x0x WHO STOLE THE COLOUR FROM THE SUN ?
By Yildirim Gungor
As you approach the town of Aksaray in central Turkey, the summit of Hasan
Dagi appears in the distance, giving the deceptive impression that your
destination is in sight. But the mountain soon recedes and you look back
in regret as the road carries you on to the city of Nigde. From here you
take the road to Camardi, and about an hour later the first small peaks of
the Aladag range become visible on the horizon.
Then, without warning, the massive bulk of the 3756 metre high Demirkazik
appears to welcome you. If you arrive in the early evening the last rays
of the setting sun lend a red hue to the gigantic limestone blocks of this
central section of the Toros. Many of the peaks of the Aladag range, which
runs through the provinces of Nigde, Adana and Kayseri, rise to over 3500
metres. It forms part of the great mountain system stretching from the
Alps in Europe to the Himalayas in Asia which was formed by the impact of
two plates in the earth's crust following millions of years of
Careful observation of this mountainous terrain clearly reveals the traces
of this momentous geological event. The Aladag Mountains are the lodestone
of Turkish mountaineering. With their rock walls hundreds of metres in
height and magnificent challenging peaks, thousands of climbers are drawn
here every year, some to be educated by the experience of their attempt
and others to enjoy the satisfaction of reaching one of the summits.
The Aladag consist of three distinctive systems: that of Mount Demirkazik
(3756 metres), the Vay Vay Torasan (3500 metres), and the Emli, whose
highest peak is the forbidding 3726 metre Kaldi. The Demirkazik system
includes the Yedigoller Plateau, which attracts the greatest number of
visitors, and is reached via a pass at 3200 metres. The glacier lakes from
which the plateau takes its name, meaning Seven Lakes, in fact vary in
number according to the season. The area around these lakes resembles a
hidden paradise, and the 3500 metre Direktasi Peak rising tower-like
behind them completes the spectacular scene.
After crossing Hecer Pass to the south, you come first to the village of
Barazama, and then to the Barazama Falls, whose underground waters pour
upwards through the limestone into a series of carstic caves, and from
here gush out into the open air from any apertures they find. These
waterfalls are the most astonishing sight of any in these mountains.The
Vay Vay Torasan system in the centre of the Aladag range is far wilder
than that of Demirkazik. Here the high peaks and perpendicular rock faces
are as intimidating as they are beautiful.
Remote and difficult of access, this area is the least frequented.The
greatest number of people who come to the Aladag Mountains visit the Emli
area south of Demirkazik and west of Vay Vay Torasan. Here are located
such major peaks as the Kaldi, Alaca, Guzeller and Gurtepe.
Throughout the Aladag Mountains walking is impeded by scree, a mass of
boulders and broken rocks forming steep and unstable slopes. However,
while climbing up scree slopes is frustrating and difficult, getting down
them is pleasurable and simple. All the valleys of the Aladag show traces
of glacier action, and the Demirkazik North Glacier and the Kaldi North
Glacier are survivors from the last ice age. It is melting ice from these
glaciers which in summer waters the alpine pastures in the region.
These mountains have their own unique ecosystem, with a distinctive range
of plants at each altitude level. This enables climbers who come
frequently to the Aladag to judge their altitude according to the flowers
in their vicinity. A common plant here is a species of barberry (Berberis
crataegina), whose tiny fruits the size of rice grains have a delicious
sourish flavour when they ripen in autumn. Bird life in the mountains
includes birds of prey such as eagles, buzzards and griffon vultures. One
of the two rare large mammals in the Aladag range is the grey wolf, which
is hunted to prevent attacks on sheep. The best way to catch a glimpse of
this animal, which lives in small packs, is to camp next to a nomad
village. Early one morning you are quite likely to see a wolf surveying
the camp from the top of a large rock.
The second is the paseng, a large wild goat with curved horns, which is
now returning from the brink of extinction due to protection measures.Head
for the Aladag Mountains to enjoy the wild life and scenery of the Emli
valley, Demirkazik, Yedigoller Plateau, and Barazama, and being awoken by
bird song in your tent from a restful slumber in the fresh mountain air.
Even if you do no actual climbing you will realise why mountaineers are
drawn back here time after time.
* Yildirim Gungor is a geologist.