Before reading an article in Rock & Ice and watching Sam Bie’s excellent film on Armenian climbing, we virtually knew nothing about this little land locked country, except for the genocide and their world famous wrestlers.
Just the idea of hexagonal basalt columns and endless amounts of untouched limestone made us do a few fast clicks on the homepages of Aeroflot and a locally based car rental company (offering Lada Niva’s of course).Soon after, we met up with Mkhik in Yerevan and hit the road towards Noravanq Canyon, where we spent lovely days cruising good quality limestone sports routes and relaxing at the picturesque camp nearby.
A few days prior to our arrival Mkhik had received a high-line equipment from Slackline-Tools company, and it seemed just like the right time and place to rig it and have a little walk into thin air. First thing first, we had to find a suitable site to rig the line. After half a day of exploring the area around Noravank Canyon we finally found ourselves within a narrow little gorge with a small waterfall and a fabulous view of the surrounding rolling hills dressed in autumn colors. Another half day went with drilling anchors and rigging the 30 meter line. Luckily two US tanks, Jared and Sean, joined us in to tighten the system, before Mkhik could take the first nervous steps with the sun setting in the horizon. In the next morning due to the lack of raw manpower when tightening the line again, the line kept wiggling nervously, and despite the best intentions Mkhik could not let go of Susannes arm. A lot of experience wiser and with a perfect location prepared, we know that he will be back soon!
So what about those columns? Well, first of all they are considered as natural monuments, and access can therefore be a problem. The climbing style is technical crack climbing, bridging, and squeezing, while it is protected with friends and nuts to minimize the impact on the columns and to keep an adventurous approach to the area. And yes it’s all worth it!
When coming to Armenia to climb, one should not miss a trip to Hells Canyon - probably the most developed crag and only about one hour drive from Yerevan. High quality limestone with plenty of bolts makes a good outing for sport climbing in the lower to middle grades. With the campsite located in the middle of the gorge and the peaceful surroundings it is a wonderful place to hang out in between the struggles as well.
As a climbing destination, Armenia is not to be missed. There is a huge potential for putting up new routes on high quality rock in exotic locations, however, one should also discover all the other things Armenia has to offer; the impressive hospitality and friendliness of the Armenians, the ever changing landscape with superb hiking possibilities, the contrast between metropolitan Yerevan life and the quiet village life, well…. the list is really endless.