Iran – Twin Peaks Alam Kuh + Damavand

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  • Duration: 13 Days
  • Grading: 2C+
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Alam Kuh + Mt Damavand is our latest  Twin Peaks Challenge that is fast gaining popularity. Mt Damavand (5610m), the highest peak in Iran, is often climbed with another shorter peak for acclimatisation purpose. This acclimatisation peak is usually a 2-day climb on Mt Tochal, near Tehran. We have replaced Mt Tochal with Alam Kuh (4850m), the second highest peak in Iran, to introduce climbing the highest peak and second highest peak in Iran as part of our Twin Peaks Challenge. Both mountains are in the Alborz Mountain Range, in northern Iran.

Climbing Alam Kuh and Mt Damavand in summer do not require ice and snow skills. However, it is highly demanding on fitness, strength and endurance.

Our Iran Twin Peaks Challenge is, in fact, a triple peaks itinerary, with climbing Lashgarak Peak for acclimatisation before Alam Khu.

Alam Khu

“Alam” means some sort of object standing straight like a flag and “Kuh” means mountain. Alam Kuh (4850m), a very beautiful rocky mountain, located in central Alborz Mountain Range and Takht-e Soleyman region in northwest of Tehran , is known as the paradise of mountaineers to the Iranians. It is supported by permanent snow and glaciers with lots of peaks surrounding the main Alam Kuh peak. The steep foothills, beautiful glaciers and snowfields offer a lot more for mountain climbing and trekking than the more prominent Mt Damavand. Its closeness to the Caspian Sea gives it a rather humid climate with frequent snowfall and rainfall. Like Mt Damavand, Alam Kuh is covered with bright and colourful flowers during summer. Set in the lush green and stunning valley, Alam Kuh is without a doubt, a beautiful mountain to climb in summer.

Mt Damavand

Mt Damavand (5610m), situated less than 80km from the Iranian capital, Tehran, in Lar National Park, is the most prominent feature of Iran and has a special place in Persian mythology and folklore. Looming majestically near the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, it is well known for several reasons. It is not only the highest peak in Iran and the Middle East, but also the highest volcano in Asia. The word “Damavand” means snow. Indeed, snow can be found on Mt Damavand almost all year round including summer. A sub-active volcano, there are fumaroles that are still emitting steam and volcanic gases near the summit crater. An inescapable pungent sulfur smell from the steam and volcanic gases dominate a part of surrounding air, near the summit, and is often described as rotten-egg smell by climbers. In early summer, a large array of bright and colourful flowers, like the red-hot Tulipa Montana, blankets the lower terrain of Mt Damavand, giving a dramatic contrast to the barren or sometimes snow-covered peak.

About The Climb

We climb Alam Kuh first, followed by Mt Damavand, with a rest and recover day near the Caspian Sea, in between the climbs.

Alam Kuh has 2 main trekking routes – on the south face and the north face of the mountain. The southern route is the non-technical and most popular route. The northern route, with a gigantic 800m rock wall to the peak, is for technical ascending and rock climbers.

Both southern and northern routes begin at Vandarbon (2200m), one of the villages located in Kelardasht. We climb Alam Khu via the non-technical south route.

Due to the long drive (5-6 hours) from Tehran (1189m), the first night is spent at the federation camp in Vandarbon. The start point of the southern approach route is at Tange Galoo (2800m), a 20km long dirt road drive from Vandarbon.  Afterwards, the route continues on a short and gradual scenic trek (4 hours), passing above beautiful snowfields to the base camp at Hesarchal (3750m). Hesarchal is a very huge, colourful and green flat ground, surrounded by high mountains of over 4000m, (like Lashgarak, Gardun Kuh, Setareh, Menar, South Khersan, North Khersan, and Majikesh) on all sides. There is an acclimatisation day to climb up to the nearby beautiful glacial lake and Lashgarak Peak (4185m) before Alam Kuh’s summit attempt. The trail from the base camp to the summit, while not technical, is mostly on scree terrain, and, possibly with some ice and snow. The last section of the summit is a steep incline up a rocky surface that requires some scrambling. It takes around 5 hours to reach the peak and another 3-4 hours to return to the base camp.

