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  Singapore- Iran Expedition 2006 Climbing Damavand, Asia's Highest Volcano: Updates

DISPATCHES: 25 June 2006, Teheran: This is our last dispatch from Teheran. We're enjoying the ; dizi' or traditional meals like abgusht (beaten lamb stew), museums and dodging the deadly local traffic where obeying traffic lights is optional. The Iranians have been warm and hospitable, and none more than the shepherds who greeted us on our return from the climb on Friday, put us up for the night and shared their bread, cheese and lamb stew with us. As guests, this includes partaking in sheep's brains. Delightful...

"Ace Dude" Grant and " Two Legged Dead Donkey" Dave (as a representation of our relative speeds on the mountain) worked well as a team and there will be more details of our climbs on Rostam Nesh ( 4500m ) , Takthte Rostam ( 4330m ) and of course the mixed rock and snow ascent of Damavand on Thursday when we summitted at 1030am - the KLASSNO flag flew high on all occasions. Off belay, David+Grant

23 June 2006, 8pm (Iran time 1530hrs): Today we took a leisurely 4 hr hike around the smaller mountains as we descent down the mountain. The wind that started blowing yesterday is still going strong. We have moved down and are now at the foot of the mountain, wandering around where the grass still grows. This is a summer pasture for the nomadic herders in this region. Time has not moved much for the last 100 years in this land.

Right now we are hanging out with some shepherds. They are making tea for us. This is certainly not an English tea with scones but there is a certain rustic charm. Stripped of language barriers we feel comfortable with just the big smiles from the shepherds. To them we are just two travellers. They make strong tea with goats' milk for us. Sitting next to us are a few huge working dogs, gnawing at some rather large bones. Not too friendly, these dogs. I guessed that in the winter months, these dogs will work their keep. Someone's bringing cheese over. Tastes rather good. They just made the cheese, churning the goats milk in a portable thingy. This cheese does taste good!! Brup!!

We will spend the night here at the Shepherd's hut. Both of us are well, aches aside. Made satcom calls to the wife and Grant to his girlfren. Will take a car ride into Tehran tomorow. We have 1 1/2 days sightseeing in the city. Flying back on Mon, arriving Tues am

22 June 2006: Started the summit attempt at 0230hrs. We climbed up via the northeast ridge. Summitted Damavand at 5671m, after a long hard climb at about 9-10am (Iran time). A long 7 hours of physical and mental struggle. This was a very challenging climb. We did a two stage climb. Carrying loads to a mid-camp about 1400m above basecamp. And from there we made our summit attempt, the summit is another 1400 vertical meters from this camp, but with lighter loads. It was still tough but at least, at this midpoint, we have our backups in case the weather turned nasty while we are on the big hill.

We had to do a lot of climbing over rock faces and uneven terrain. There was quite a bit of rock climbing as we move upwards on the mountain. And when we got over the rockfaces, we get soft snow where we had to plough through upwards at about a 45 degree slope. It was tough ploughing through the soft snow. We had to keep lifting our legs high with every step we take. At high altitudes, it is already tiring just to keep moving upwards. And there is the added uncertainty of not knowing what lies underneath. It could be a sharp rock or a wobbly stone that can make us fall. Falling on a 45 degree slope will mean a long slide down if we cannot stop in time. We were roped up. Practicing the necessary 'safety procedures on mountains' here.

We were lucky. As we descent, the winds picked up. The mountain wants us off her. By the time we reached basecamp, we can see strong hurricane-like winds on the mountain. Plumes of snow began to fly off the mountain, beautiful sight from afar. But not when you are in it. It was as if the dragon on Damavand awakes and roars at the two of us who stole a climb up her back.

We are now resting at base camp and doing the usual, boiling teas and chewing food. Right now I feel like I have been kicked by a mule or some large animal. Muscles are completely exhausted. It was especially challenging because the rough terrain requires a lot more out of me. Good thing my weak leg held up. Grant is in a better shape. He is a strong climber with great humour. Dave

19 June 2006, 11.30pm (Singapore time): We have reached Damavand base camp now. A driver picked us up from Roodbarak Village. On the way to base camp, we pass the Caspian Sea and had fried trout for lunch. It was good fresh food. I wonder how the trout would taste if we had it steamed with mushrooms, rice wine, and tofu. The Damavand base camp is at 3000m. Tomorrow, we will trek up to our next camp higher up. This will bring us up to about 4300m with all our gear. I expect it to be a long day, plodding up the mountain with gear on our backs. We will be on the look out for any 3 headed dragons. And dragons aside, Grant is looking good. Both of us are acclimatising well and the earlier climbs have been good. We hope to attempt for the summit on Wed if the weather holds. Dave

18 June 2006: We summitted Rostam Nisht 4500m and another peak called Takhte Rostam, which is also known as Throne of Rostam 4350m. Even though these two peaks are near each other, it was still an exciting climb, submitting Rostam Nisht and then making our way over to Takhte Rostam. At parts we had to walk on the edge with the real prospect of falling down the side of the mountain. We also had the pleasure of working on some 45 degrees slopes with a bit of scrambling on both peaks. Grant being the stronger climber is a very helpful partner to have. We will be walking back to Roodbarak Village which is 5 hours walk away tomorow with all our gear. From there, we will be taking a car to Damavand basecamp. Tuesday will be recce day and summit attempt for Damavand will be on Wednesday. Running low on food, will top up supply on the way to Damavand. Just local provisions and nothing we can get at home. Dave

17 June 2006: Today is an active rest day. We spent the day cleaning up rubbish around our camp site, not just our own filth but also those left behind by the previous climbers. Seems that this is always a problem on every mountain, climbers leaving rubbish behind! Everything is fine, both of us are in good health, weather continues to be good. Very little wind (except in the tent!). Tomorrow, we will attempt peak called Rostam which is 4500m.
Running low on bak kwa. Sigh. Dave

