Uzundere Ice Climbing

SUMMARY

Back when we were just planning our trip to Turkey and researching what it would be like, we were told by a few sources that Northeastern Turkey is very similar to Colorado: cold winters, hot summers, dry air, and high elevation. Well, that’s all true (this winter is unusually warm but we’ve had our cold days here for sure). Now what we wondered was, will Northeastern Turkey have great potential for skiing, rock climbing, and ice climbing like Colorado does?

Saturday night we ended up getting in contact with Tunҫ, and he informed us that they would be in Uzunkavak Sunday morning and hiking for about an hour from the village. So Sunday morning came, and we hurried back out to Uzunkavak, not knowing where we were exactly, or if we would ever actually find them. Eventually we rounded a corner and were suddenly in the midst of at least 20 people just getting ready to head out and climb! We found Tunҫ, and he told us today probably wasn’t a great day since everybody was just so eager to get out and climb, so we might not get to do any climbing. But we were ok with that, just being around these people and being outside watching ice climbing was enough for us! We packed up all the gear we had, and headed out to the backcountry.

Eventually we reached a beautiful area hosting 3 frozen waterfalls. It was amazing!! The climbers got started quickly, leading a 40m pitch of WI3+ (meaning it had some near-vertical sections but for the most part isn’t too challenging) named Lucifer. This waterfall had just seen its first ascent a few days ago. Meanwhile, a team of 3 climbers was slowly making its way up the 85m fall just to the left, which we later discovered was the first ascent of this climb. This waterfall, named Sarıgelin (which means “Bright Yellow”) is two pitches of WI4/5. On the far left side there was a short 15m easy-looking waterfall that nobody actually started climbing until halfway through the day. We kept looking at it hoping somebody would lead it and set up an anchor so we could try it out…

It felt good to be amongst so many outdoorsy people in a place that we were starting to believe didn’t have any! We met a couple from the first Turkish team to summit Everest, got to take part in a TV interview that I believe was talking about foreigners coming to Erzurum for adventure sports (if you’ve been watching channel AA in the last month you may have seen us!), and got to talk with a few very cool people who share the same passion as we do!

Eventually somebody decided to lead the short 15m pitch, Canadian Bacon (aka Little Mouse). We excitedly got in line to try it out; we were fortunate enough to get to use somebody’s brand new Black Diamond Cobra ice tools, they were great! Colleen had ice climbed once before but this was my first time. To be honest I’ve always been a little skeptical about how great ice climbing really is, but Colleen loves it so I figured I’d trust her and take the first opportunity I got to try it out. Let me tell you, ice climbing is SO much fun!!! Sure it’s just swinging ice axes and walking up with crampons, but it’s so much more than that. I think the feeling of being able to climb up a big slippery ice wall just gives that feeling of invincibility. It’s sort of like the feeling you get in rock climbing when you realize you’ve just gotten up a vertical or overhanging wall of rock using only your own muscles.

Anyhow, for both of us this was a great weekend spent making new connections and filling the void in us for ice. Most of the people we met live far away in Istanbul unfortunately, but a number of them are outdoor guides so we’re excited to see how Epik Encounter will be able to work with them to open new opportunities for those seeking new places for the more technical outdoor sports. Apparently this was just the tip of the iceberg; there are up to 45 more waterfalls scattered around northeastern Turkey just waiting for pioneers to come and reveal their beauty and climbing potential! Needless to say, we’re really looking forward to seeing adventure sports grow in beautiful northeastern Turkey!