There are as many as 16 known routes on Mt Davamand. The most accessible and straightforward being the south route. The rest of the routes are less frequently used, due to accessibility or are tougher and longer. A few of the routes also require technical skills.

Our Mt Damavand climb is via the south route. The first night is spent at the federation camp in Polour village (2270m), in Mazandaran province. The climb begins with a drive from Polour to Goosfand-Sara (3250m) and a moderate uphill trek (5-7 hours) to the high camp at Barghahe-Sevom (4250m). The uphill terrain to the high camp is often filled with a large array of bright and colourful flowers. Nearer the high camp, there may be snow and ice conditions. The summit climb is about 10-12 hours round trip with a mixture of terrains from loose scree to rocky sections that require some scrambling to snow, ice and slush. The most challenging part of the summit climb is about 300m below the peak, known as “Doud Kouh” or sulphuric hill. The pungent smell of the sulphur can make the already difficult breathing at above 5000m even harder. A huge ditch lies ahead after “Doud Kouh” and leads directly to the top of the summit. On a clear day, the view from the summit includes the green jungles in the north of Iran, the Caspian Sea, the city of Tehran, and the lake of Lar. Part of the descent may be on a glacier slope, that may require the use of snow cleats/crampons, depending on the snow level and conditions.

Overcrowding In Summer – Why We Camp

There is often overcrowding in the mountain hut in Barghahe-Sevom (4250m). Trekkers occupy the space
on the floor in the dormitories, corridors and dining area when the bunk beds are filled. Our local
partner sets up a private permanent campsite at the high camp each summer. This campsite is away
from the crowd in mountain hut for more privacy and comfort.

Trekking Seasons

Mt Damavand is best climbed in the summer months from mid-June to mid-September. From November to May, the climbing conditions become difficult due to the weather and snow. December to April are suitable for ski mountaineering, snowboarding and snowshoeing.

Experience Required

This trek is graded 2C+. It is a multi-day peak climbing trek with full camping support.

You should have above 4000m trekking experience. The Alam Khu + Mt Damavand Twin Peaks Challenge is tough and arduous. It requires not only excellent fitness and endurance, but also, sturdy footwork on ragged mountain terrains. You will be climbing 1 peak above 4000m and another above 5000m, with a personal backpack load of 5-6kg, for 4 to 8 hours each day. There are loose scree and rocky terrain on both peaks. Expect some rock scrambling on Mt Damavand, a long summit day of more than 10 hours and exposure to extreme sub-zero temperature. There may be a need to wear snow cleats/crampons on glacier slope, depending on the snow and ice conditions.

Equipment and Gear

You can wear a t-shirt and trekking pants during the approach trek. Thermal base layers, a fleece jacket and an outer shell jacket are required. When at the campsites and after sundown, a down jacket will help keep you warm. A  sleeping bag is also needed.

Note: All female travelers who enter Iran MUST obey Islamic rules including Hijab or Islamic dress-code.

A packing list will be provided to all our participants. Please refer to our Resource Centre page for information on the layering system and how to choose the right gear/equipment for your trek.

DAY DESCRIPTION MEALS
1

Arrive in Tehran.

Overnight: Tehran hotel (1175m)

-/L/D
2

Acclimatisation Day. Sight-seeing tour in Tehran.

Overnight: Tehran hotel (1175m)

B/L/D
3

Transfer to Vandarbon.

Overnight: Dormitory (2250m)

B/L/D
4-7

Transfer to Tange Galoo and trek to Hesarchal Base Camp to spend the next 3 days on Alam Khu (4850m). Summit day on Day 5. Day 6, descend same way down to Tange Galoo and transfer to Ramsar.

