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Sabalan 2017-03-16

Sabalan is officially of 4811m yet the GPS said 4825m at the highest point of the highest rock formation. A volcanic mountain marginally taller than Mont Blanc in the Alps (traditionally of 4808m with new estimates of 4810m) is easier to climb than Mont Blanc especially on the north-east popular route starting at Shabil Hot Springs (2700m) as it has lower amounts of snow and ice. Sabalan is the third highest mountain in Iran; it boasts a spectacular if small crater-lake right at the top. I have a special place in my heart for volcanoes (inactive ones that can be climbed!) since I have been up on Kilimanjaro: volcanic mountains are usually prominent vs. their surroundings and the volcanic cone looks like a pyramid – think of the elegant shape of Mount Fuji from Japan and you will know what I mean.

Climbing Sabalan goes very well with the classic overland trail through Iran starting in Van at the border with Turkey (where most western over-landers enter Iran) and continues toward Teheran and Esfahan. The north-west province of Iran called Azerbaijan is not very touristical so in many places it will just be you and the curious locals – none of the tour groups you may see in Esfahan or Persepolis. After you have visited Tabriz especially during summer, a climb on Sabalan will be just what you need – a cool breath of fresh air before the “oven” that Teheran and Shiraz can be in July-August. In Iranian Azerbaijan you can also visit Ardebil (the tomb of Sheik Safi-ad-din, the bazaar, Jameh Mosque – easy to locate in town) and the nomad herder tribes (ideally with a local guide as they speak little English). In the winter you may sky at the Alvares slopes on the south side of Sabalan while the gorge at Shirvan sees few climbers in summer (you can have it all for you and your brave trailblazing group).

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