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THE DEDEGÖL MOUNTAINS
2000 / JANUARY
Very few guide books for mountaineers are available for Turkey’s mountainous regions. Although this is a disadvantage for climbers wishing to attempt difficult routes, it does mean that a real sense of discovery is possible for those who enjoy feeling like the old explorers. Just imagine, there is a massive mountain in front of you, and you know nothing except that someone else has previously reached the summit. You must take every decision yourself, choose each ridge and snow climb, and find the best place to set up camp.

The 2990 metre Dedegöl Mountain is a place where you can enjoy this pleasure to the full in winter. We arrived at E?irdir on the inner side of the Toros range north of Antalya, and first visited an experienced local mountaineer who told us which mountain village to begin our ascent. We were some way beyond the village when Mount Dedegöl rose into sight to the south. We began to climb the slope, which was adorned by a single tree in the centre. The weather was fine.

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THE DEDEGÖL MOUNTAINS
2000 / JANUARY

In this area there was less chance of rain or snow than on the Anatolian plateau, and relying on this we had not even consulted the meteorological station. The snow had settled down and hardened so that we could only just get a grip with the pointed ends of our crampons. As we climbed we worked out the best route and carefully noted all the formations of the terrain around us. To our right were far more challenging snow climbs which we left for another time when we were better equipped and in a more adventurous mood. Or we could recommend them to other younger climbers eager for a challenge. Right behind the snow climbs were rock walls.

They were not long but solid in appearance, so we decided to get a closer look at them. We were filled with the delight of discovery. Nearly every half hour we reached a new ridge giving a slightly different view of our surroundings. As we proceeded we made new plans for future expeditions, imagining what they would be like.

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THE DEDEGÖL MOUNTAINS
2000 / JANUARY
When I compared this expedition to those in the Alada?lar Mountains further east in the Toros range) and one of my favourite mountaineering destinations, I realised that here the sense of surprise was stronger than I had ever experienced before. When we had reached a height of 2300 metres the sun was sinking towards the western horizon and it was time to start looking for a camping place. Eventually we found a flat spot where there was no risk of an avalanche. We had been carrying all our camping equipment and our bags were heavy.

We could have camped in the forest far below and lightened our loads, but then we would not have enjoyed the same intimacy with the mountain. For us mountains meant far more than physical features useful for exercising our climbing skills. We were not satisfied unless we camped right in their embrace, and felt them all around us. Another reason why our bags were so heavy was our love of eating under all conditions.
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THE DEDEGÖL MOUNTAINS
2000 / JANUARY

As the last light of the day faded we grilled garlic sausage on our roaring stove and melted slices of Ka?ar cheese. When our first pangs of hunger had been satisfied we unhurriedly made some tea and settled down to a long winter evening of conversation and hot drinks. When my watch alarm rang the next morning there was still not the slightest glimmer of light. I crawled out of my warm sleeping bag and reached out for the stove which had burned so cheerfully last night. Everything was so cold my fingers stuck to whatever I touched. For a moment I could not help regretting that we had not camped in the forest instead of following our romantic inclinations. The pressure of the butane stove had fallen noticeably, and on its weak flame I tried to heat up some water.

Lukewarm was the best I could do. Thank goodness we had each kept a litre of water in our sleeping bags last night to prevent it from freezing.

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THE DEDEGÖL MOUNTAINS
2000 / JANUARY

Forty-five minutes later when we emerged from the tents we saw the beautiful spreading crimson of the sky on the eastern horizon, and then the almost unbearable icy cold hit us. With packs much lighter than the previous day we set out. Within half an hour it was almost daylight and we could see the clouds massed in the east. It could be awkward to find ourselves in mist on a strange mountain of complicated shape. But the clouds settled beneath us and did not rise. Meanwhile a fierce freezing wind blew up, as was only to be expected in winter at nearly 3000 metres. The side shoulder of the mountain where we had noticed the difficult routes during yesterday’s ascent was now far below. We must be approaching the summit, because the incline was more gentle. The sea of cloud to the east had begun to disperse in places, and we could see Lake Bey?ehir. I would have been disappointed to return without glimpsing this lake. When we reached a small outcrop we realised we were at the summit. But the mass of the mountain continued beyond it to form a second peak to the south 10 m or so higher.

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THE DEDEGÖL MOUNTAINS
2000 / JANUARY

Fortunately there was no easy way to reach it from where we were! We sat down at the base of a rock on the summit so that we were protected from the wind.

The altimeter on my arm showed 3200 metres, but from maps we knew that this was actually only 2918 metres. We sat silently for a while watching the huge lake which appeared to be just beneath our feet. This climb had not been one of our most ambitious, but it had certainly been one of the most pleasurable.

For many years I had looked forward to coming to Dedegöl, and now that single dream had been replaced by at least three new ones which would bring me back here again. That is what mountain climbing is like. Instead of satisfying your desire, each climb only whets your appetite for more. Perhaps that is why mountaineers cling to life so stubbornly.

* Haldun Aydyngün is a photographer.

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