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the only way is up, and down

As beautiful as the Iranian cities are, sometimes you need a good taste of wilderness. I asked around a bit and the Shirkooh mountain appeared as a beautiful opportunity. Not to far, not to high (4.100 meters), just perfect.

After attempting to ride a bus there (failed) I took a taxi. Immediately I noticed the perfect mood of the driver, if he could have, he would have danced in his little car. He did manage to sing with both hands off the wheel in full (Iranian!) traffic. We rode with open windows, but when they were closed (when trucks passed) I noticed a strong gas smell. This was confirmed when we went to a fuel station and I was asked to leave the car, while he tanked gas, due to the increased expolosion risk. Afterwards, we had to keep all windows open. Fortunately, he was so sure of his car, that he kept chainsmoking. Anyway, we arrived safely at the track after almost crashing 20 times during a 30 minute ride.

When I arrived at the start of the track it was already 12.00, which left me little time as the (always optimistic) estimates by the locals was 4 hrs to the hut where I would spend the night (at 17.00 it gets dark). The trip took longer than expected, mainly due to the very nice Iranians that kept offering me food for my overnight stay. The last people were about to depart when I arrived at the hut. They looked very surprised upon my total lack of gear. I told them that my "North Face" sleeping bag (cheap Chinese imitation bought in Nepal) was certified until -15 degrees Celsius. They wished me a lot of luck and left for the valley.

What followed was one of my coldest nights ever. I didn't sleep for more than 30 mins straight. Main causes for waking up were either the piercing cold or a feeling that resembled concussion in the ribs (caused by sleeping on my side on an ice cold floor). I promised myself not to look at the clock of my phone (for not getting desperate), but I could follow the passing of time through the light of the moon falling through the windows. When I had just fallen asleep, I was awoken by somebody trying to open the door which I had closed from the inside. I went to have a look, and it was an older man that apparently just arrived at the hut. I looked at the clock and it was 05.00. I saw that in about an hour the sun would come out, so I packed my stuff and left for the summit. That was also much tougher than expected. I had difficulties breathing due to the altitude combined with the lack of sleep and exhaustion (had I mentioned that I only had eaten biscuits for dinner and breakfast?).

Anyway, I arrived exhausted at the summit and enjoyed a beautiful (but chilly) 360 degrees view from the highest mountain in the region. This reminded me why had undertaken this (now) mad trip. When I arrived back at the hut, the unexpected guests (they appeared to be 2) of the morning had woken up as well. They invited me for a (very welcome) tea and to do the rest of the descent together. I barely made it down to the value with hurting knees, ankles and nails.

They kindly invited me to their house where I was presented a (delicious!) sheep stomach soup, a local specialty and met the rest of the family. For the foreseeable future, I will ensure that I'm better prepared. Tomorrow I will go on a tour around Yazd and take a bus to the very famous Esfahan. In the mean time I will catch some well deserved sleep.

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