A week in Aladağlar, scrambling and climbing

Perhaps the mountain that I hear Turks talk about the most is Demirkazık.  A few weeks ago in the Kaçkar Mountains when someone was trying to convince the leader that he had enough experience to attempt Verçenik, he said that he had climbed Demirkazık.  Until recent more accurate measurements, Demirkazık used to be the highest peak in Aladağlar.  Photos of it from the east can be pretty dramatic, and it’s prominently visible from the large north-south valley where most people start their approach to these mountains.  All the talk, of course, made me curious so my first goal of the week was to summit Demirkazık.

Nice view of Büyük Demirkazık and Küçük Demirkazık by bryandkeith on flickr

I was on my own for the first half of the week.  Arriving on an overnight bus from Antalya, I dropped some technical gear at the ORDOS Dağ Evi where Furkan and Tanagar were staying in Demirkazık Village.  Then Furkan generously offered to take my backpack up the road a few kms toward Sokullu Pınar on his scooter.  That was great help — my pack was heavy with three days of food, and a harness, helmet, and rope since I thought I might need to rappel to get down Demirkazık.  Listening to Turks talk made me think it’d be pretty burly to walk down the steep slabs near the top without a rope.  Well, it sort of reminded me of the East Slabs on Redgarden Wall in Eldorado Canyon.  Certainly it’d be dangerous and scary if the rock was wet, but even though I lugged the rope all the way up there, I never considered getting it out of my bag.

ORDOS Dağ Evi by bryandkeith on flickr

DSC05655 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSC05678 by bryandkeith on flickr

I camped above the spring in the first constriction in Narpuz Vadisi.  Unfortunately that’s much lower (~2150m) than I wanted to be, but it’s the highest water at this time of the year (mid-August).  My first full day took 9 hours (camp-to-camp) for Demirkazık (3757m).  On the second day it was 10 hours (again camp-to-camp) to summit Kocasarp (3570m) via Sematepe (3623m).  The latter climb is done much less than Demirkazık, but I certainly more highly recommend it.  My biggest complaint on climbing Demirkazık from Narpuz Vadisi is that I had to climb Kızılçarşak (the Red Scree Field).  Uff, that is ugly.  Step up very steeply, slip down very quickly, try to catch your breath, repeat for over 90 minutes.  Once that’s done you simply climb straight up the slabs — not tremendously interesting.  Neither the scree field nor the exposed slabs would be nice with crowds.

DSC05659 by bryandkeith on flickr

Looking up the very grim Kızılçarşak (Red Scree Field); it much, much quicker coming down by bryandkeith on flickr

DSC05677 by bryandkeith on flickr

Büyük Demirkazık zirvesi by bryandkeith on flickr

DSC05688 by bryandkeith on flickr

The route to Kocasarp, on the other hand, is much more varied.  You start by summiting Sematepe (aka Akkale, aka Kuruboğaz Tepe) via what looks from below just as bad as Kızılçarşak but is actually quite fun as you can stay on rock the whole way.  Unlike Demirkazık which sits on the edge of the large Çamardı Valley, Sematepe and Kocasarp are surrounded by mountains with great views in all directions.  I followed the ridge both ways between Sematepe and Kocasarp.  It’s a cliff on the north side, but the south side is more mellow which is where I was able to walk.  Around one steep corner, I startled a herd of mountain goats, 10 of them, and watched them take off running across the steep slabs below the summit of Kocasarp.  Fun!  The weather was so still on the summit of Kocasarp that I didn’t even put on my jacket.

Nice view of Kocasarp by bryandkeith on flickr

Good view of Kızılkaya and Elmer from Sematepe (aka Akkale aka Kuruboğaz Tepesi) by bryandkeith on flickr

The steep descent from the saddle that Sabiha and I had done a few years earlier is right in the middle of this photo by bryandkeith on flickr

Kocasarp Summit by bryandkeith on flickr

The following day I was back in Demirkazık Village early and had a good breakfast with Furkan and Tanager.  I rested a bit, and Cihan came for the weekend from Antalya to climb a pinnacle called Parmakkaya (Finger Rock) a bit farther south.  The approach there is from Emli Vadisi.  Since Cihan only had the weekend, we hired Ahmet from Çukurbağ Village to drop us off one day and return to get us the following afternoon.  Parmakkaya is perhaps the most iconic rock climb in Aladağlar, a popular goal for moderate climbers like Petit Grepon is in RMNP.

Furkan, Tanager, and three of the neighbour kids by bryandkeith on flickr

DSC05785 by bryandkeith on flickr

We got to camp so early the first day that we decided to attempt the route that afternoon.  We made it to the top of the second pitch by 5:30pm, but we were both freezing cold.  We both vastly underestimated how many layers we’d need.  We bailed off but left our gear at the base so we didn’t need to haul it back up from camp again in the morning.

DSC05765 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSC05775 by bryandkeith on flickr

The following day was also windy and cold (for August), but we were more prepared.  I wore two pairs of pants, two shirts, and a wool hat all day.  Whenever I wasn’t climbing, I put on my down coat.  Mmmm, that was a lot nicer than the day before.  We led opposite from what we did the day before so we each got a chance to lead the entire bottom half of the route.  Once on the shoulder of the pinnacle, it’s necessary to move the belay a bit higher (a very short pitch) so you can stretch out your 50m ropes on the last pitch.  The final pitch, rated VI (5.10a), looks intimidating from the bottom.  The book talks about the crux being slightly overhanging without obvious holds so it sounds intimidating too.  Cihan said, “you do it.”  “Sure,” I said, and it was happily easier than I expected.  I ran out of slings and had too much rope drag, but other than that it went well.

Cihan starting the first pitch by bryandkeith on flickr

Cihan near the top of the third pitch by bryandkeith on flickr

The final pitch goes mostly up the prow (to the left of where we rappelled):

DSC05814 by bryandkeith on flickr

The summit was scary.  The book suggested untying and walking to the summit so that’s what we did.  Well, uh, yikes, maybe when the wind’s not hollowing.  It’s a narrow ridge with a tiny summit that I really didn’t want to get blown off of.  Cihan actually stood on the summit, but I wouldn’t take my hands off the rock and only stayed about 10 seconds, just long enough for a photo.  I was very happy to get back to the rope.

DSC05799 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSC05811 by bryandkeith on flickr

As with many other groups one of the ropes got hung up on some rocks as it fell down from the second rappel.  With a belay I was able to retrieve it without wasting too much time.  We knew we were cutting it close for our meeting time with Ahmet, our driver.  We rested just a little at the base of the climb, drank lots of water, and ate a bunch.  Then we hurried –very carefully at first since it’s steep and loose– back to our camp, quickly packed, and quickly walked down to the road, finding Ahmet only 10 minutes later than our set meeting time!  He fed us well (both days) and dropped us off at the bus station in Niğde for an overnight bus back to Antalya.

DSC05819 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSC05779 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSC05654 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSC05708 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSC05748 by bryandkeith on flickr

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