Hello hello hello and happy new year again!
So how did you spend your first day of 2016? I hope you celebrated and rejoiced in the clean slate of a whole new year in either a truly wholesome or a truly decadent (or an intriguing combo thereof) fashion.
As for me? I started the new year on the right foot (literally ha ha) by going mountain climbing and spent the first day of 2016 at 2500 feet above the sea level traipsing around in the breathtakingly glorious — lushly carpeted with plush pristine snow — mountains near Tehran. Lucky me! It was a memorable day filled with exertion, elation, and many delightful surprises. To wit: Do you see the photo above? That’s a group selfie with a new friend and a group of even newer (made-on-the-impromptu-spot) friends and a birthday cake and a very well mannered (but shekamoo) Iranian German Shepherd dog named Cesar!
But let me start my tale from the beginning!
It so transpired then that on Friday January 1, 2016 yours truly awoke at the ungodly hour of crack ‘o dawn to hitch a ride with @pilesport, a new friend (an avid mountain climber who has a few Mount Damavand expeditions under his belt) and we drove for an hour in the eerily (also wonderfully) empty streets and highways of Tehran and then onward to the mountain-roads to Lavasan (which used to be a teeny tiny no-consequences dehkadeh and now is the site of villas and a playground for billionaires etc, think a “winter Hamptons” type of place, but that’s another story) parked the car and while going brrrr brrrr brrrr in the bristlingly cold air of a true frigid winter day, donned the accoutrements for the mountain-climbing venture for the day ahead.
I had on 2 tight leggings, 3 layers of skin tight tops, a hijab scarf that did double duty as a neck scarf, a softly plush and snug cat-burglar type of wintry skull cap, sunglasses, gloves, knee-length thick socks, pair of borrowed boots, and was further equipped with “gert” these things (mine are red) that you wrap around your calves and cover over and tie to your shoes to help avoid snow getting into your boots and I was also handed a pair of batons (without which there’s no way in heck I could have made my way either up or down.)
Destination? The delightfully-quirkily-named “carrot fields” (dashteh havij) of Lavasan. In this photo, after climbing atop the mountain for a couple of hours on a rather steep (requiring mild huffing and puffing but not a killer angle) have finally – oh joy! – arrived at the level “dasht” (“field”) part of the trail.
Gosh, the snow was so beautiful up there! Like a gorgeous untouched pristine carpet. And there was serene silence. It was like a dream.
Exertions require fuel. Yummy yummy fuel. So once we arrived at the Carrot Field, it was time to have breakfast. Akh joon!
@PileSport set up camp near a big rock that served double duty as both table and bench. Unveiling the provisions of: taftoon bread, walnuts, cheese & dates.
And then set out to make sunny side up eggs as well! Using half a stick of butter! But I guess, one had earned it by that point.
If you want to see a short video and hear the wonderful “jez va vez” sound of eggs cooking in sizzling butter in a skillet atop a mountain, you can see it here on my Instagram account.
What I’m trying to say is that it hit the spot. And it was fun.
So we had one round of eggs sandwiched in taftoon bread polished off with hot tea seasoned with a special advieh (cinnamon & ground ginger & something else!) and that was awesome too.
Meanwhile, while we were at the task of making and eating breakfast, these guys camping out on a rock above ours were having a jolly rowdy good time — and kept inviting us to join them. “Befarmayeed.” “Just bring a fork.” “Bring some tea as well.”
Once they mentioned a birthday cake, I sprinted up those rocks like a billy goat! Ha ha!
(In the photo above, the birthday boy is holding up his birthday cake!)
Just kidding! It wasn’t just the delicious bait of an awesome chocolate cake in the mountains that lured me up there. As a blogger, it is my duty and report these types of things. No?
Once up on the rocks with this wonderful bacheha, much jovial hilarity and passing up of slices of cakes and a bunch of group selfies ensued. (Can you spot me back there holding my plate of cake? I’m smiling while typing this at the awesome memory. Such fun!) Turned out they were a group of friends who live in Lavasan.