16 June 2006, 6pm: We made a 9 hrs attempt to climb a summit but was unsuccessful. We had our ass kicked off this mountain. The snow was too soft and it was not safe to go on after about 6 hours of struggling up the hill. We both ended up really dehydrated. For now, it's boiling water, teas and a bit of food. The thing about climbing on our own is that there was no one else to blame. We are reduced to starring at our own weaknesses and confronting them as they are... enough existentialism... Plan is to rest tomorrow and attempt to summit one of the >4000m high peak on Sunday. Will continue for Damavand on Monday. We are in good health and acclimitizing well. Good climbing weather today. Just having a light snack now. Dinner will be tuna and mash potatoes. Dave

15 June 2006 : Going to sleep soon. Tomorrow, we will attempt a 4000 plus meter peak. We can resist anything but temptation. We had the usual noodles for dinner. Topped it up with a Seng Choon's tea egg and a few mugs of Klassno's coffee. The egg tastes great but gave us a bit of gas.... hrumph.... The weather is good. Quiet. Not too much wind outside the tent, but inside, its a different story :). We hope that the weather will stay this way tomorrow. Dave

Report made on 15 June 2006, satcoms connections were pretty bad and it took me over 5 hours to send this batch of reports. Dave:
12 June 2006 : Arrival in Tehran. Grant and I spoke to some locals, checked out local weather conditions. Not much info collected here. We had some discussions on the possible routes up the mountains. But mostly, we just had tea and enjoyed the sights. We checked our gear and food. Spent the a night at a hotel. Hotel is on the same row as the American Embassy!!

13 June 2006 : It was a 6 hours drive to Roodbarak village (1550m), and then after a short pee stop, we moved off to Vandarbon at 2300m. This is in the Takht-e-Solayman region. We are now in mountain country. Nothing but rock, crickets and the mountains. And the occassional sheep... Slept at the Mountaineering Federation's base shelter.

14 June 2006  : We struggled up to Sarchal hut (3800m), we went up 1400 vertical meters, and this took 9 hrs. It was 'siong' (tough) because Grant and I both had about a 25kg pack on our backs. Grant was good, he helped me out towards the last leg to the hut. Most encouraging were his jokes. Was a bit dehydrated. Felt better after loads of tea and some bak kwa. We spent the night at hut shelter.

15 June 2006: Today was a rest and acclimatize day. Basically, this is mountain talk for sit around and relax a bit before the next stage. We might establish a camp higher up over the next few days. Weather is good, we are fine. We might attempt summiting a peak above 4000m tomorrow if the weather stays good.
For now, Dave.

9 June 2006: It's all systems go as we have just received our Iranian visas, and have sorted out the team gear. The expedition story was covered extensively in the Singapore media with features in the Straits Times newspaper June 8th, the freesheets and also on radio nad Channel NewsAsia. By my experience, its peoples are incredibly warm and hospitable. We shared base camp with their Iran Everest Expedition in 1998 when we were also on our first Singapore expedition to the Big Hill. Our summit success, owes, in part, to the help we received from the Iranians. Hope to meet old friends soon. Stay tuned.

The Team:

David Lim, team leader: Singapore’s most prolific mountaineer, with over 50 alpine ascents and expeditions including leading the 1st Singapore Everest Expedition in 1998, and the second (from the north ridge, 2001) Singapore Everest expedition. Partially disabled from Guillain Barre Syndrome since 1998, he continues to inspire thousands through his seminars and presentations. Made the first all-Singapore ascent of Aconcagua, the highest peak in North and South America in Feb 2000, soloed Ojos del Salado ( 6893m ) in 2005, and many South East Asian mountaineering ' firsts'.

Grant Rawlinson, climber
A Singapore Permanent Resident, Grant has climbed around the world, with ascents in theNZ and European Alps, Mount Elbrus, and a summit of Aconcagua via the more difficult Polish Glacier Direct route. A manager at a technical services company, Grant is a New Zealander .

Background: Overview: Mt Damavand ( 5671-metres ) lies only 100km from Tehran and is 75 km south of the Caspian sea. Damavand is Asia¹s highest volcano and has been dormant since recorded history. Fumaroles, and hot springs nearby testify to its present state.  In the summer of 2006, prolific veteran mountaineer David Lim and Singapore resident Grant Rawlinson , will execute a two-step expedition to climb Damavand by its northeast ridge.

While a few Singapore individuals have climbed Damavand, no team has attempted it from the north and without the reliance of mountain guides. Prior to the damavand climb, the team will make ascents of 4000m peaks in the Alam Kooh , Central Alborz range. The expedition¹s philosophy is do more with less. And, in an international  climate of fear and  distrust regarding Iran, the point is that people are still people ­ " why cant we all just get along??". The team hopes to revisit old friends and forge new freindships.

For Expedition organiser David Lim, this will be one more expedition amongst the 50 ­odd climbs and expeditions he has executed and/or led. David is best know for leading the first two Singapore Everest Expeditions in 1998 and 2001. Partially disabled in both legs in 1998, his 17 expeditions since then have largely focused on lightweight, alpine style ascents. In 2002 , he narrowly missed the summit of Cho Oyu , climbing without oxygen , and in 2005, he succeeded in a  solo of Ojos del Salado ( 6893m ) in Argentina, as well as three virgin summtis in the Tien Shan mountains in July that year. New Zealander Grant Rawlinson has climbed Aconcagua ( 6962m ) by the Polish Glacier Direct route, Mt Elbrus ( 2003 )  and several other alpine routes in New Zealand and Europe.

Dave Lim, Everest Climber, author and motivational speaker. To book David e-mail


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