Iran holds second international rock climbing meet

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 25/11/2012
The complex rock walls of Bisotun in western Iran. Marko Prezelj

The second International Rock Climbing Festival to be organized by the Iranian Mountain Federation and Iranian Alpine Club, took place in mid October on the magnificent ca 2700m Bisotun.

The southeast face of Bisotun, in western Iran's Zagros Range, is a vast and complex 1,200m high limestone wall, variously reported as up to eight kilometres in width.

Currently there are approximately 60 routes, leaving plenty of space for additions. The rock is outstanding - generally sound, well featured and highly abrasive, the latter almost uncomfortably so.

Several huts are situated on terraces a little above half-height on the face, and  routes to the summit are generally considered to require two days.

Many established lines do not climb to the summit but reach logical conclusions part way up the face, from where relatively easy descents are possible.

The first International Festival at Bisotun took place in 2010 and was well attended. This October around 100 Iranian climbers hosted 52 foreign visitors.

The vast majority of foreign participants were French (there is a long tradition of climbing here by the Groupe de Haute Montagne), but Australia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland were also represented.

Current economic sanctions, as part of an effort to discourage Iran's nuclear program, have ensured that obtaining a visa is more or less impossible for those holding only UK or USA passports.

However, there was one British participant, Gus Morton, who travelled on his Irish passport and kept very quiet about the fact that he worked for nearly 30 years as a nuclear safeguards inspector.

Foreign participants, often in the company of local climbers, enjoyed excellent climbing in relaxed company. Most Iranian climbers are middle class and well-educated, and despite a general feeling that current sanctions are unjust, appeared incredibly open and friendly to foreigners.

Several new lines were completed during the meet. Nineteen year old Sebastien Bouin from France and 25 year old Hassan Javadian (a former Iranian climbing champion) put up a five-pitch bolted line with a crux of 5.14b. They hope to finish it at a future date.

Hassan Gerami and Hamid Safaghi, assisted by Amer Ezoji, Hossain Hizomker and French guide Leslie Fucsko, completed the second part of Festival Route. The first part was climbed during the 2010 International Festival. The bolted climb now has 12 pitches up to 5.12c. Maybe they will complete it to the summit during the third festival?

Slovenians Luka Lindic and Marko Prezelj, French Sam Beaugey and Emmanuel Pellisser, and Iranian mountain guide Hesam Karaji climbed Golden Spatula over two days. The 1,100m route to the top of the mountain was completed with trad gear only.

Anthony Hall and Julie Heller, an Australian couple on their honeymoon, climbed a new 250m route with Iranians Ehsan Mirtaghi and Shokouh Pariai. Honeymoon was rated 5.11a/b.

Jean-Yves Ferrandis and Hervé Qualizza climbed the 11-pitch Black Lizard (500m, with difficulties from 5.8 to 5.10a), while Tunc Findik from Turkey and Shahram Karaji (Iran) put up two, one-pitch routes; Welcome to Bisotun (62m, 5.10a) and Caravanseray (60m, 5.10c).

Two short pitches of a little over 20m were equipped and climbed by two Iranian women, Maryam Bahrami-Nejas and Parvin Jahanbakhish.

The first route on the Bisotun face was Abarmard, put up in March 1969 by Ebrahim Babai, Kiumars Babazadah, Gholamhossain Vahabzabeh and  Bijan Sadeghi. The following summer another was added by Austrian Hari Rost and Iranian Sadegh Karbasi.

As far as is known, the first British ascent of the wall took place in 1976, when Ernst Renner, and Middle East aficionados Mick Shaw and Tony Howard, climbed the Anglo-Swiss pillar (5+ with a little aid).

Their line follows a series of pillars right of a rightward slanting chimney system roughly in the middle of the face. They climbed the route over two days with a bivouac on a large terrace system at approximately half-height, finishing 100m to the right of the summit.

Today, there are fully bolted routes, routes with belays equipped and possibly one or two pegs in pitches, and then those that require placing ones own gear throughout.

