sábado, 17 de marzo de 2018

A trek into the unknown-Final part

When C enters he is shaken and in pain, I examine his calf muscle. The bite is obvious but it is not too bad. I sterilize the wound and cover it up with some gauze. We spend a rough night with the shepherds. Dogs barking and little room. After breakfast we ask for directions and the head shepherd puts us on the right track. We start our trek into the unknown. The landscape is amazing and the weather is mild and serene, the sky is blue and the forest is a fresh green colour of Spring. After a few hours we are on the highest ridge. We have the mighty mount Siyalan at 4250m to our left still covered in snow, the dense oak forest of Beleskooh protected area in front of us and in the horizon the blue line of the Caspian sea, the largest body of inland water on earth. Lady S is overwhelmed with emotion and goes to a corner crying. We rest for a good while on this ridge contemplating the beauty and the eternal wilderness of this valley. Now I know exactly where we are. I did a loop in this valley in 2016 with an Italian couple from Venice. It was a wonderful trek. One of the veteran hikers from Tonekabon told me once that he planned to go exploring this valley and he had spent quite some time looking at it in Google Earth and there seemed to be no sign of civilization there! He was surprised to hear that there were shepherds deep in this valley who still roamed their goats and sheep in the summer despite the ever presence of leopards. Every year there is an attack by a leopard on their flock. We reach Lashm in mid afternoon where I have been to and taken many hikers before. From the Sehezar road it is a 4 hour hike up and another 3 hours down. We are now approaching it from the south. When we cross under the summit the other smaller settlement called Lo Sarey becomes visible. Once , many years back an elderly woman gave me a glass of water there. Another year practicing on the small glacier with ice axes and crampons we were surprised by a sudden change of weather and took shelter in one of the huts with a few young shepherds. Almost everyone knows me there now as "Malakitourist" !! Manu is the first guy we bump into as we make our way through dense plum tress that encircle the settlement. He is riding his horse going for a rendezvous. As soon as he sets his eyes on Al he tells me "now this man is a veteran hunter, am I right or am I right?" Al grins, I tell Manu we are heading off to see Hussein on the other side not knowing that the two have fallen out over water supplies in the dry summer. We reach Hussein's hut and Al crashes out due to exhaustion. When he wakes up we have dinner and all sleep soundly after a rough previous night. C is suffering from blisters and the dog bite has not helped. I ask Hussein to get his strong stallion ready, C is mounted and we take advantage by placing our backpacks on another mule. We are off again but this time into territories I have walked many times before. The forest is serene and we are all happy although tired. Al is complaining of the humidity and how Alborz is better! I am so elated could not care less, I have managed to do a trek I have dreamed of for many years. We are all very fortunate. When we reach the road good old Farhad is there waiting for us in the mighty F2 Land Cruiser. The day after I would be taking C for his Rabies vaccination. The health worker is from Maran but has never been to where we have just come from. He is a city dweller now hoping to retire one day and go and build a holiday home in his native village. I think of the famous Paolo Cuello book....

