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 KACKAR MOUNTAINS RIZE TURKEY

NATURE SPORTS IN KACKAR MOUNTAINS, TURKEY

 

Climbing the Kaçkar: Although hardcore mountaineers will no doubt prefer to test their gravity-defying skills on the Matterhorn or Everest, Turkey offers a surprising number of moderately difficult peaks for mid-level mountaineers. The favorite of climbers in Turkey is naturally Mt.Ararat of biblical fame, which, at 5165 meters, stands a thousand meters higher than the highest peak in the Alps. The mistshrouded peak of the Kaçkar, rising to 3937 meters within 50 kilometers from the coast, has recently become the second most popular mountaineering destination in the country. It is rated a l+ on the alpine scale, which means that even beginners can tackle it provided they are in reasonably good shape. The climb can be effected within as short a time as four days, or, with wanderings in the surrounding ranges, can be stretched into an unforgettable fortnight. Treks and climbs are mounted from both the northern (ie. Black Sea) and southern faces of the mountain, with Trabzon and Erzurum as the respective transportation centers and Çamhhemşin and Yusufeli as the starting points of expeditions.

Local agencies which organize Kaçkar expeditions from
Istanbul include Trek Travel (phone 1-155 47 72; telex 25205 trek tr), Kosmos Travel (phone 1 141 52 53; telex 22108 ktt tr), and Natolia Tours (phone 1-155 24 66; telex 25752). It is also possible to obtain mountain guides on the spot, provided one has enough time and patience to wait through the arrangements for the trip. Savaş Güney in Çamlıhemşin and Ibrahim Meydan in Yusufeli are useful people to contact.
The scenically more spectacular approach to the mountain is from the Black Sea side where the primeval jungle gradu¬ally gives way to slopes covered by majestic pines and a riot of wild flowers cut across by a myriad springs and waterfalls. Unfortunately, the cause of this fecundity is also the curse of the Black Sea naturewalker: the weather is altogether unpredict able, with frequent rain and, even more dis¬tressingly, fog. The lower slopes above Çamlıhemşin are almost permanently cloudy and it is often difficult to obtain reliable information about weather conditions in the higher altitudes. It is not unusual to spend a couple of days in
Ayder or the Kavruns at the start of the trek waiting for the weather to clear, so make sure you have wet-weather clothing and a good book at the ready.
The assembly point for the climb is either Çamlıhemşin or the village of Ayder, 17 kilometers up on an outrageous but drivable road. Provisions are available at both places. Ayder, a popular local resort
on account of its thermal baths, has a dozen simple hotels. One of them is called the Hilton; several are converted from traditional wooden village houses and form a splendid opportunity to get into the spirit of the mountain life.
It is usually possible to drive as far as the summer-pasture settlements of Lower and Upper Kavrun, the latter at nearly 2000 meters and the end of the line for motor traffic of any sort. Throughout 1989, however, this road was blocked by a land¬lide so the trek effectively began at Ayder. From either launching point, climbers spend the first day trekking up to the 2750 meter base camp at Öküz Çayırı ("Oxfield"), a beautiful glacier lake high above the tree line, dominated by the Kaçkar massif. It is possible to extend the trek by one day with a detour from Lower Kavrun to the yayla settlement of Samistal which offers a most memorable panorama of the snow-capped Kaçkar peaks.
From the base camp one can either continue on a cross-mountain trek via the Ceymakcur Pass at 3200 meters to the south side, or tackle the peak directly. Novices are advised to cross over to the south. making the strenuous one-day trek to the southern base camp, and climb the peak from this side. Experienced climbers can test themselves on the more difficult northern approach which involves crossing over a mile-long glacier. Rope. crampons and iceaxes are mandatory equipment for this path. The view from the summit stretches from the Black Sea and Soviet Georgia to the imposing ranges of Eastern Turkey.
The southern face of the peak is the easier climb and can be effected without equipment by anyone in good physical shape. The southern base camp is situated at the foot of an imposing wall of rock. With the popularity of Kaçkar climbs, one should not hr suprised to encounter here enough campers to build a represantative cross-section of the European Community. An alternative camping site is the Sevcov (or Deniz Gölü) glacier lake-an exquisitely clear and cold body of water at 2300 meters.
Meretet Mahallesi, the highest settlement on the south side, is a six-hour walk down from Sevcov. With some luck, motor transport can be obtained at Meretet; other¬wise one must walk down further to the larger village of Hevek (Yaylalar), where most of the older inhabitants are Greek¬speakers. To find any sort of organized accomodation requires 26 kilometers of bone-rattling drive down to Barhal (Altiparmak) where the Karahan brothers of Artvin have turned an ancient village house into a lovely guesthouse with a splendid rooftop dormitory and plenty of beer and fresh trout on offer. Yusufeli, a further two-hour drive, now offers at least eight simple hotels.
It is possible to cross from Ayder to Barhal in two and a half days, with an extra day and a hall added for those who climb the Kaçkar peak. Those who find this too short an escape from civilization have several options to extend their stay in the mountains. With an extra day of solid hiking, one can continue from the south camp of the Kaçkar to Lake Peşevit and Thence to the Davah ("Contested") Yayla-the name refers to a court case between two villages claiming the pastures, which has dragged on incredibly since Ottoman times. A three-hour walk from Davah brings one to Hodiçur, a village of the Ispir district with an impressive Armenian church of grey granite. Alternatively, one can go on from Peşevit to Büyük Deniz Lake, then cross the mountain at 3300 meters back into the main (west) valley of the Fırtına River at Elevit.
Those who are still not satisfied can move on from here into the spectacular lake-studded gorges of the Tatos and Verçenik massifs, returning to the civilized
world at the high yaylas of Ikizdere. Hunting: Hunting is practiced with a passion by locals throughout the Black Sea mountains, and outsiders are beginning to join in. The Artvin area alone yields several hundred brown bears, about a hundred mountain goats and wolves, some jackals and a practically unlimited number of wild boars and foxes each year. Stricter gun laws after 1980 have created an explosive increase in the wildlife population all across Turkey. Foreign nationals are in principle permitted to hunt upon paying taxes and fees; in 1989 a hunting license cost about $50 and between $1000 and 2000 was charged per each kill. The hunting season lasts from August 1st through March, and Yusufeli is the main center for organized hunts in the region. Contact Turhunt in Artvin (phone 0581-2270, telex 83393 hunt tr) for information.
The Wild Waters: The craze to shoot uncharted rapids and waterfalls in rubber rafts and canoes has reached Turkey, where there is a plethora of white water streams that await the discovery of sportsmen/ women. The best of them are found either in the Taurus Mountains in the south or flowing from the rain-soaked Black Sea Mountains in the north. The latter are characterized by extremely steep courses and generally high flow levels which offer enough excitement for whitewater enthusiasts of the most daredevil sort.
The Çoruh River was discovered by canoeists in the early 80s and now it has a long list of devotees around the world who count it among the three top canoe courses of the world beside the Zambezi and Biobio. The stretch between Ispir and Yusufeli is considered the most challenging section, with an extremely fast flow through a mag¬nificent scenery of tall rocky gorges. The Yusufeli-Artvin section is easier and may appeal to less advanced canoeists. There has even been some talk recently of permitting cross-border canoeing further down¬river between Artvin and Batumi. An increasing influx of river-sport enthusiasts in recent years has prompted some people in Artvin and Erzurum to organize services and equipment. The Karahan Hotel in Artvin should be able to help.

