The climbI took a guide, named Hussein (I can really recommend him, he has climbed Damavand more that 500 times and seems to know everything about the mountain and everybody passing by en route) via "Araz", a Teheran-based operator. Hussein picked me up at 4 am. in the morning from Khomenei Intl. Airport in Tehran. After stocking-up food for the next 5 days in Tehran, we set out for Damavand. With Hussein's adventureous (but average Iranian) driving style, which was in fact more dangerous than the entire climb, it took us about 3 hours to reach Reyneh, the village on the south side of the mountain. From the village a gravel road turns left and it is another 30 min. drive up to the base camp at Goosfand Sara (2.900 mts.). Goosfand Sara consists of a mosque, a concrete shelter without any glass in the windows (gets quite chilly at night) and some tents from local shepards. A USD 50 charge is levied there by the Iranian Mountaineering Association for climbing Damavand (most people are not aware of this). As the weather on the first day was quite foggy and cold, we didn't do much more than hanging around in the tent of a sheperd.
Next day we got up late (we were in no hurry since the main concern was to acclimatise slowly) and hiked up to the second camp called Barghah-e-Sevom at about 4,200 mts. Locals offer the possibility to bring up your gear there by mule charging about USD 10-20, depending on your bargaining skills. The hike took about 4 hours and the path is very obvious. There were some other people at the shelter and luckily Hussein and Araz had their own tents up there, making it not necessary to sleep the following two nights in the smelly concrete shelter. If you want to bring your own tent, it's surely a good idea and there are enough spaces to pitch it. Over the summer season there is also a friendly Kurdish guy up there, selling water bottles, cookies and chocolate bars. Apart from this there are no facilities. However, a new shelter 50 mts. up from Barghah-e-Sevom was in summer 2007 half finished (looked comparably luxorious). In the afternoon, I (as almost everybody up there) got a light headache from the altitude, but no problems apart from that.
- Whether you use a guide or not is up to you. Basically (especially if conditions are good) you can do it easily yourself as many people do, since the path is really clearly visible. However, I found it quite practicable since I did not have to worry about the transport from Tehran and about food and cooking. And since Hussein knew the mountain really well, you are also on the safer side under bad conditions. The price for the 5 days was 630 USD.
- Once you leave Goosfand Sara, nobody (incl. all the Iranians on the mountain) will worry about whether ladies adhere to the Iranian dress-code, but since it is ususally quite chilly on the mountain, you will probably cover your head anyway. The well-deserved beer after reaching the summit is of course not available.
- Neither at Goosfand Sara, nor at Barghah-e-Sevom there are any cooking facilities, so you might want to bring your own cooking gear. The guy in Barghah-e-Sevom only sells chocolate and water. There is a drinking water source at Barghah-e-Sevom, but this was dry when we arrived. Alternatively, there is enough snow around to melt. Food shops en route from Tehran to Reyneh seem to be limited to the average Middle-East 5-sqm.-shops selling everything from washing-powder to tin-cans, so it might be a good idea to stock-up on food before you leave Tehran.
- As far as I know, public transport via shared minivan from Tehran exists only as far as Polur and Reyneh. The hike up to the first base-camp from there might take about 2 to 3 hours. However, on weekends it should be easier to find somebody to give you a lift, as there were a lot of local families around the mosque when we descended to Goosfand Sara on friday.
- I did not find any detailled maps of Damavand and information on the climb in the travel-guidebooks is usually limited to a few lines. However, there is a scientific book in German on Damavand available which includes a detailled map (I did not purchase or see it, but its: Damavand, Der höchste Berg Irans, Karl Gratzl, Robert Kostka, ISBN-10: 3-7059-0135-4).