Overnight: Hesarchal Base Camp tent (3750m), Ramsar hotel (21m)

B/L/D
8

Transfer to Polour.

Overnight: Dormitory (2220m)

B/L/D
9-12

Transfer to Goosfand-Sara (3250m) and trek to high camp at Barghahe Sevom. Spend the next 4 days on Mt Damavand (5610m). Summit day on Day 11. Day 12, descend same way down to Goosfand-Sara and transfer to Tehran.

Overnight: Barghahe Sevom High Camp tent (4200m), Tehran hotel (1175m)

B/L/D
13 Depart Tehran B/-/-
DATES PRICE
07-19 Aug 2021 $2,450.00 (SGD)  / person

Group size: 6 – 16 people

Package prices for less than 6 people:

5 people: $2680 (SGD)  / person
4 people: $3180 (SGD)  / person

You can also form a private group for this trek. For enquiry, send an email to us at contact@aceadventure.com.sg.

Inclusions
  • Return airport transfer
  • All land transfer as in itinerary
  • Sight-seeing tour is Tehran as in itinerary
  • Meals as in itinerary
  • Boiled drinking water during trek
  • Accommodation: Local 5-star hotel in Tehran (twin/triple sharing). Dormitory (mixed/non-heated) in Vandarbon and Polour. Tents during trek (twin sharing)
  • Trek support: Climbing guide(1: 3 trekkers) and cook. Horses for porterage support.
  • Camping equipment: Sleeping tent, sleeping mat, and dining tent
  • Emergency support: Comprehensive first aid kit and portable oxygen cylinders
  • 1 trek leader from Ace Adventure Expeditions
  • Permits & Fees : Trekking permit
  • Trekking insurance coverage within Iran – Emergency evacuation and medical expenses on injuries and illnesses
  • Entry Visa code
Exclusions
  • International air tickets, airline taxes and fuel surcharge
  • Visa fee
  • Single supplement
  • Meals not indicated in itinerary
  • All tipping
  • Personal porters
  • Personal travel insurance (mandatory to cover agent insolvency, travel to Iran trekking up to 6000m)
  • Personal expenses
  • Personal travel & trekking gear (Sleeping bag up to -10°C)
  • Emergency evacuation and medical expenses
  • Compensation for damaged or lost of personal items (e.g. climbing/trekking gear and equipment, cameras and any valuable items, etc.)
  • Any expenses including accommodation, meals & transfer outside the stipulated trek/climb itinerary – i.e. any person leaving the group for personal travel, illness/injury or any form of extension of stay
Pre-trip Support

1. Trip briefing and information kit
2. Gear list and gear discount from selected Singapore outdoor outfitters
3. Complimentary group training sessions
4. Rope skill workshop (For climbs that require rope up and/or fixed rope skill)

Local Support

We carefully select and establish strong working relationship with our local trek operator to ensure safe participation by everyone. Our local partner is a member of the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) and Iran Mountaineering Federation. Our local climbing guides are registered guides with the Iran Mountaineering Federation. Some of them are mountaineering instructors and conduct courses for Iran Mountaineering Federation. Majority of them also climb extensively outside of Iran. They have immense experience in guiding treks in Iran, possess  intimate knowledge of the local surroundings, conditions and culture and are trained in technical mountaineering skills and emergency rescue.

Visa

Participants for Ace Adventure Expeditions’ organised trips, you will be assisted with your visa application.

For most nationalities, a valid visa is required to enter Iran and it is highly recommended to start the visa process at least two months before the visit. Iran E-visa (electronic visa) is launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) – Islamic Republic of Iran to make it easier to apply for an Iran tourist visa online.

Citizens of over 180 countries are eligible to use the Iran electronic visa. The United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Jordan, Somalia, Colombia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India are excluded. Citizens of Israel are totally banned from entry to Iran. Holders of passports with Israel visa or stamp within 6 months will be refused admission.

