Climbing is new in Iraq and it is only in recent years that serious mountain climbers have appeared in the country. Because there is no climbing history or culture there, it is these individuals and groups that are now creating the standard for future generations. In this incredible moment of outdoor cultural change, I am working with the people of Kurdistan to establish the First Ever Climbing and Outdoor Education School in Iraq, learn more at this link!
In a burst of exciting photos and videos, my phone vibrated with notifications. Kamaran was messaging me with the news that he and his team of some of the first climbers and mountaineers in Iraq had just accomplished something big. Lead by Siamand Ahmad and Hawraz Raza the team had just set the tallest rock climbing route in Iraq, the Third Route of Destey Lutka, a 5.12 climb that is over 75 meters tall.
This is a mammoth achievement for the climbers because of the obstacles they are overcoming to define climbing and mountaineering in their country. Without access to the types of products that most of the climbing world has at the nearest store, the team had to hand make their own in their garage with basic tools. In addition, they are one of only a handful of groups in the entire country that is exploring the wilderness to identify safe places to teach climbing, install and maintain routes, and promote the sport.
The location of this climbing spot is just outside of the city of Sulaymaniyah and the ceremony was attended by an impressively large group of inspired climbers. The spot is a cave that protects climbers from both the harsh sun of the Iraqi summer and any precipitation, an ideal place to plan days or even weeks ahead of time even if the weather turns sour. To get there, you either need a good 4×4, or a couple of feet and a few extra hours. The entire climbing area is on private land with permission granted exactly for this kind of use. So, it is exciting to see so many people made the trip to see the opening of this route, and get their chance to reach the top on the first day.