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Experiencing a boom in sport climbing in recent years, Antalya attracts climbers from all over the world like a magnet both summer and winter.
Viewed from the city, the majestic Beydağları mountains rising behind Antalya bay leave a person awestruck. Half an hour’s drive through the forest brings you face to face with sheer walls of rock hundreds of meters high and rough peaks that soar into the sky.
But climbing on the steep rocky slopes of the region’s far mountains does not date back very far into the past. Apart from a few technical routes scaled by a handful of climbers on certain peaks, there has been no serious development in the sport here. And that, as I see it, is precisely what makes it so attractive to climbers now.
IDEAL FOR CLIMBING: LIMESTONE
The peak known as Sivridağ on the road to Altınyaka is as near as it is far, and in general quite deserted. The rocky summit and eastern slopes of Sivridağ, which rises to 1700 meters above sea level, are of limestone, which is ideal for climbing. But the best thing about the parts of the Beydağları below 1000 meters is that they are suitable for climbing all year round. When the temperature falls below zero in all other parts of Turkey and many areas are even subject to snowfall, you can enjoy the luxury of making a climb here in a thin T-shirt in the mild Mediterranean climate.
The purpose of our climbing tour of Antalya this time was to make several traditional rope climbs on Sivridağ. On a traditional or ‘trad’ climb, the lead climber guarantees the safety of himself and his mates by placing protective devices in rock fissures and cracks as he climbs. Finding a convenient place in the rock, he constructs a safety station and, collecting his equipment, pulls his belayer up beside him on a 50-70 meter length of rope. Rocky precipices hundreds of meters high are scaled in this way with a large number of rope lengths. Special, technically suitable equipment is used on a traditional climb. For example, special mountain ropes with tons of tensile strength that can also absorb the great energy released by a possible fall; rubber-soled footwear, rather like ballet slippers, designed to increase the foot’s grip on millimeter wide ledges on a rock wall; and protective gear such as chocks and anchors that cause no damage to the rock and can be extracted easily when desired. In short, technology has made the climber’s life much easier.
CAMPING AMONG THE PINES
We pitched our tent in a verdant clearing amidst enormous, sweet-smelling pines, no different from any other mountain campsite in the Taurus. The only thing missing was that we didn’t have a source of fresh water here, which meant that we had to lug liters of water up from a spring in the village down below. The profound silence of forest and mountain was broken at regular intervals by the hum of the engines of passenger planes passing overhead to Antalya.
A difficult task lay ahead of us. Consequently we awoke at sunrise and, after a simple breakfast of bread, cheese and coffee, prepared to hit the road. Hiking through the pine trees in the cool mountain air in the morning’s first light, we soon reached the point where the rock began. In our backpacks we each had a light jacket, our climbing ropes and other equipment, and a little food and water. As we removed our ropes from our bags and got our climbing equipment ready at the base of the great cliff that forms the east face of the mountain, we could see in the distance the deep blue Mediterranean and Antalya like a heap of white covering the shore of the bay.
The route, which stretched out before us like a steep, grey wall of rock, was reminiscent of the sharp, jagged corners of a piece of shattered glass. This sheer rock face was of a good and solid structure on the whole. The bright morning Mediterranean sun greeted us at the end of the first hour of climbing. There were both difficult and easy steps along the way. We were able to climb only by hanging on to ledges into which we could insert the tips of our fingers and toes, and we made use of the safety rope continuously. Rock climbing is particularly enjoyable when done on this type of solid limestone. The view became more panoramic as we climbed, leaving the forest down below. We were heading directly into the heart of the vertical sea ahead of us. Not every place was as easy as we expected of course; and there were difficult steps that caused us anxiety and fear. We were, after all, hundreds of meters above the surface of the earth.
COMING BACK DOWN TO EARTH
We completed our route after climbing an average of about 200 meters. After making do all day with only a little water and biscuits we were hungry too. Antalya bay would be dark shortly. As lights began to twinkle here and there down below, we arranged our ropes for the descent. Doubling our rope all along the cliffs we had scaled, we started to climb down. Descending a great cliff on a rope is nowhere near as safe as ascending it; the lives of you and your mates are utterly dependent on the rope and the soundness of the protective device through which it passes. If something goes wrong and the rope gets caught on something, you’re in big trouble and could be left swinging on the side of the cliff ensnared by nature. But we were experienced, and we reached the base of the cliff face just as it was getting dark. Meanwhile a wind had blown up and our weary bodies were starting to feel cold.
As we were coiling our ropes in the twilight at the base of the cliff, we left behind a day of high excitement. We had made our first foray on a new climbing route. As darkness engulfed the new route we had left behind us, which we had christened ‘Broken Screen’, we satisfied our hunger with a meal we had fun preparing in our tent. The menu? Spaghetti with tuna and vegetables.
Stretching our slightly aching muscles - the result of our exertions the day before - we shouldered our heavy loads the next morning and set out again. The same scene as on the day before would play out all over again, this time on another part of Sivridağ. Steep rocks and cliffs would be scaled; the world would again be left far below; thoughts would be of nothing but protective devices and ledges to cling to or gain a foothold; the rope commands we gave each other would resound on the craggy slopes. What better life could a climber imagine? Antalya’s Beydağları are a genuine treasure of nature and environment. There is a whole lifetime of discovery there, for those eager to claim their share of the mountains’ energy...