"First of all we'll go to Lavasan". Ali Reza is a young man, slim and tall, with a rarely intense look in his eyes. "I'm going to be your guide in the next two days". Rockclimbing instructor, he's back from achieving a big result as he just climbed the most difficult wall in Iran as he tells us driving across Tehran, he's frankly exhausted... but eager to go hiking with us.
Adventure in Iran headquarter is small and busy, at the first floor of a big building in the town of Lavasan, only 11 km northeast of the Capital city but a completely different world. "People come living here for the good quality of the air, less traffic and contact with nature"Ali Reza explains. "Rich people". No need to add.
A big map is open on the table and we are obviously offered some chai. There are Mehrdad Mike Eskenasi, Naser Hemati's partner in the bussiness, and some others, including a young woman talking Italian. Her name is Mehrak and she's going to become my friend.
I gave a deposit and now finish to pay, then we define the schedule. We are going to spend two night in a village at about 1.000 m in the Central Alborz, the first day we will walk up the river to a small town on an easy road, the second day we will get to the summit of a 3.000 m peak from where we will see Mount Damavand (5,609.2 m), the highest peak in Iran.
It's hard to explain how strangers turn friends so quickly in the mountains. Maybe it's because we share everything: we eat together, we sleep together in just one room or in a tent, we face together difficulties and enjoy together satisfations. We have fun and feel free. Yes, I think it's the last one... We talk a lot in these two days, especially about politics and the situation in our respective countries. Ali Reza is surprised to find out that Europe is not a paradise, and Mehrak can confirm because she has studied in Italy for a few years.
The main difference between Iran and Italy is that people in Iran is not only about complaining but also about fighting to change things. In Italy the most of the people is very unsatisfied but only few are politically engaged. That's especially true about youths. Iranian society is way more dynamic, probably because the average age is way lower. Italian society is old.
In our first trekking day we go up the river on a easy route gently climbing to another bigger village. It's very hot and trees only grow in the riverbed while the mountain slopes are rocky, bald and very steep. "In winter the snow is so high here that the path is up there", "Do you use sky or rackets?", "No, nothing. They are not in our culture. Just boots. You can imagine how longer it takes in winter to cover this same route! and it's dangerous because avalanches are frequent."
The weather is perfect, not a cloud in the sky. A beautiful waterfall offers the chance for a first little climb, then Ali Reza gives us a lesson of rockclimbing and... motivation! It's about getting to know perfectly your rock, your hand holds and foot places, so that finally you can climb so fast that gravity is almost irrilevant. But maybe that's the 10th time you try!
The second day we go atop. We wake up very early, at 4 am, and we start climbing before 5 am to avoid the heat as much as possible. The route is impressive: almost vertical on the bald slope of this mountain rising from the village to 3.000 m, so 2.000 m of elevation in a relatively short distance. Brutal!
I feel very well, I breath and keep a regular pace, not even slow. We see the sun rising from behind the top and its light invading the landscape, dazzling, cruel. But we have already reached the crest and now the climb is less steep and we steadily step on short prairie grass. There is a last little challenge to get to the summit and from there we can enjoy a wonderful view: the Alborz range, Mount Damavand covered in snow, Tehran... so close! and the many different incredible shapes and colours of these bald mountains clearly showing their geological conformations. Nobody in sight. A huge silence.
Ok, it's just a 3.000 peak. Still a peak, and a steep one. I'm proud to rise my Nepalese prayerflags, even if it's better not to leave them here.
But the summit is just half of the way as Anatoli Boukreev used to say. In this case is absolutely true because the descent is almost as hard as the way up, in a demanding neverending scree. And now the heat is unbearable. While surfing on the moving rock Mehrak and I start singing very loud El pueblo unido... it's one my best memories from this month in Iran!
"Congrats" Ali Reza says back to the village "Very strong team, and very fast."
Basicly we don't sleep that night: at 3 am we are already in Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport waiting for our friends to fly back to Italy.