Now, do you want to know how someone manages to bring a cake up a mountain without destroying it? The answer to this riddle is that you freeze the cake so that it can survive its trip in a knapsack and hope to make it up the mountains before it’s thawed completely. That’s how! By the way, the leader of the group is @mountain_rizan on Instagram if you want to go and have a look-see.
At some point, Cesar, the Iranian German Shephard was unleashed and invited to the party as well. You can safely bet that Cesar did not decline the invitation. And at every opportune moment when heads and attentions were turned hither and tither, Cesar heartily helped himself to what edibles he could find. Meanwhile, his human mommy kept doting on him. “Pessareh m’an!” 🙂
Anyway, it was then time to go down the rock and move on and we did.
But parting is such sweet sorrow!
So the lovely gang took a photo of us to postpone the moment of farewell!
And they also snapped me while snapping them back!
And snap them back I did! Capturing them in making the “V for Victory” pose which is super popular with mountain climbers in Iran I’ve found! (I adopted it as well as you can tell from earlier pic!) Thank you for the cake and the wonderful memories, @mountain_rizan and rest of the gang!
By then it was mid-morning and time to further climb atop the mountains. But before leaving “dasht ‘e havij” and right nearby where we’d partaken of dejeuner sur la neige, I detected this interesting rock calligraphy. Rock graffiti! It’s kind of cool, no? Thought it’d be fun to share its pic with you. The only word in there by the way that I can make out is “honar” which means “art” but can’t figure out any of the other words.
And prior to leaving Carrot Field, was witness to another wonderful scene. A big group of climbers had divided efforts, and some of them were busy constructing a huge snowman, while the rest of them got into a spirited game of snow ball fight. (I have a couple of short videos of it that show off the majestically beautiful mountains as well and wish I could share it here but Internet access here in Iran won’t permit me posting it to WordPress, however I did post it one 12 second of video of the snowball fight here on Instagram.)
And then what started off innocently as a pleasant return route on the trail, turned out into taking a serious climb route (in a rather heavy duty slope) up, up, and up the mountain. @Pilesport kept saying: “Just 5 more minutes, and we’ll get to the trees and we’re right there.” Meanwhile, the 5 minutes kept getting extended!
At some point I felt that no way would I be able to make it up there. But after a bout of weary complaining, I decided to embrace the journey and thought: “Let’s just put one foot above the other and anyhow it’s a good way to start a new year. Building resolve and determination.” And I just shut my mouth and climbed. And that, my friends, is how this shekamoo was able to make it up there.
The view kind of is worth it, don’t you think? It was … breathtaking! Literally, ha ha!
That little figure you see in the middle is yours truly, your faithful blogger and now a little mountain climber!
By the time this photo was taken, I could make out the trees (which turned out to be walnut trees) but it was still another further 20 minute ascent past the trees before we made it to the makeshift rest stop near the waterfall where climbers stop and rest.
And we stopped there. Had lunch! (Pasta. Plus pre-peeled nectarines and pre-cut apples. Plus lovely hot tea with dates.) It was freezing but it was also awesome. We also had some shireh va serkeh to drink as well. What’s that you say? Take some syrup (ideally grape syrup or such) and mix it with vinegar and you have yourself a sweet and sour drink that energizes and hydrates.
And then we went down the mountain which for me felt exhilirating because I pretty much swooshed down like I was skiing. I miss skiing!
And that’s kind of it! I’ll end here with this shot of tea being made on a makeshift fire by a bunch of salt-of-the-earth mountain climbers and heavy duty tea drinkers! Hopefully, I will have a follow up post at some point chronicling yet another awesome mountaintop adventure that I enjoyed the week following this one and at that point I will also talk more about the culture of mountain climbing in Iran.
Until then, your chatty blogger bids you a fond farewell.