Based on mutual agreements, citizens of some countries are exempt from applying for a visa to enter Iran for stays of various periods ranging from 15 to 180 days. They include the citizens of the Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Oman, Georgia, Armenia, Venezuela, Egypt, China, Hong Kong, Macau and Malaysia.

For latest updates and details of visa application, you may visit www.e_visa.mfa.ir/en.

Money

Currency exchange services can be found in the airport, banks, hotels and exchange offices, and they accept major currencies like US Dollar and Euro. The exchange rate in exchange offices is always better than what is offered by banks. It is advisable to go to one of these offices, which are mostly (but not only) on Ferdosi St, which begins at Imam Khomeini Square. Also, most exchange offices in Tehran do not exchange before 9am, when the daily rate gets fixed. Do not exchange your money with the many individuals offering to exchange along Ferdosi St. It is a lot riskier and illegal.

All international credit cards whether Visa or MasterCard are not accepted in Iran. They also cannot be used for ATM cash withdrawals as they accept only locally issued cards. So please bring cash.

Electricity

Iran’s electricity is 220V and 50HZ. The plugs used are the two round pins of Type C & F, commonly used in Europe.

Language

Farsi, a Persian language, is the official and predominant language in Iran.

Staff in most hotels in major “touristy” cities in Iran speaks some English. There are lots of English signs around major cities like Tehran, Esfahan, Yazd, Shiraz, and also in Tehran’s metro. Some restaurants will offer English menus, but English-speaking waiting staff is rare. Other than that, do not count too much on having an English-speaking environment, especially for taxi and bus drivers.

Drinking Water

Tap water is not drinkable in Iran. Bottled water is easily available from hotels, restaurants and supermarkets.  

Tipping

Tipping is not a culture in Iran. A small tip can be given for exceptional services and will be received with surprise and perhaps initial rejection.

General Etiquette, Culture & Law Enforcement Practices

Iranians are friendly and genuinely nice people and love to chat to visitors about anything and everything. Tourists are rare in Iran for a variety of reasons and when Iranians see a visitor, they want to make sure that that visitor feels welcome. However, do take note that Iran has strict Islamic codes of dress and behaviour that apply to foreigners as well.

Greetings

Men greeting Men – Common forms of greeting include a firm handshake, a hug (usually three hugs alternating the shoulders) and also a kiss or two or three on each cheek.  A firm handshake is common at initial meetings.

Women greeting Women – A handshake and hug is common. Some women will exchange kisses on the cheek.  A light handshake is common at initial meetings.

Men greeting Women – Greetings depend on whether the two people are religious or not. Those who are religious do not shake hands at all or make eye contact with members of the opposite sex when in public. They maintain distance, especially if they are not related. If they have to greet one another, a slight bow is made and some distance is kept; 1 metre apart or more. In other situations, a nod of acknowledgment will suffice. Handshakes may be common in certain situations, but it is always best to wait and see what action the person you are greeting takes.

Common gestures are a high five between younger people, usually guys. They also do a typical greeting bow where the right hand is put on the left chest with a slight bow.

Note: It is taboo for religiously observant men to touch women and vice-versa.

Attire

When in public, do not wear anything revealing that is anything above your ankles or wrists, especially for women. Wearing a scarf over your head is necessary for women, by law, even for Westerners or non-Muslim women. 

Wearing shorts, sleeveless, tight-fitting shirts are best avoided for men.

Culture

Time is viewed without too much of a fuss, and people tend to be more relaxed about punctuality. For example, if members of a family arrive an hour late for a meal, it is not considered rude, but in fact almost expected.

When it comes to formal meetings, people usually try to take the appointment more seriously but overall Iranians are not usually considered very punctual people.

Others

If invited to an Iranian home, it is appropriate to bring a small gift such as a plate of sweets, or cookies, or some nice flowers. Avoid bringing gifts of alcohol. (By law, no consumption & no sales of alcohol is allowed in Iran).

Avoid any public displays of affection between genders. Holding hands in public or dating is not usually allowed. Talking about issues such as divorce is not acceptable and getting a divorce is extremely taboo.

