Mountaineering is in its infancy in Iraq, with no professional programs and the first and only climbing equipment store in the country opening in April of this 2018. There are no trail maps, and no routes other than those known to shepherds and those stomped out by game. Yet, there are over 2,000 people that go into the mountains per month – up from a mere 100 total in 2014. For this reason, mountaineering groups are taking matters into their own hands and together we are establishing the First Climbing School in Iraq. Part of this effort is working with the mountaineering groups that are making major progress in developing the sport in the country, and on this occasion we have cause to celebrate thanks to the Sagrma Mountaineering Group and Miran Haji Salih.
On October 18, 2019 the first mountaineering shelter in Iraq was completed in honor of the “Father of Iraq Climbing” Hawraz Raza. The shelter was funded by climber Miran Haje Salih from the Sagrma Mountaineering Group, and constructed at 2,545 m / 8,350 ft above sea level near the summit of Mt. Pira Migron (el. 2,611 m / 8,566 ft) north of the city of Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The shelter is constructed with a steel frame, zinc and iron roof, and fiberglass walls, and measures 3 x 4 meters and 2 meters tall. At the entrance is a memorial to Hawraz Raza, and the shelter features a wind vane and thermometer to monitor conditions on the mountain.
Mount Pire Migron outside of the city of Sulaymaniyah (Suli) near the Iranian border. Mt. Pire Migron (el. 2,611 m / 8,566 ft) is the tallest mountain near the progressive city, dubbed the “Paris of Iraq,” and attracts many new mountaineers for the views it offers of the city and surrounding landscape. It is also the location of the Annual Meeting of Mountaineering Groups organized by the crew Destey Lutka based out of Suli, and the mountain that the same crew lead a group of blind and disabled individuals up in 2015.
Mr. Salih recognized the need for a shelter during an early 2019 winter trip and spent the next nine months realizing his ambitious goal. During that winter climb, he experienced a night of particularly extreme weather that tested him and his gear. He realized that if there was an equipment failure or other emergency, his situation could rapidly become life threatening. With his mind made up, he spent the next six months designing the shelter and purchasing materials.
Construction of the shelter officially began in August 1st of 2019 and would take two months. On August 12, 2019 Mr. Salih was accompanied by Sirwan Amir and together they began hiking the large steel frame pieces to the construction site on their backs. This portage was completed August 13, the holiday of Eid Al Adha, and the following day they were joined by Major Peshawa Karkuki. Together, the three men would assemble the frame on site and return to the base of the mountain to prepare the materials for the roof.
Temperatures at this time of the year often exceed 38° C / 100° F and this part of the construction tested the team’s resolve. However, in a show of love for this sport, Mr. Salih, Mr. Amir, and Mr. Karkuki made a promise to help and serve all of the mountaineers and climbers of their country who wished to stay on this mountain overnight, and to keep this promise together. For this next part of the project, the team started a campaign that went out to all the mountaineers and climbers in Kurdistan under the motto; Love, Friendship, and Brotherhood – to call for transporting the remainder of the materials.
Many answered their call for Love, Friendship, and Brotherhood including climbers who did not belong to any particular groups. The remainder of the materials were carried to the location of the shelter in a concerted effort with particular recognition to the following climbers; Jihad, Omer, Kosar, and Rekawt. These individuals joined the team until the construction was completed on September 21, 2019. At that time, the official opening date was set for October 10, 2019 and an invitation was sent to all the groups across the country.
The opening ceremony attracted over 200 mountaineers and climbers, all of whom had to hike up to the location of the shelter on top of Mt. Pire Migron. Miran Haje Salih was the primary speaker and dedicated the shelter to Hawraz Raza, who recently passed away during an accident while climbing. He thanked all of the climbers of Iraq and Kurdistan and opened the shelter to anyone who wished to participate in the sport of mountaineering.
This momentous occasion is a testament to the will of mountain climbers in Kurdistan, and demonstrates the progress being made to catch up to the rest of the world in this incredible sport. It is for this reason that establishing a climbing and mountaineering school is so important and we can use your help.