The aim of this Iran expedition is to complete a traverse of the Lar National Park, making a summit attempt of Mount Damavand (5610m).
In preparation, the team will also be making summit attempts on several neighbouring peaks over 4000m. Not only do these peaks serve as an adventurous addition but also provide excellent opportunity for vital acclimatisation, increasing the team’s chances of summit success.
- Experience the raw, natural beauty of Iran.
- Climb Asia’s highest volcano.
- Aim to summit Azad Kuh (4355m) and Kholeno (4375m).
- Trek through the Lar National Park from west to east.
- Relax in Tehran with the opportunity to explore this ancient city.
Dominating the Alborz range and the Lar National Park within which it stands, at 5610m Mount Damavand is Asia’s highest volcano. Its 4,667m minimum climb elevation to its summit also cements its status as the world’s twelfth most prominent peak and second most prominent in Asia, subsequent only to Everest.
Positioned between Iran’s capital Tehran and the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, Damavand has a special place in Persian mythology and folklore, influencing Iranian culture for generations, from its representation in mythology as the home of the dragon Aži Dahāka to appearing on local currency. Characterised by its conical appearance and year-round snow capped summit, its flanks are dotted with sulphur fumaroles and hot springs.
A Twist on a classic
As a member of the world’s Volcanic Seven Summits mountaineering challenge, despite its challenges, Damavand is a popular peak. As part of Secret Compass’s ‘Classic expeditions with a twist’, our unique itinerary will traverse the Lar National Park, approaching the volcano from a western course. Used by far fewer groups than the well trodden southern route and distinguished by spectacular sunsets, this approach makes for a more serene experience on Mount Damavand. Team mates are not only rewarded with a fresh approach on an adventure classic, exploring more than just Damavand itself, but this route will allow for far greater acclimatisation, therefore maximising the team’s chances of reaching the summit.
Lar National Park
About 70km northeast of Tehran, the Lar National Park is home to shepherds, nomads and – rumour has it – the elusive Persian leopard. It also contains most of the middle Alborz mountain range. On a clear day, the views are far-ranging, out towards the Caspian sea in the north and to Tehran to the south, just a short car journey away. The panoramic views from the heights of the Lar are punctuated by the soaring peaks of the Alborz mountains.
A sprawling metropolis set against the same formidable backdrop of the Alborz; Tehran is full of surprises. The maze of traditional bazaars wind off smog-filled streets, where the ancient mosques, palaces and monuments of the Persian Empire break up the multiplying concrete blocks. With a full contingency day, team mates are likely to enjoy at least half, if not a whole day of sightseeing in the city; plenty of time to take in the symmetry of the Borj-e Azadi Tower and the decadence of the Golestan Palace. But arguably, the emerging modern face of Iran’s capital is all the more intriguing. Cosmopolitan coffee shops, street food vans and modern art galleries are bustling with stylish shoppers clutching mobile phones. Perfect for people-watching, while you (hopefully!) soak up the satisfaction of summit success.
Secret Compass runs expeditions with framework itineraries, rather than guided tours with set daily plans. Read more about Our Approach here. The following is the outline plan for this classic expedition – the ‘substance’ rather than the specifics. A fuller itinerary is provided in the Damavand Expedition Handbook which is available on request or upon application to join the team.
Many flights arrive in the early hours of the morning so airport transfers and accommodation on arrival are each teammate’s responsibility. The expedition will officially start at the team hotel in Tehran at 1200 for an expedition briefing before the team heads out to the markets and bazaars to purchase expedition supplies together. Teammates will be advised of the hotel name in due course.
As a team with your Secret Compass leader and local support, you’ll then set off for a 170km drive to the start point of the trek. From this point onwards you’ll be self-sufficient, carrying all of the food and equipment needed for the next seven days of adventure and altitude. Initially you’ll trek to Azad Kuh peak before turning east over the ‘big’ and ‘little’ Kholeno peaks. Next you’ll trek through the Lar valley to the Simorgh Hut on Damavand’s west side. On summit day itself there’ll be an early start to give you the best shot of success.
