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Kackar Mountains, August 1995

A trip to these remote mountains in Eastern Turkey.

Liz and I did an eight day trip with four peaks, including the highest in the range - Kackar Dag (3932m).

The following is direct from my diary.

Sat 5 Aug 1995
11:30 pm - Istanbul airport.
Dark, hot, smoky. Fine weather. Saw London, the Thames, Southend Pier and later, the Alps from the plane, which was full of Turkish schoolkids.

Sun 6 Aug 1995
11:55 am - Bus from Erzurum.
Greeted by machine guns at the airport. Then in the town we stood out enough to be picked up by a man who wanted to know where we were going. Our only shared language was some very dodgy German but he understood enough to lead us through the backstreets to a small ticket office. The next bus left in three and a half hours. A couple of phone calls later the guy asked us if we wanted to leave at 11:30. I looked at my watch - it was 11:25, so "Yes." We chucked our gear into the back of a minibus and were driven across town to a waiting coach. Now we're travelling across a flat plain where small groups of people are haymaking. It's all being done by hand and stacked onto horse-drawn carts.

Mon 7 Aug 1995
1:30 pm - Yusefeli.
Waiting for the dolmus to return with our luggage. The rain has just started - torrential. At 12:00 we turned up at the bus station. We were immediately greeted by people asking where we were going. We were pointed to a minibus and told it would leave between one and two O' clock. We loaded our rucsacs onto the roofrack and various bags, boxes and sacks were thrown up too. We then bump started the bus and off they went with a wave.
Spent the night in a very basic hotel - 100 000 Turkish Lire (£1.50) per person. We also think we have arranged to leave a bag there until we return. Buying supplies went OK. Plenty of cheese, biscuits and soup. We should be able to get bread in Barhal. Fuel for our stove came in bottles marked "Raki". It looked and smelt like meths, but who is to say? Anyway it could all be academic if we don't get our stuff back.

7:50 pm - Barhal.
The dolmus showed back up. The journey here took two hours and was a bit hairy. The rainstorms had washed away parts of the road which wound it's way up the gorge. Sometimes beside the river, sometimes a couple of hundred feet above the swollen chocolatey torrent. We have rented a room in a house here. Language was a bit of a problem. We eventually understood that the evening meal was at seven. Breakfast is at seven too for simplicity's sake.
Before dinner we wandered up in the direction we are going tomorrow. It is a pleasant, leafy track beside the stream. It is also a lot cooler here, so tomorrow should be a good day. I am looking forward to finally doing some walking - about 5 hours to where we will camp, but it's all uphill (1500 m of ascent). Pressure is 1020 Mb and rising.

Tue 8 Aug 1995
5:15 pm - Karagöl.
Bit of a slog, getting here - it took five and a half hours. Packs were very heavy and it was hot in the sun lower down. Arrived at 1:45, put the tent up and immediately went to sleep for a couple of hours. It's a lot cooler. We've had tea now and cloud is swirling round Altiparmak, so it is difficult to pick out our route for tomorrow. I am praying that it will lift a little.

Wed 9 Aug 1995
2:15 pm - Karagöl.
Last night was surprisingly warm. We were woken at 6:45 by cows being watered at the lake just outside the tent. We looked out and the skies were clear blue - an excellent day was on the cards. Most of the way was a steep slog but we made good time, roping up for the short summit rocks. The climbing was awkward rather than hard but there was some loose rock and a slip would have been fatal if unroped. We took three hours to the top, where we had a leisurly lunch. Back down at 1:30 (six hours). This time yesterday was cloudy and windy and we were crashed out in our sleeping bags. Today we are sunbathing by the lake. Felt the altitude a bit at the top but we are aclimatising now.

Thu 10 Aug 1995
Evening - Stream below col 2730 m.
Bit of a killer day on Didvake. The ascent from the col took four hours - most of that roped. There was a lot of loose rock and though it started misty, later the sun became fierce and two and a half litres of water was not really enough. We agreed we would continue until 2:00 before retracing our steps back along the ridge. Twenty metres below the summit we reached a notch followed by a final tricky pitch. I climbed down into the notch, from where I could see an easier way across to the right, so I climbed back out. Nearly at the top, I pulled on a flake with both hands. It detatched and slid 6" down a 45º sheer-line and landed against my leg, trapping it. I shouted to Liz, who tightened the rope (luckily this wasn't trapped). The sharp edge of the flake was now digging into my leg, but I was holding some of the weight with my hands. It was heavy - 2' square and 8" thick, though tapered to a knife-edge. Ideas of what I would do if I couldn't shift it were not worth thinking about. I heaved with both arms and rolled the rock over my leg. It smashed to the scree below. I shouted to Liz that I was OK and she belayed me up. I had a good bruise but was otherwise OK. We decided to leave the last pitch. We were both feeling the heat, I knew we had very little water left and getting back wasn't straightforward. In fact we made good time - unroping after an hour and three quarters. We staggered back to the gear we had left and then found the first campsite we could. We livened up a bit as we had our meal but agreed - no mountains tomorrow.

Fri 11 Aug 1995
Oküz Gölu
A long day. The descent to Piskenkasa was slow, over tricky terrain and though it started misty, it soon got hot. We started the re-ascent at 2:30, stopped for some pasta at 5:00 and reached the lake (2930 m) by 6:30. Liz was over the moon.

Sat 12 Aug 1995
Oküz Gölu 3:30 pm
Our lazy day. The plan was to bag a peak (un-named 3305 m) this morning, then sunbathe, wash, swim in the lake this afternoon. There was thick mist this morning which gave us some navigational uncertainties, but all worked to plan. We had woken early and set off at 8:00, reaching the top by 10:30. The mist started lifting at elevenish and we're now getting patches of sun, but mainly wind and drizzle, so we're stuck in the tent. This time tomorrow we should be in Yaylalar with some real food and maybe even a bed for the night. I can't wait!

Sun 13 Aug 1995
Yaylalar 7:45 pm
Really motored down today (descending at 750 m per hour). There was a good path for a change which made all the difference. Korahmet valley was very pretty. We've got beds for the night, but we have seen the last of lonely mountains with only cow herds for company. There are a couple of other trekkers staying here and a field full camped by the river. They all seem to be heading for Kaçkar. I wonder how many we will see at the top. It has been a lot cooler today but the weather seems set to improve.

Mon 14 Aug 1995
Today's walk went really well. The campsite is very full. A couple of parties were very late coming back, so we were nearly setting up a search party. Met a guy from Malden who was doing a long trek alone.

Tue 15 Aug 1995
Did well today. Set off at 6:00, up the gully with a Turkish Dutchman in tow. At the top by 11:00. The route was pretty straightforward really, with lots of people on. After an hour and a half back at the campsite to have some tea and pack up the tent we raced back down to Yaylalar.

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