All the while Amir is talking non stop to his very good friend, Ali, who is also a guide for Mr Soltani. After about an hour it is time to get moving again. But first ... More photos.
We are catching the telecabin back down to Darband, it's an easy 1 km walk to the highest station- number 7, where we get our tickets. Amir, Ali, me
and the 2 juice guys catch the same cabin. It's a 7.5 km run down the mountain, divided into a few different stations. We stop at station 5 then 2 and get another ticket. There's an alpine looking lodge where we all get some ...... Yep, tea. There are lots of families, lots of friends and lots of groups of young people all on their phones- mostly taking selfies in various poses. A global world. Back on the telecabin to the last stop and then a 20 minute walk downhill into Darband.
We catch a cab back to Tehran. I feel accomplishes, accomplished and hot. Reach the now familiar Golestan Hotel and get my new room- 3rd floor. Say bye to Amir after yet another cup of tea. It has been such a great 2 days. I love being in the mountains.
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