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WHO STOLE THE COLOUR FROM THE SUN ?
2001 / OCTOBER

As you approach the town of Aksaray in central Turkey, the summit of Hasan Dagi appears in the distance, giving the deceptive impression that your destination is in sight. But the mountain soon recedes and you look back in regret as the road carries you on to the city of Nigde. From here you take the road to Çamardi, and about an hour later the first small peaks of the Aladag range become visible on the horizon. Then, without warning, the massive bulk of the 3756 metre high Demirkazik appears to welcome you. If you arrive in the early evening the last rays of the setting sun lend a red hue to the gigantic limestone blocks of this central section of the Toros. Many of the peaks of the Aladag range, which runs through the provinces of Nigde, Adana and Kayseri, rise to over 3500 metres. It forms part of the great mountain system stretching from the Alps in Europe to the Himalayas in Asia which was formed by the impact of two plates in the earth's crust following millions of years of sedimentation. Careful observation of this mountainous terrain clearly reveals

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WHO STOLE THE COLOUR FROM THE SUN ?
2001 / OCTOBER

the traces of this momentous geological event. The Aladag Mountains are the lodestone of Turkish mountaineering. With their rock walls hundreds of metres in height and magnificent challenging peaks, thousands of climbers are drawn here every year, some to be educated by the experience of their attempt and others to enjoy the satisfaction of reaching one of the summits. The Aladag consist of three distinctive systems: that of Mount Demirkazik (3756 metres), the Vay Vay Torasan (3500 metres), and the Emli, whose highest peak is the forbidding 3726 metre Kaldi. The Demirkazik system includes the Yedigöller Plateau, which attracts the greatest number of visitors, and is reached via a pass at 3200 metres. The glacier lakes from which the plateau takes its name, meaning Seven Lakes, in fact vary in number according to the season. The area around these lakes resembles a hidden paradise, and the 3500 metre Direktasi Peak rising tower-like behind them completes the spectacular

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WHO STOLE THE COLOUR FROM THE SUN ?
2001 / OCTOBER

scene. After crossing Hecer Pass to the south, you come first to the village of Barazama, and then to the Barazama Falls, whose underground waters pour upwards through the limestone into a series of carstic caves, and from here gush out into the open air from any apertures they find. These waterfalls are the most astonishing sight of any in these mountains.The Vay Vay Torasan system in the centre of the Aladag range is far wilder than that of Demirkazik. Here the high peaks and perpendicular rock faces are as intimidating as they are beautiful. Remote and difficult of access, this area is the least frequented.The greatest number of people who come to the Aladag Mountains visit the Emli area south of Demirkazik and west of Vay Vay Torasan. Here are located such major peaks as the Kaldi, Alaca, Güzeller and Gürtepe. Throughout the Aladag Mountains walking is impeded by scree, a mass of boulders and broken rocks forming steep and unstable slopes. However, while climbing up scree slopes is frustrating and difficult, getting down them is

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WHO STOLE THE COLOUR FROM THE SUN ?
2001 / OCTOBER

pleasurable and simple. All the valleys of the Aladag show traces of glacier action, and the Demirkazik North Glacier and the Kaldi North Glacier are survivors from the last ice age. It is melting ice from these glaciers which in summer waters the alpine pastures in the region.These mountains have their own unique ecosystem, with a distinctive range of plants at each altitude level. This enables climbers who come frequently to the Aladag to judge their altitude according to the flowers in their vicinity. A common plant here is a species of barberry (Berberis crataegina), whose tiny fruits the size of rice grains have a delicious sourish flavour when they ripen in autumn. Bird life in the mountains includes birds of prey such as eagles, buzzards and griffon vultures. One of the two rare large mammals in the Aladag range is the grey wolf, which is hunted to prevent attacks on sheep. The best way to catch a glimpse of this animal, which lives in small packs, is to camp next to a nomad village. Early one morning you are quite likely to see a wolf surveying the camp from the top of a large rock.

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WHO STOLE THE COLOUR FROM THE SUN ?
2001 / OCTOBER

The second is the paseng, a large wild goat with curved horns, which is now returning from the brink of extinction due to protection measures.Head for the Aladag Mountains to enjoy the wild life and scenery of the Emli valley, Demirkazik, Yedigöller Plateau, and Barazama, and being awoken by bird song in your tent from a restful slumber in the fresh mountain air. Even if you do no actual climbing you will realise why mountaineers are drawn back here time after time.

* Yildirim Güngör is a geologist.

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