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 The 2001 Ararat Peace Climb


Update from 7/29/2001: LAKE VAN, Turkey.  We are now at beautiful lake Van on our way out after climbing for the first time ever that dreaded and unknown north face of Ararat.

Although the seven climbers, Nasuh Mahruki, David Keaton, Marcelo Arbelaez, Fernando Gonzalez Rubio , Khoo Swee Chiow, Tunc Findik and me (Ricardo Torres-Nava) all have climbed widely, including Everest, we did not know what to expect from this mythical mountain and what an adventure this has been!

For starters, we were escorted at all times by members of the Turkish army and we reached the base camp site with a small tank opening the parade! All the soldiers have been very helpful and although it may seem frightening climbing under the army's supervision it was upmost necessary as you have to take into account that we are at 50 km from Iraqi's border close to the Kurdistan and at the edge of Armenia. This is one of the places on earth that has been most disputed by several people for centuries, so as a matter as national security for Turkey we needed all this paraphernalia that included night vision binoculars and state of the art communications and armament.

As you approach the zone one can still see the rest of past battles ranging from ancient crosses and inscriptions maybe from the crusades or the Ottoman Empire wars to missile, cannon and bullet shells.

AKUT worked out all the logistics so we can concentrate only in our climbing and how grateful we are for that as this North Face requires not only all your stamina and strength together with all your climbing skills but full attention to every step that if miscalculated could be the last.

The first day as we left the base camp we started climbing still followed by the deep scent of a myriad of purple, orange and yellow flowers that perfume the air in an almost magical fashion but then as we approach closely the mountain reality stroke.

There is no way to climb in groups, we all have to go together, nearly one stepping exactly where the one in front set foot seconds ago. The rocks fell either in big chunks the size of a car or in true avalanches.

When we were putting our crampons at the entrance of the glacier I moved first and a huge rock fell nearly on top of Tunc Findik who just jumped like a cat saving his life!

There are three sections specially dangerous and the glacier is blue in color with its natural movement that makes it very difficult to cross.

We could not approach the big "U" shaped glacier, that is almost like a gorge where it is believed Noah's Ark has rested and broken in two pieces. For all I might want to find it, that would have constituted my last wish. I sincerely doubt, I could have come back alive from that glacier. Now I know why nobody has been able to unbury the Ark...

I  know I have promised a bunch of people at least a splinter of Noah's Ark but I am afraid that is a promise I could not keep for obvious reasons, neither the one I made to my Hazzan, the cantor at my synagogue. I have promised Leibele Jinich that I was going to play his tape so he could sing "Shema Israel" at the summit of Ararat as I did in Carstensz when I completed my Seven Summits, but when we finally reached the top after a grueling day I found out I have left the tape back at base camp.  Sorry Leibele!

But it was so good to embrace my friends up there and prove that we can climb in peace and harmony without back-stabbing a mate just to be the first. The same mountain forced us to go all the time together as our only chance for surviving and I am most happy to that.

There we stood for the historical picture, no egos, no "me first", not mattering religion nor race. A true peace climb!  Our primary goal was achieved. I hope that the collection for AKUT, TEGEV and Babu Chiri's school is also going well.

I am sad because there is no way I can approach the resting site of Noah's Ark but in a egotistical way I also know that if neither of us with our climbing experience would be able to cross that glacier to have a peek and come back alive neither can do it. So the secret remains untouched. Maybe God wants it that way, who knows.

Another strange coincidence at least for me as a Jew was that we reach the summit of Ararat on 9 Av, a special day as on that same date but 1931 years ago on 70 A.D. the Second Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by Emperor Titus and Jerusalem was ransacked as it can still be seen at his arch in Rome and the Diaspora began.

And on that same date but 509 years ago in 1492 A.D. the Spanish monarchs the Catholic kinks Isabella and Ferdinand expelled my people from Sefarad or Spain and many many took refuge in this wonderful country, Turkey, that embraced the fugitives with open arms. In fact many of the Mexican Jews came from Turkey.

So in this very moving and significant moment everything happened!

We went back watching every step and picked up our stuff and Marcelo and Fernando allowed me to use their satellite phone to call my wife back in Mexico for a moment. I was so tired I could hardly utter some words but enough to let her know we are back in one piece.

On our way out we left the soldiers at their base where they graciously offered us some tea as a farewell gesture and headed for Lake Van when we are in the last leg of this adventure.

We are on our way to Istanbul full of wonderful memories and as a personal reflection as long as I live I will remember the smell of those flowers, the sight of the blue glacier and the warm embrace of my friend on top of Ararat! 


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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