The streams of the Pontic Alps offer superb and utterly wild courses that are bet¬ter suited to rubber rafting than canoeing. A team of sportsmen headed by Helmut "Nupf" Schweiger has recently published the technical descriptions of almost all Black Sea streams for the benefit of white water rafters in various German magazines. Their reviews are uniformly raving, but their top rating for long drawn-out rafting thrill goes to the Fırtına ("Hurricane") River of Çamlıhemşin The recommended
entry point on this is the road bridge some 3 km above Zilkale Castle (17 km above Çamlıhemşin where a 500 m stretch of whitewater demands "precision," in Schweiger's charming understatement. Higher access is discouraged by a boiling gorge which may be "thinkable" at low water, but "suicidal" in the spring.
Another favorite is the Aksu ("Whitewater") which joins the sea at Giresun. Starting at about 18 km above Dereli, it offers an average drop of 20%, and in sev¬eral "extremely sporty" stretches gets as steep as 48%. A 2 km gorge infested by whirlpools and followed by two high cataracts in succession may test the mettle of
the most determined rafter. The Kara Dere offers another spectacular course starting somewhat below the village of Yağmurdere and coursing down to the sea at Araklı The Solaklı may be attempted from 10 km above Çaykara The Büyük Dere, navigable from about 16 km above the estuary at Çayeli requires advanced "technical" skill, particularly if one wishes to negotiate one "tricky" 4 m waterfall.
On the southern face of the Kaçkars whitewater madmen have enjoyed the Barhal Stream and especially the Kiipriidere which joins it somewhat above Yusufeli.
 

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