SUMMARY OF THE DAY
Starting Point: Lehra Saddle (3650 m, 12000 ft)
Climb Kaoon Peak (4075 m, 13369 ft)
Move base camp to the banks of Sesang River (3470 m, 11385 ft)
Climb Sesang #1 Peak (4135 m, 13566 ft)
Total hiking distance: 13 Km, 8.1 miles
WEDNESDAY JUNE 14, 2006
My guide Salim and I had been very tired last night and had slept at 8:00 p.m. (in our tent at the 3650 m, 12000 ft Lehra Saddle). I woke up around 1:00 a.m. and was then just tossing and turning in my sleeping bag. I could see the moon light through the tent.
It began to lighten up at around 4:30 a.m. Salim got up after 5 a.m. to do his prayers. I had earlier obtained his permission to film him while he prayed. At that moment, however, filming him felt very awkward. In the end, I did film him for a few seconds. For his morning prayers, he puts a white shawl which has a few blue stripes on it around his neck. He also uses three cubes that have Hebrew writings on them and have long leather straps. He attaches two of the cubes to his forearms and puts the third one over his forehead (just like a headlamp) and then reads his pocket size Torah whispering it to himself.
From inside the tent, we had good views of the four eastern-most Sesang Peaks (highest 4130 m, 13550 ft). We had breakfast and then packed the tent and all of our other supplies into our backpacks and left them there behind a rock. We were going to climb the Kaoon Peak (4075 m, 13369 ft) and then return to the same spot to move our camp elsewhere.
Kaoon rose directly above us to the northeast. It seemed like an easy hike over dirt slopes. At first I was mistaking the sub-peak (3956 m, 12979 ft) for the summit of Kaoon. A very long and narrow strip of snow went from where we were standing all the way to the summit of the sub-peak. Winter winds must have piled up the snow along the length of that strip. The height of the snow bank was a good 3 to 4 meters (10-13 ft).
Left at 7:40 a.m. and headed up the slopes of Kaoon. To the southeast, I could see the rocky and snowy northern slopes of the first Lehra Peak (3890 m, 12762 ft) which we climbed yesterday. As we went higher, I kept looking to the southeast to see if Mt Damavand (5671 m, 18606 ft) had come to view yet. It was funny how one moment I did not see it, and then two
To the south and the southwest, I could see the upper portions of the Sesang River Valley and the 4000 m peaks around it. The strips of snow around the valley, created a “zebra-like” pattern.
We reached the summit of Kaoon at 8:50 a.m. (1.77 Km from Lehra Saddle). The summit was a large dome-like area that was covered by crushed rock with a gray/teal color. A pile of rock erected by previous climbers marked the summit.
To the southeast, the sharp summit of Mt. Damavand pierced the sky. The base of the cone of Damavand is approximately 30 Km (19 miles) in diameter. Great size and height make Damavand superior to all other mountains around it.
To the south, the peaks of the “Dokhaharan Massif” rose across the Sesang River Valley. Most of the peaks were situated on the crest of a 14 Km (9 mile) long ridgeline that ran east-west and was mostly above 4000 m. The ridgeline created a long and impressive wall whose northern slopes were still covered by lots of snow. Unlike Kaoon, and its nearby summits which were nothing but piles of gravel, the peaks of the ridgeline were rocky and had a pink hue. The twin summit of Dokhaharan Peak (4338 m, 14232 ft) was the highest of those peaks.
In the distant west (40 Km, 25 miles away) some of the 4000 m peaks of the Kholeno Massif (highest point 4387 m, 14393 ft) could be seen. Last year we had gone to climb some of those peaks but the snow-bound needles in the area proved to be very difficult for me and we were forced to abandon our plans. I hope to climb those peaks in the future via a different route.
The lone summit of Azad Kooh (4390 m, 14403 ft) rose to the northwest (48 Km, 30 miles away). “Azad Kooh” means “Free Mountain” and is so called because it is a lone peak that rises far above its neighbors. Its prominence makes it appear as a mini version of Mt. Damavand and has earned it the nickname “Shazdeh” (prince/princess). We had climbed Azad Kooh last year. Much closer across the valley, the Shekar Leghas Peak (4278 m, 14035 ft) was in good view. Like Kaoon, Shekar Leghas was a big pile of teal colored gravel. We were hoping to climb it during the next few days.
When planning this trip months ago, I had considered heading west from the summit of Kaoon to climb its 3956 m sub-peak and two other nearby nameless peaks (3898 m & 3890 m). From the summit, I could see the two nameless peaks. They looked rocky and interesting but at that moment, spending the energy to climb nameless peaks that were lower than their neighbors seemed like a waste of effort.
We then left the summit of Kaoon and hiked quickly down its easy slopes back to near the Lehra Pass where we had left our backpacks. The plan was to move the camp lower down the slopes to the banks of the Sesang River. Our backpacks were extremely heavy. We had supplies for 11 days (After doing an 8 day trip there, we were hoping to do a 3 day trip in the Veravasht Peak area). We had to sit down to put the backpack on and then have our partner help us to get up.
Left at 10:00 a.m. and started to slowly go down the slopes. Damavand came to view in some places. We actually veered west and went over a saddle north of Point 3662 m until we reached another drainage that seemed to go down to the Sesang River. From up the drainage, we saw a fairly large flat grassy area at the junction of the Sesang River and a side stream that we felt was the perfect spot for our camp.
Continued down the drainage until we reached the Sesang River (3470 m, 11385 ft). The river was too deep for us to cross. We walked upstream a little until we reached the grassy area where the river split into smaller streams that were wide and shallow. Salim took his boots off and walked in the water barefoot. I thought I could get away with not doing that but much water went into my boots. That could have been a disaster but fortunately we were close to where we wanted to set our camp.
We actually moved away from the Sesang River a little and chose a spot for our camp on the banks of a smaller stream that drained the valley between the Chapakro and Sesang # 1 Peaks. I was very happy thinking that we had found a beautiful area to camp. It was odd how the grass only covered the flat area and ended very abruptly where the mountain slopes began. It almost looked like a man-made lawn: short grass, no weeds…
It was 11:00 a.m. (1.5 Km from Lehra Pass). I took my boots and socks off and walked barefoot over the grass. We set our tent and had lunch, then spread our mattresses over the grass and took a nap in that relaxing environment. The wind was cold but I put on my jacket and the sun warmed me up pretty nicely.
Got up after a 40 minute nap, there was still a lot of time left in the day so we decided to Climb Sesang #1 Peak. “Sesang” refers to a series of five peaks on the crest of a ridgeline that rose directly to the south of us. West to east, these include:
Sesang #1, 4135 m (13566 ft)
Sesang #2, 4130 m (13550 ft)
Sesang #3, 4050 m (13287 ft)
Sesang #4, 4089 m (13425 ft)
Sesang #5, 4050 m (13287 ft)
We had seen these peaks yesterday and earlier today (Click here for a view from the top of Kaoon Peak). It had appeared that some of the peaks were rocky and probably hard to approach but #1, which was the highest one of them, would present us with nothing more than steep snow slopes. From our camp, we could only see #1 & #2.
My boots had become dry enough to wear again. I put on a new pair of socks and hung the wet ones from the tent to dry.
Left our camp at 12:40 p.m. and followed the stream south toward Sesang #1. We soon reached a narrow rocky area. The stream kept disappearing under big snow banks and then appearing again.
Beyond the narrows, the area opened up and we began to go up in elevation slowly. The “lawn-like” grass was gone but the slopes were covered by either snow or scattered green grass with tiny yellow flowers and other thorny plants.