Congratulations – weather and progress permitting you’ve now summited Asia’s highest volcano and one of the adventure world’s Volcanic Seven Summits. You’ll then descend via the main southern route to return to Tehran for showers and celebrations. There is a full contingency day built into your itinerary to either be used during the trek or, if progress ad conditions are favourable, for sightseeing and relaxing on the team’s return to Tehran before the final celebratory meal on the penultimate evening. The expedition officially ends after breakfast on the final day, with teammates welcome to extend their trip (visas and permissions allowing) or to book flights out at any time from the early hours (missing breakfast) onwards. Airport transfers are each teammate’s responsibility.
Secret Compass expeditions are achievable by anyone with a healthy lifestyle and a good level of general fitness. Team members should be willing to be part of a team working together to achieve the goal of the expedition. The biggest challenge on this classic expedition to Mount Damavand is likely to be coping with the many days trekking at altitude with large height gain/loss on particular days.
Teammates who arrive without meeting the agreed minimum fitness requirements can jeopardise themselves and the expedition’s goal so do take training seriously, prepare as appropriate and arrive fit and ready to go. Applicants will receive a Handbook with further expedition information. Teammates must be comfortable with the following.
Minimum fitness requirements
- Trek: 100km over eight days. Longest days being over 20km.
- Daily activity: up to 12 hours.
- Carry: up to 20kg (your own kit plus a share of group kit).
- Terrain: varied including snow pack, loose rock, mountain meadows and river crossings.
- Altitude: up to 5610m.
- Climate: temps from +25C to -15C on the summit.
- Age: 21+
- Specialist Secret Compass leader with medical and communications kits.
- Tented accommodation throughout the trekking phase.
- Twin-share accommodation in a comfortable hotel in Tehran.
- All food (snacks and meals) and soft drinks.
- Internal transport as outlined in itinerary.
- Any in-country permits and permissions required.
- Specialist equipment (tents, helmets, stoves).
- International flights/ travel to and from Tehran.
- Transfer from airport to meet-point hotel.
- Travel insurance (obligatory).
- Iranian visa if required.
- Tips to local guides (discretionary).
- Personal equipment (full kit list in the Handbook).
On application, potential teammates will receive a detailed Expedition Handbook. Here are some expedition-specific questions and our general FAQ will answer many other questions. Get in touch if your question remains unanswered.
I’m a vegetarian. Can I join?
Teammates with dietary requirements are welcome to apply for this expedition and should state their specific requirements when applying. If you are on a restricted diet Secret Compass may suggest you bring items with you to supplement your meals.
Can I bring my own tent?
If you have a lightweight, technical tent you’d like to bring on this expedition, let Secret Compass know in advance so we can advise on its suitability.
Can I bring my own helmet?
Teammates are welcome to bring their own helmet, please make sure it is a climbing helmet and well-fitting and let Secret Compass know so we don’t bring one out for you.
Can I charge all my electricals?
Once the team leave Tehran there will no access to mains power. Please ensure that you are self-sufficient in terms of charging your appliances by bringing things like spare batteries, lightweight solar panels or power packs to avoid frustration.
Will there be telephone signal?
There will be mobile signal in Tehran and the villages at the start and end of the trek however you should plan on having no signal throughout the entire trekking phase.
Is it hard to get an Iranian visa?
Secret Compass will provide booked teammates with a detailed document outlining the visa application process in a timely manner. Secret Compass will submit applications for a visa reference number for all team members, which is required for your application. The whole application process may take over a month for some nationalities. Visas are ultimately your responsibility and Secret Compass cannot guarantee that you will be issued one as the final decision rests with the MFA in Tehran. Some nationalities are required to provide additional information such as CVs to support their visa application.
How can I find out more?
Apply for this expedition team using the button on this page to receive your Expedition Handbook with fuller details. Secret Compass is then on hand to answer any questions or to firm up your place on the team.