Nov 2, 2009
Erik

Erik Climbs Mt. Ararat, The Mythical Resting Place of Noah’s Ark

Rising high into the thin dry air of eastern Turkey, Mt. Ararat stands at almost 17,000 feet. Some geologists believe Ararat to be the largest single-mass of mountain in the world, since it rises uninterrupted from the surrounding plains at 2,000 feet, while most other large peaks stand in mountain ranges with less differential.

Mt. Ararat straddles the politically embroiled borders of Turkey, Armenia and Iran, but this nexus of contemporary political strife only tells a fraction of the story which the mountain has seen over thousands of years. Ararat lies on the western edge of what many consider the “Hearth of Humanity.” From invading Mongol hordes to the missionary journey of the Apostle Paul, the mountain and surrounding range have long been a pivotal junction for culture, religion and the dramatic diaspora that characterizes the region. Most famously, according to the story of Genesis, Ararat is widely thought to be the final resting place of Noah’s Ark. For hundreds of years, treasure seekers and archaeologists have scoured its massive glaciated flanks in search of biblical secrets it may hold. In fact, just prior to Erik’s climb, a team of archaeologists camped near the top of Ararat were drilling core samples into the glacier in search of the Ark.

Erik and Eddi trekking with Ararat in the background
Eddi and Erik on the approach with Ararat looming in the background.

This fall, Erik teamed up with his brother Eddi and three Iranian climbers to scale the dormant volcano and take a step into its rich history. Behrouz Khabbaz Beheshti, the Iranian team organizer, is translating Erik’s memoir, Touch the Top of the World, into Farsi. He volunteers with an Iranian disability organization named, Bavar, meaning “believe” in English, and plans to sell the book in partnership with this organization. Along with Touch the Top of the World, he is also translating the award-winning documentary, Farther Than the Eye Can See, which will accompany the book. Erik’s royalties will benefit Bavar, which serves Behzour’s younger brother who was born with cerebral palsy.

Behrouz was accompanied by two other Iranian climbers: Hassan Moghimi, born without one hand but now a professional cyclist and accomplished climber, as well as Bahar Ganjavi, another experienced mountaineer.

For three days the climbing team worked their way up the increasingly steep slopes of Ararat and at 14,000 feet stepped onto a spectacular glaciated ice cap 17 square miles in size and up to 350 feet thick. Kicking steps in the steep slope was tiring, especially for those on the team who live at sea level, yet the summit rewarded the climbers with a windy but magnificent panorama of the vast desert surrounding the peak.

Erik, Hassan, and Behrouz on the summit

Erik on the summit of Mt. Ararat with Behrouz (front) and Hassan (back).

After the climb, the team took a drive to a place that some biblical historians believe is the Ark’s resting place. After going through a security checkpoint and into a protected zone near the border of Iran, they came upon a large rock formation in the high desert which resembles a large boat. The speculation is that this formation is the petrified Ark after the erosion of the surrounding weaker rock.

Petrified Ark Ruins

The large semicircular formation in the foreground is what many speculate to be the petrified remains of the Ark. Many researchers cite the fact that the formation is comprised of a silica based rock, which also forms petrified wood. Further, from bow to stern the formation measures 515 feet or 300 Egyptian cubits, the exact Biblical dimensions for the Ark.

Erik and Behrouz are now talking about a future climb of Mt. Damavand (18,600 feet), the tallest peak in Iran. They hope to make a ski descent of the mountain.

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