Gay and lesbian travellers should be extremely careful when travelling to Tehran due to strict and harsh regulations on homosexual activity. Iran justice has death penalty for homosexuals, even teenagers.

If you decide to smoke the qalyan (waterpipe), make sure that you are not smoking opium or other kinds of drugs if you don’t intend to do it. Although drugs and alcohol are illegal in Iran, it is not impossible to obtain them, especially in Tehran. Since the Iranian government decided to ban the qalyan and cigarettes in public places, it is a bit difficult to find a decent place for smoking.

 
Travel Safety Advice

With evolving world situations that may occur unexpectedly due to natural disasters, pandemics/epidemics, conflicts and unrests, it is best to read up and keep tabs on news and developments at your destination country and region before the trip. Check on the country’s official website and/or your own foreign ministry website for any travel advisory or safety precautions to be taken while abroad.

As with traveling in anywhere in the world, regardless of the local crime rate, stay vigilant and take care of personal safety. Good to read up on any possible exposure in the country prior to departure.

It is a good practice to register with your respective foreign ministry if there is such a service provided to citizens, to contact you in order to make sure that you are safe and, if need be, assist you should an emergency (e.g. natural disasters, civil unrest, etc.) occur when you are overseas.

For Singaporeans, this is the link to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ eRegister:
https://eregister.mfa.gov.sg/eregisterportal/common/preLoginEregisterView.action

 
Travel Insurance

It is highly recommended to purchase comprehensive travel insurance(s), upon payment of your trip, to cover adverse situations that may occur while you are overseas or even before departure. Ensure that the coverage is suitable for your destination and the activities that you are participating in. Be familiar with the terms and conditions before purchasing and travelling abroad.

 
Travel Immunization Advice 

There is no compulsory vaccine to be taken to enter Iran. You should, however, be up to date on routine vaccinations, especially vaccines against water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (examples: hepatitis, typhoid and tuberculosis) while traveling to any destination. You are encouraged to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition.

Recommended routine vaccinations for travellers in general:

Hepatitis A

Spread through consuming contaminated food and water or person to person through the faecal-oral route. Risk is higher where personal hygiene and sanitation are poor.

Hepatitis B

Spread through infected blood and blood products, contaminated needles and medical instruments and sexual intercourse. Risk is higher for those at occupational risk, long stays or frequent travel, children (exposed through cuts and scratches) and individuals who may need, or request, surgical procedures abroad.

Rabies

 

Spread through the saliva of an infected animal, usually through a bite, scratch or lick on broken skin. Particularly dogs and related species, but also bats. Risk is higher for those going to remote areas (who may not be able to promptly access appropriate treatment in the event of a bite), long stays, those at higher risk of contact with animals and bats, and children. Even when pre-exposure vaccine has been received, urgent medical advice should be sought after any animal or bat bite.

Tetanus

 

Spread through contamination of cuts, burns and wounds with tetanus spores. Spores are found in soil worldwide. A primary series of 5 doses of tetanus vaccine is recommended for life. Boosters are usually recommended in a country or situation where the correct treatment of an injury may not be readily available.

Typhoid Fever

Spread mainly through consumption of contaminated food and drink. Risk is higher where access to adequate sanitation and safe water is limited.

Influenza

A vaccine specific for a given year to protect against the highly variable influenza virus.

 For more information and professional advice on travel vaccinations, please consult your doctor or travel clinic.

For people residing in Singapore, you may visit The Travellers’ Health and Vaccination Clinic (THVC) at Tan Tock Seng Hospital:

Travellers’ Health & Vaccination Clinic
Address: Level 4, Clinic 4B, Tan Tock Seng Hospital Medical Centre
Contact number: 6357 2222
Website : https://www.ttsh.com.sg/Patients-and-Visitors/Medical-Services/Travellers-Health-and-Vaccination-Clinic/Pages/default.aspx