Iran’s Mountaineering and Climbing Destinations
The Alborz and Zagros mountain ranges combine to create an extensive and wrinkled landscape covering much of Iran. You’ll find sport-climbing, big walls, bouldering, trad and aid climbing, easy-access ski resorts, remote ski-touring, ice-climbing, mountaineering, and trekking, and even deep water soloing. You go on any kind of adventure you like in this country. Iran’s Mountain Climbing Destinations
In addition, the amazing food, friendly people, low prices, reliable winter snow and summer sun, and unique culture and ancient civilization, make this place so special.
So why haven’t we heard more about it?
Iran was a regular destination for international teams, traveling to experience its untouched culture whilst putting up gnarly Alpine routes on its high peaks until the 1970s. Since then it’s been under the false impression that Iran is a no-go area for Westerners. Meanwhile, Iran’s thriving climbing scene has continued unchanged, with its down-to-earth and friendly people too busy enjoying their climbing to market it abroad.
When you research you’ll find out there’s not much information on Iranian climbing in English not in Farsi either. For instance, no guidebook has been published about Band-e Yahkchal, Iran’s largest developed bouldering area.
International attitudes have changed during the last few years and more people are interested in traveling to Iran. Independent trips can be difficult to organize and it’s usually easy to go through one of the tour operators. They would help you sort out your visa and they have all the local knowledge that you may struggle with unless you speak Persian.
Whether you are into bouldering, skiing, or are most at home on a portaledge, Iran has so much to offer that it won’t all be fit into this short article. It’d be similar to trying to cover the whole of France and comparing Fontainebleau slabs to skiing the Vallee Blanche. Instead, I’ll give you some insight into where and why you should go on a journey to discover the great Persian outdoors.
Sport and Trad
The mountains are the primary incentive to the travelers, but there’s a huge amount of top-notch shorter (and harder) stuff developed. Sport, trad, and even aid routes often live in harmony on the same crag. You have many options for where to base yourself, and it may be best to move between several different areas so that you can also experience different types of rocks.
Tehran’s Pol-e-Khab is the best sports crag near Tehran, a couple of hours drive away from the city. It mostly has vertical routes from 20 to 120 meters high. There are over one hundred routes, mainly bolted, from fun 5’s to technical 8’s, and all climbable throughout the year.
Baraghan is closer to Tehran and is again climbable all year. The hard sandstone consists of routes in the 6’s and 7’s, with a few 8’s including the 8c+ “Khonasham” meaning “Vampire”.
Band-e Yakhchal is easily accessed on the outskirts of Tehran especially when the lift is running, cutting the approach to a 45-minute walk. Now popular for bouldering, it has been formerly a testing ground for the locals. Its huge gneiss boulders and 300-meter face have routes from easy F4 sports through to out-there A4+ aid climbs. The 5-pitch classic of “Reza Motori” on the 15-foot overhang goes at about E2/3 (or 5.10d R A3).
Kermanshah is located in the western part of Iran. As most of his fame is for the big wall of Bisotun, it has also several sports crags in the vicinity. The most prominent of these is Chalabeh, with up to 100 sports routes on truly amazing Gaudi-esque limestone. If you climb from the mid-6’s upwards then there are many to keep you busy. If the existing 9a+ doesn’t stop you there are plenty more that you can experience.
Mount Sofeh and Ghale Bozi
Isfahan – the Iranians say “Half the World”, and believe that if you’ve seen Isfahan, you’ve seen half the world. Right on the outskirts of the city is Mount Sofeh with easy and not-so-easy sports routes on honeycomb sandstone. Also, close by are the steep lines and the large caves of Ghale Bozi.
You could also head up north, and check out some of the big trad routes, or stop at the recently-developed futuristic roofs of Maku. Tappo Cave