A trek into the unknown part 2

Al takes his trousers off and finds a spot where the 9 meter wide river gushing down is divided into two almost equal parts by a small boulder that slows the rapid flows somewhat, he crosses successfully but is complaining of the cold waters. C, the German is second, he decides not to take his trousers off and hits the water with his bare feet, looking a little unsure I follow him closely. a few meters close to the other side Al stretches out a wooden stick, C grabs the stick but for some reason loses his balance and falls backward.I push him onto Al and he is home safe. I take a deep breath and return to get S the tough lady from London whose backpack must be the heaviest of us all. She steps into the water only to slip, she falls and the rapids would have washed her away had I not aggressively pulled her hand towards the middle and onto the other side where Al was standing. She is shivering with cold. At least we are all safely on the other side. I go back a third time for C's boots. Al is keen to move on rapidly to reach the shepherd's hut we know is somewhere close to our path, I ask him to stay put. You do not split the group in these circumstances. Al who is an experienced hunter and knows survival techniques by instinct rapidly makes a fire which warms us up. Half an hour later we are set to go, glad to have crossed the river. The trail is endless. We hit darkness and there is still no sign of the hut we have seen many times on other occasions from the other side of the valley. The forest is getting denser and although we have headlamps the trail sometimes is hard to find due to fallen leaves from previous autumn.It is clear that the trail has not been used in a long time.Around 11pm we hear the barking of dogs from a distance. It takes us a good 45 minutes to come to a open flat space, the lights of our headlamps are reflected from the eyes of the sheep and goats that are resting in near absolute darkness. An oil lamp becomes visible and in the dim light it gives we see smoke coming out of the hut. We approach the hut with caution talking to the man standing there in order not to provoke the dogs. The shepherd welcomes us and is a little surprised, he had been waiting outside alarmed by the dogs expecting his friends who would be returning from hunting, illegal anywhere in these mountains. He offers us shelter, tired we enter the hut filled with smoke coming out of a central open fire on the ground. A couple of people rapped completely in blankets lie the next door on the mud floor, they must be shepherds who are fast asleep. C is the last to enter and one of the dogs attacks him and bites his leg just before he reached the entrance.

jueves, 15 de marzo de 2018

I have 4 days for trekking in the Alamut Valley, what can I do?

Option 1

It would be possible to do 4 days from Lake Ovan to the Caspian hinterland via Khashechal summit( 4120 m). However, if you are to walk from the lake itself you really need 5 days of trekking plus the day to get there and to get to Tehran ie 7 days in total. If you wish to walk it in 4 days ie 6 days in total then you need to leave out the summit.

Option 2

Another option would be to start from Garmarood, where the ridge is lower and the summit you can do is off the path and is 3600m. There is a dirt road that you will have to cross 3 times on foot and there will be some cars passing from May until October but this will be a short stretch.

You may end either in Maran or in Yuj.

The main differences between the two are the crossing of a road which is absent from the first trek, and the fact that the first trek goes through some of the most pristine Hyrcanian forests terminating at 900m ASL but in option 2 the trek ends above the forest line at about 2200mASL and the rest is in a 4WD. There are pine forests on this latter option however and the view over the Alam Massif is quite spectacular.In option 3 below you will also trek through Hyrcanian forest and terminate at 1000m ASL.

Option 3

Siyalan Summit the highest in Alamut at 4250m from Alamut Valley to Caspian hinterland in 3 days of trekking and 2 days from and to Tehran

A trek into the unknown part 1

I will try and keep this a secret. A semi-open secret. The route is mindblowingly beautiful. It is not for the fainthearted. You need to be fit and strong mentally and physically. There is no luxury. Nature can be harsh and indifferent to our suffering yet it can be soothing and protective at the same time.
I was adamant that I wanted to go down that trail on the other side of the valley. I had seen it a few years back from the distance. I had seen the continuation a few kilometers from a different valley and I wanted to join them up. There must be a way one can walk. The locals were not sure. Al, another local I trusted for new routes was not so sure it would get us anywhere either . What the hell if it doesn't but there must be a way out I said, we could always come back. We had started our trek a day earlier in Garmarood, we took the lesser known trail from Zeresk and we spent the night with the mighty Ms Malaki in Piche Bon. So far so good. There were 4 of us. Al, I, 2 guests, one from the UK and one from Berlin. The team was good, enthusiastic and got on well which is the most important point in a trek into the unknown.
When we reached what looked like houses from the distance 3 of us, all minus Al who got on with making tea sat in 3 quiet corners sobbing. The energy of the place was overwhelming. A few minutes earlier before crossing a snow field we had seen a 3 year old female brown bear standing on her feet amazed to see us there. She ran off before we reached her. The door to the houses were all shut by a layer of mud to withstand harsh winds and deep snow that fell in winter.

We carried on after tea. The trail was good, we used experience and instinct until we were surprised by a white water river. It was Spring and the water level was high. No bridge was to be seen. We had to cross by dipping into the freezing water or simply go back.

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