It is also the most famous, with legends even putting the final location of Noah’s Ark at the top of the mountain. Yet, the climbing options have been limited in the past decades to Ağrı, located in the eponymous eastern province, largely due to the presence of the terrorist group PKK. In the past two years, counterterrorism operations made the place safer and more areas of the mountain is now open for climbers.
Ersan Başar, head of the Turkish Mountaineering Federation, said thousands of climbers visit Ağrı every year, in all seasons.
Apart from its snow-capped peak, Ağrı draws tourists to its outskirts, from European countries as well as the province’s neighbor Iran, admiring the view or skiing in areas at lower altitude.
Climbers, accompanied by local guides, set out from Doğubayazıt district for the climb to the peak, that takes three days.
Başar says Mount Ağrı has been a point of attraction in the past for climbers but it also has religious connotations, which attracted visitors, referring to Noah’s Ark.
“It is the primary destination of all climbers but unfortunately, terrorism forced its closure (to climbers) for a long time. Security operations in the past two years helped it opening for tourism and now we are seeing thousands of people climbing Ağrı,” Başar told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Sunday. Başar noted that the mountain is easy to access and listed the proximity of three airports, Ağrı, Iğdır and Van, as the main transportation hubs. “As for climbing, it is not very difficult for professional climbers, except for the usual challenges they face in high altitude,” he said.
Başar noted that a high number of Iranian climbers were visiting the mountain, “Mountaineering is very popular in Iran and we receive more visitors from there,” he said. High interest, on the other hand, has a downside, Başar said. “We need to focus on sustainable mountaineering now and protect the mountain. It is vital to manage the pollution, to keep the mountain clean,” he said.
On Sunday, some 100 climbers from Türkiye and eight countries were scheduled to start a climb to the peak for an event to mark Türkiye’s Victory Week, which is marked in the last week of August.
A dormant volcano, the mountain has fascinated climbers for centuries, with first climbing efforts for the peak dating back to the Middle Ages. The first recorded ascent was in 1829. In the early 2000s, it was closed for climbers without permission, due to the high risk of terrorism. The terrorist group PKK, which carried out terrorist attacks in the southeastern and eastern Türkiye for decades, also used the mountain as a hideout. Operations in recent years largely wiped out the PKK presence in the region.