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 The 2001 Ararat Peace Climb

Ararat from the North

Dear Friends,

The night of the July 26th, before our summit attempt, when we were at 3680 meters, was very hard, in part because to the loss of the sleeping bag and the almost 2 hours of search on the mountain side where Fernando's sleeping bag had fallen.  He had to improvise using extra clothing and a little salvage blanket which he used to cover.  Also we had to share the little room there was inside the tent with the two Turkish climbers.  It was this way that the apparent short night turned to be very long and cold, because we could not sleep and at 3:30 AM we had to get up to prepare the ascent.

We warmed up some pasta we had leftover the previous night, to have a good serving of carbohydrates for the ascent and around 4:30 we were ready to leave. Together with the other 5 teammates we begun the trek of the exposed 1500 meters which separated us from the summit.

We followed our route of the NE ridge of the mountain.  Initially we walked over rocky terrain until 4000 meters, where we found the first glacier, which we traversed over a moderate slope which was incrementing until it was 45 degrees.  As we ascended this part, it was transformed into a gorge where blocks of rock rolled from the highest part of the mountain.  After some hours the rocks were more, because of the heating of the mountain by the sunrays.  To avoid the high risk of falling rocks, it was necessary to exit from the gorge and take the edge of the rocky ridge, which meant an ascent in mixed terrain with some rock steps with sections of hard ice, which turned fragile, breaking at times, making the risk of slipping against the rocks imminent, losing the gained meters and risking our summit. 

The hours passed and although we advanced fast, we felt we were farther from the summit because it seemed to distance itself from us as we were getting closer to it, as we realized its real magnitude.  When we stopped to take our breath, we watched the North Face which we photographed to get the most number of images of the site, where there is an inaccessible gorge which presumably contains the remains of Noah's Ark.  We wanted to make the biggest discovery of humanity. It was necessary to put the crampons in and out because of the constant changes in the terrain, which changed from glacier ice to rock, and we had to make strategies to prevent from a possible rock which could fall at great speed and hit us in the place we were climbing.  Between 4800 meters and 5000 meters we walked a long zone of glacier to immediately pass to a part of loose rocks where advancing was horrendous, because we slipped every third step.

At last it looked like we were getting closer to the summit when we crossed the last sector of the glacier with a 50 degree slope, in which we fixed some 50 meters of rope to prepare it for descent, because we saw how snow was losing stability as the day advanced.

Very often the clouds covered the mountain and the temperature dropped suddenly, and the loss of visibility increased creating among us an anguish of not knowing when a rock would fall on us, thus having a fatal accident.  Around 10:40 we could see the end of the slope and therefore the end of the ascent, what a joy!  However, when we got to that place we thought was the summit, we were surprised to see a higher point to the south, which made us walk over a snowy zone where all the time we had to survey in order to find crevasses where we could fall.

We made the long trek on soft snow to that summit, and when we got there with the wish to celebrate the achievement, we saw that some 300 meters behind the clouds there was the real summit, separated by a deep depression; we continued and advanced what we felt were eternal last meters. They were three summits reached in the highest part of this beautiful and dangerous volcano which finally let us achieve its highest summit.

At 11:30 am we were finally at 5,137 meters on the summit of Mount Ararat, for the first time for Colombia and as part of an international team of climbers that wanted to show how a common objective can be achieved with a common interest without stopping because of differences of language, race, beliefs and religions or extreme difficulties that show in the ascent of a route that, although not clearly defined, is created as one does the ascent.

Celebrating this achievement, we wanted to immortalize this moment not only in our minds and hearts, but also on camera and video, so that we can share it when we go back to Colombia.

And although things seemed to have ended happily, there was still the return trek, in which we knew we would find greater risks, specially because of the falling rocks which were more as the day advanced.  At 12:30 pm we began to descent, trying to do it faster than the ascent, but we knew we should be calm while one by one we crossed the falling
rocks zone while our teammates watched and the warning of "rock!" when one was falling, threatening the climber below.  While entering the top of the glacier gorge at 4500 meters, Tunc, our Turkish mate was almost hit by a big block that fell a few meters from where we were;
when he heard the voices of alert he managed to react jumping over the block while it was rolling over the place he was standing and he managed to stay safe. This situation made us be very alert and descent with great caution, which took us almost the same time it took us to ascent.  Around 5 pm, under the rain, we got to our camp where, with the shelter of our tents, we could enjoy the sensation of being safe and with the achievement of having reached the summit. 

The next day, July 28, we began the descent to base camp, where we got in the afternoon, finding there the joy of the AKUT (Turkish Search and Rescue Association) members that were alert because of our ascent. There were also members of the military base from nearby who had also been in a permanent alert.

This way we were concluding our Ararat 2001 expedition, "The Climb for Peace" that made us feel the real importance of establishing common agreements with people of different ways of thinking and therefore contribute to the achievement of the objective, by giving the best effort by every member of the team.  This is the real contribution that a human being can give, much better being Colombians, in the search and achievement of a Great Colombia in PEACE.

Marcelo Arbelaez & Fernando Gonzales Rubio

This climb has genuinely touched ALL of these climbers. Don't we wish Everest was climbed this way !!! We hope it has touched You. More to come. To support this vision of peace, please make a donation, via SHIVA charity. You can make a credit card donation by clicking HERE.

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