Climbing Mount Erciyes (Erciyes Dağı)
Mount Erciyes (or Erciyes Dağı) 🗻 is a stratovolcano located near Kayseri City in Turkey. It is 3917 meters and it has a couple of close summits between 3800ish meters to the highest summit which is 3917 meters.
Unfortunately, there aren’t much online English material on climbing or hiking Mount Erciyes which triggered me to provide at least a recent written post on the experience, with the route in GPX format, some notable coordinates, and relevant photos. The two most helpful blogs were these two.
I made the climb on the first week of July, 2017. There was still snow at the time, iced snow, it wasn’t perfect to hike on without axe and/or crampons, so I avoided it completely. It was just too risky.
There are multiple routes to the summit, I know only two of them. The devil’s route and the classic route. I will talk about the devil’s route later where I encountered a fearless turkish teacher who had reached summit 7 times before.
The total ascend and descend time was about 14 hours (it could be done in less and I will mention how). I recorded my climb via my GPS device, you can download the route I followed in GPX format through Wikiloc.
Since I visited Erciyes in summer, there was almost no tourists and most hotels were closed. I stayed in Mirada hotel. The night before the climb, it was super quite, the staff are friendly, the breakfast was good and one of the staff could speak good English. All was set.
I woke up, had my breakfast. Before you start the climb you need to submit your passport to the Jandarma (Police). The officer will ask you for your passport, which route you will take and then you will need to sign a paper. I read online that they usually keep the passport but he gave it back to me saying he didn’t need to keep it.
After I did just that, I headed straight to the starting point. Let me pause right here and talk a bit about the “starting point”.
The mountain is a winter tourist destination where there are a lot of activities on the mountain since it will be full of snow. Skiing is the main activity and for that reason there are many cable cars that go up to different elevation levels. Looking at the photo above, and the couple of blogs I have referred to, you will notice reference to several cable cars. I have only seen one working cable car that goes up from 2200 meters to 2400 meters which saves you about one hour of ascend, I estimate so. Another cable car would take you up to at least 2600 meters.
Phase I: 2200 meters to 2800 meters
Back to our story, I made the decision that I will start hiking from 2200 meters and that means in less than 8 hours I will have to gain about 1700 meters, which could be in some cases not comfortable for some people. This decision is basically why it took me 14 to 15 hours total trip time. Usually others would take one of the cable cars, I read that some of the cable cars can save you significant effort and time. I think it could be done in 8 hours total starting from 2600 meters.
After almost 2 hours of hiking from the trailhead, I started to see some representation of what could be a route towards the mountain summit. During these hours the terrain was risk-free, and curvy but the ascend during these hours need a good to a very good fitness level. Mount Ericyes appears to be a semi-circle, I followed the classic route which is following the left lane (you will notice left lane above), this is the longer route yet it has very rewarding scenery IMO.
Phase II: 2800 meters to 3400 meters
This route seemed endless, one high point after the other, it was a hard climb up, it took everything I have, knowing that I regularly hike hills in Ireland on weekends and I trained for about about a month. I think what made it worse was the sun, it was burning hot. After 3 more hours of ascend, I was at above 3400 meters. I had my lunch and continued over the ridge. On the left of the ridge there was no snow, because the sun hits that side all day. On the right there is a thick layer of iced snow. At this point of time, the sun has reached its peak, luckily my 2.5 litre water supply was still good.
Phase III: 3400 meters to 3650 meters (right before summit)
I reached the end of the left lane and started towards the high point just before the summit.
Before reaching the final point before the summit, I could clearly see what is called the devil’s route and I glimpsed a man with an axe climbing up through the ice. The devil’s route is particularly tough at that time due to the ice melting down and it could be dangerous. It would also require experience with using a snow axe. The man was the 47 years old Turkish teacher, he had climbed erciyes 7 times before. He didn’t speak much English and I didn’t speak much Turkish, but we managed to communicate for the next 6+hours.
Just before summit, Metin and I had some rest, and then we set for summit. In a sane summer day, you would see a huge rock and you would go around it then ascend up to summit. But that wasn’t a sane day, there was ice around the rock, and I definitely wouldn’t trust my feet on that ice without an axe.
Phase IV: Summit
So we decided to rock climb. We didn’t have rock climbing gear so that too was a risk. It was tough and dangerous. We left our backpacks, I got injured in my right arm, but it wasn’t too bad. We continued our climb for about 1 hour and 30 minutes then we finally reached the summit. At this point, my GSP device reported that we were at exactly 3852 meters. We found the logbook and we didn’t stay long, we had to go back because we were short of time. The sun sets at 8.00PM. Luckily, we were both ready with proper headlight gear.
If you notice, we haven't hit the 3917 meters point which is the one above in this photo, we were 60 meters short of the highest point. We could have continued towards hiking on the snow, but with the iced snow being super unpredictable, it was a recipe for a disaster, therefore we have decided to celebrate the 3852 meters summit, and as a bonus, we signed the logbook.
Phase V: Descend via Devil's Route
We started the descend via the devil’s route, not on the ice, but just beside it. The descend was tough, the ground was very loose, you can’t get a grip easily, and you can also trigger a rock slide without effort. We were both trying to follow different lanes so that if a rock slide occurs, we won’t affect one another. So expect a fun ride of semi-gliding descending experience. I would say it was even riskier than the summit rock climb. Along the way, I have seen some naturally ocurring rock slides, sounded pretty scary from afar.
I can assume what happened was that the ice melted, and mixed with the sand layer, created this very loose rocky, muddy layer which we were struggling to get a grip on and helplessly gliding down.
I can assume that in Winter, with the proper gear, this would have been a totally different experience, perhaps with the crampon, much better grip.
We reached back the hotel area very late at night, it was very dark, and we had to use our headlights. Unfortunately, due to the minor injury and some sunburns, I couldn't attempt Mount Hasan, but that's a story for another day.
From and to Kayseri
As a bonus, I found the cheapest and most reliable to get to Erciyes would be from Kayseri. If you are coming from Istanbul, you can either get a local flight with Turkish Airlines which is cheap, it will take like an hour or you can is to get a bus (you can book it online here).
From Kayseri, you can get bus Develi but note that the last bus from Kayseri to Erciyes is at 5pm. The same from Erciyes to Kayseri, I just waited on the road, infront of the hotel at 9am, and the bus was written on it "Develi" in green. It is 15TL.
Speaking to the locals
The locals in Kayseri are super friendly, but none could speak English in the city. I was basically using Google Translate. I would type the question I wanted to ask, and show them. It was super effective, luckily!
Happy Hiking! and here is an amateur video :)