Guestbook and Trip Report - Eric Laureys

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Eric & William Laureys from Belgium - August 2015

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We have been visiting family in Iran several times since the 90s and have seen numerous places of interest in this country, both cultural and natural. Meanwhile our kids grew up and visiting yet another Iranian city was no longer an option. So why not climb a cool mountain? They had climbed the popular Tochal Peak (3.964 m) and the quite unknown Ghezghoonchal Peak (3.780 m) in 2007 and my son William, only 9 years old at the time, had quite enjoyed it. Since then William and I had picked up mountaineering in the Alps and had climbed a few 4.000s successfully. We decided to go for no less than the mythical Damavand volcano and contacted mountain guide Ardeshir Soltani for arrangements.

Mount Damavand Summit, William & Eric Laureys - August 2015
Mount Damavand Summit
William & Eric Laureys - August 2015


Since we were staying in northern Tehran at an altitude of 1.700 m we decided to skip the suggested night at Polour base camp (2.270 m). What’s more, we decided to have a more intensive altitude acclimatization by taking the Tochal Telecabin at Velenjak, spending a night at the Tochal Hotel (3.550 m) and climbing the remaining peaks in the neighbourhood for preparation. We started off on August 13 with Tochal Peak where the clear weather got us a magnificent view. In the afternoon we climbed Sarbaz Peak (3.755 m). William got a minor headache due to the altitude but the oxygen tank at the hotel ‘clinic’ took care of that quickly ! The next day we climbed Shah Neshin Peak (3.876 m) and Bazarak Peak (3.758 m).

On August 16 mountain guide Ali Fard picked us up in Velenjak at 05 AM and drove us to Polour where we had breakfast in a traditional roadside tavern with Ardeshir Soltani and Ali and where final arrangements were made before a good old fashioned Land Rover took us to Camp 2 Goosfand (3.050 m) on a long and bumpy dirt road. In Goosfand we immediately took off on foot and headed for Camp 3, a genuine Mountain Hut named Bargah Sevom at 4.220 m.

Damavand Mountain Peak - William Laureys, Ali Fard and Eric Laureys
Damavand Mountain Peak
William Laureys, Ali Fard and Eric Laureys


It was just the three of us. We had opted for a VIP tour for several reasons. At 53, I had no idea whether I would make it to such an altitude and I didn’t want to hold up other climbers. Moreover, I wanted to share this moment with my son and be able to communicate with him, stop to look at the scenery and take my time to take pictures which was also an important part of this project. I am an amateur photographer. So this is why I chose to pay a little more and have some more freedom. Ali provided us with all the latitude we could dream of and still guided us with professional rigor. We could not have been happier with the way the climb was managed.

Spending a night at 4.220 m is a bit of a challenge. This time, I’m the one who was experiencing some altitude sickness. It feels exactly like after having drunk bad whine. But in the morning all was fine and we set off towards the summit as a trial. If we experienced difficulties, we would return to the hut and try again the next day as originally scheduled. Altitude sickness kicked in again around 4.900 m, but I was so excited to be higher than Mont Blanc that I persevered, increasing my breathing rhythm and boosting myself all the way to the top. Around 5.000 m you leave the dirt and boulder trail which can be steep at times to enter a more level, but eerily whitened surface leading to the top. The sulfuric gas vents were getting closer. They deposit sulfur over the whole area, changing its color.

Damavand 2nd Campsite - Goosfand Sara , Eric Laureys, William Laureys and Ali Fard
Damavand 2nd Campsite - Goosfand Sara
Eric Laureys, William Laureys and Ali Fard


Several rocky formations jut out of this level area around the snow covered crater. One of those rocks is the actual summit. It bears an Iranian flag. I brought mine too and proudly flew the Belgian national flag besides the Iranian one. You do not climb Damavand for the nice view. Even though the Alborz range features gorgeous colour variations, the sheer height of Damavand and the prevailing haziness, if not polluted air, prevents you from enjoying much of a view. It is not comparable to the jagged snowy summits of the Alps in the crystal clear altitude air.

The biggest gas vent was loudly humming nearby, sending smoke up the summit every once and a while. It makes you cough, which isn’t easy when you’re in dire need of air, but you can nevertheless get very near to it and photograph it which is a rare experience.

Damavand 1st Campsite - Polour Resort - Ali Fard, William & Eric Laureys, Ardeshir Soltani - August 2015
Damavand 1st Campsite - Polour Resort
Ali Fard, William & Eric Laureys, Ardeshir Soltani - August 2015


I forced William and Ali to spend the next night at the hut. I was too exhausted to do the whole descend to Goosfand. But being spoiled as we were by Ali’s cooking aptitudes and the kitchen personnel’s friendliness largely compensated for it. I felt a bit sorry that we didn’t join the other, mostly Iranian, visitors in the large common dining room but were isolated for VIP service in the kitchen. I understand though that our guides were adamant at giving us the best possible service.

The same goes for the bedroom which was a private room with two bunk beds, 4 sleeping places in all, two of which remained unused even when outside people had to settle for the hallway or the stairways to a degree that some of them blocked our door. It is by the way a peculiar feeling to be woken up by mountain climbers doing their (Muslim) prayers at the dawn of the day. The downward trail was swift and the jeep trip to Polour bathed in traditional Shirazi music which I enjoyed very much. Then it was back to civilization and the Tehran traffic before resting and dusting off our sulfur smelling gear at Velenjak. One week later, we were heading for Italy and Monte Rosa, but that’s another story…

Damavand Massif Alborz Iran
Damavand Massif Alborz Iran

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Eric & William (Aria) Laureys from Belgium MDIC15SEP15B
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