Peaks of the Word

Mountains and their summits are a constant source of life. Imagine a completely flat world! We would have none of the climates, none of the lakes and rushing rivers, none of the biological and cultural diversity we have today

Mountain summits head the list of elements of nature first revered by man for their majestic appearance, and almost all the world’s belief systems involve a holy mountain and the summit that symbolizes it. Among the highest peaks in Turkey are Mt. Ağrı, where Noah landed his ark after the Great Flood, and Mt. Olympus of Greek and Roman mythology. Some summits in the Himalayas today are regarded as sacred and, like Kangchenjunga, the world’s third highest peak, are considered unclimbable out of respect.

High altitude guides/porters all over the world are known as ‘Sherpa’s since sherpas traditionally accompany all climbers in the Himalayas. Sherpa is actually the name of an ethnic group that inhabits the mountainous region of Nepal, a tribe that abandoned the harsh mountain living conditions of Tibet about 600 years ago to settle here. Their most famous city, Namche Bazaar, at 3,444 meters, is a hub for trekkers and mountaineers from the four corners of the world.
One of the world’s most famous trekking trails, the Everest Base Camp trek is an adventure that leaves an indelible impression on everyone who braves it. The trail’s high elevation and lack of any connection whatsoever with a highway make it different from the others. Everyone who goes to Everest Base Camp passes through this intriguing settlement clinging to the edge of a precipice. Goods coming from the other side of the mountains are carried here on the backs of yaks, sturdy animals unique to the Himalayas. Lodging is available in mountain villages close to 4,000 meters up along the Everest Base Camp trail. Tengboche, location of a famous monastery, is one of them, a settlement at 3,867 meters in northern Nepal’s Khumbu region in the Himalayas.  This is also an extremely good vantage point for viewing other famed Himalayan peaks such as Tawache, Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse, Ama Dablam and Thamserku. Slightly higher than Mt. Ağrı at 5,288 meters, Gorakhshep is the last camp before base camp. It lies below the Everest summit on the Khumbu Ice Fall, one of a handful of glaciers in the world. The spectacular Pumori summit, dubbed Everest’s twin at 7,161 meters, comes into view along the way. With its bright green glacier and glacier lakes, the Khumbu Ice Fall presents a terrifying aspect due to its deep chasms.

Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes is an example of an ancient city perched on a mountaintop. Its name meaning ‘ancient peak’, Machu Picchu is an ancient Inca settlement founded at an elevation of 2,360 meters in the Urubamba Valley. Its majestic landscape will loom before you in all its splendor at the end of a four-day trek through the Andes.  Immediately next to it another ancient city lies hidden on a summit known as Wayna Picchu (‘young peak’).
But summits don’t always have to be at high elevations. The peaks formed by seaside rock formations like the Gulf of Halong near the Vietnam-China border are as impressive as those at higher altitudes.

One hundred and sixty million years ago, during the formation of the Alps and the Himalayas, the terrain of Turkey began to rise and the Anatolian Plateau was formed, bordered by the Taurus and North Anatolian ranges.
Lying between the Alps and the Himalayas, Turkey’s peaks are part of the East-West extension of those ranges and took shape following their formation. Joining in the east, the mountain ranges extend along the north and south of the country, rising from west to east to form its highest peaks such as Mt. Ağrı, Mt. Cilo, Mt. Süphan, Mt. Kaçkar and Mt. Erciyes (ancient Argaeus).

With its Ataturk peak at 5,137 meters, Mt. Ağrı is the highest mountain in Turkey. Higher than all the summits in Europe, it has the added characteristic of rising abruptly on flat terrain as a single mass.
The stuff of legend about which books have been written and films made, Ağrı remains a legend for mountain climbers today with its majestic appearance and year-round ice cap. With a history going back millennia, this glacier is 5 km in diameter with a thickness approaching 300 meters. It covers an area of close to 10 square kilometers and is Turkey’s largest glacier. To be united with his beloved, Ahmet, the protagonist of Yaşar Kemal’s famous novella, ‘The Legend of Mt. Ağrı’, must scale its summit in three days and light a fire there that can be seen from the plain below. Although he successfully climbs the mountain, Ahmet fails reach his beloved.  The summit of Ağrı was believed to be unscalable at the time in which the story is set. The first to climb this mountain, which Marco Polo said would never be scaled, was Prof. Frederik Von Parat on October 9, 1829. Several successful expeditions followed his.  Some three to five thousand people from all over the world have made attempts on this legendary peak to date.
Another fascinating belief about Mt. Ağrı is that it is the mountain where Noah’s Ark came to rest following the Great Flood. According to the historical sources, the first attempt to find Noah’s Ark was a visit in the 7th century by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius to the Urartu region where the mountain is located. The English explorer James Bryce, who climbed Ağrı in 1876, claimed to have found here the wooden remains of Noah’s Ark. And James Irwin, the American astronaut who twice set foot on the moon, made two visits to Ağrı in the 1980’s to search for Noah’s Ark.

Leaving foreign and Turkish visitors awestruck by their natural beauty, historic texture and unique way of life, the Kaçkar Mountains boast some of the most formidable peaks in the world.
The Aladağlar, a chain of peaks that spans the provinces of Kayseri, Niğde and Adana, boast a rich diversity in terms of plant cover and animal species.
Be it easy or difficult, completing a climb to the summit gives a mountaineer a supreme sense of accomplishment. Sometimes as easy as pie, sometimes fraught with difficulties, the final steps up to the summit can be cold and steep. But the actual instant of reaching the top is engraved in the memory as a moment filled with emotion and pride that will be remembered over and over for years, the culmination of a struggle with oneself.