Recent visitors have remarked that if Bisotun was in another, more accessible country, it would be a world famous climbing destination.

However, there is no guidebook, so foreign climbers will be largely reliant on locals, a good source of information being available at the "climbers' cafe" below the cliff.

Apart from lack of beer, politics and religion had no impact on the event, and the response from participants has been highly enthusiastic. There will probably be a third festival in October 2014.

Thanks to Gus Morton, Marko Prezelj and the event manager Ebrahim Nowtash for help with this report.


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6
1) Anonymous User
26/11/2012
Ever thought there might be a good REASON that sanctions exist?

I suppose you would have supported and reported upon climbing competitions in apartheid South Africa if they had existed then?

Were there any women competitors, or did the "morality police" have some say in the matter?

It's disgusting that you play along with such vile regimes.
2) Anonymous User
26/11/2012
Your a tool anon poster. The country is beautiful and the climbing rich, you can meet people from all over the world who don't care about the politics of a few idiots on either side.
The UK US and many other countries agree Iran is not building a bomb and do not have one we are the ones that fear them and it's reasonable to say our govts are just paranoid idiots as considering Iran is signed up to the NNPT and are not building any weapons should be enough to say say who cares about the idiots ruling our countries or theirs, I'm going climbing! Meet some like minded people enjoy what the country has to offer and stick the sanctions where the sun doesn't shine.
3) Anonymous User
26/11/2012
Nothing to do with nukes.

It's an ABUSIVE, REPRESSIVE regime.

And you sound exactly the same as the apartheid apologists of the 80s...

"nuffinkto do wiv us guv, we just doing sport innit"

Take a fucking stand!
4) Alex Messenger (staff comment)
26/11/2012
As the article says, "Two short pitches of a little over 20m were equipped and climbed by two Iranian women, Maryam Bahrami-Nejas and Parvin Jahanbakhish."

Iran has a history of climbing. There have been many international meets held there, including a women-only one back in the 90s, and a high-profile Iranian female climber was interviewed in the latest Climb magazine.

Now, carry on arguing if you want, but ease off on the swearing of we'll put some oppressive sanctions on you.
5) Anonymous User
26/11/2012
I was curious about the Iranian female-climber you spoke of, so i decided to find the article. Here is a little quote from it:

"Nasim’s choice to lead a climbing life in her own country is frequently questioned by the religious police, one of the key enforcement instruments of iran’s hardline theocratic regime. Facing the constant threat of arrest and interrogation for climbing unveiled or with male friends outside her immediate family, most would have simply given up. so What has driven Nasim eshqi’s choice to climb in a country where women’s participation in sport is restricted to the point of prohibition?"

Truly an egalitarian society.
6) Anonymous User
29/11/2012
The author did not say he believed the sanctions were unjust; quite to the contrary, his statement was, "Most Iranian climbers are middle class and well-educated, and despite a general feeling that current sanctions are unjust, appeared incredibly open and friendly to foreigners." Based off this statement, one can assume that he meant the people living under this "ABUSIVE, REPRESSIVE regime" were complaining about the sanctions, not the regime (WE, Iranians complain about our regime in OUR own time).
Now for this to get personal: from the perspective of someone who was born in Iran, raised in Iran for half of his life, and has made many trips back (and still has family there who are currently complaining mainly about THE SANCTIONS), I can tell you with complete certainty that the sanctions do more harm than good, even for the long-term good and security of the "world". If you want to take a country with probably the largest educated middle class of any in the Middle East, and destroy those people's livelihood, sanctions (resulting in a 75% loss of value in the country's currency) are the way to go.
If, on the other hand, you want the government of that country to change, from the inside, at the hands of this middle class, then THE ENTIRE WORLD should ignore the country and the government's pleas for attention, and let the protesters of the summer of 2009 figure things out, while they still have food to put in their stomachs.
You might have good intentions, but your kind are what is giving this government food for propaganda to feed to the lower class. So, please, sit down and shut up on topics you cannot even begin to fathom (even better, just go climb; leave the politics to the rest of the idiots). Thanks in advance.

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