Rolando had talked about Ala Daglar for a couple of years, both for its rock faces and his friends Recep and Zeynep Ince. This husband and wife team, engineers and climbers from Istanbul, were so in love with the place and its tranquility that they left everything behind and came to the Ala Daglar to climb and run a campsite. A couple of photos had captured my attention, so, slowly but surely, the idea to explore a new route up Kizilin Basì’s northwest face began to form.
Accompanied by Recep, we reached the base of Kizilin Basi on October 1. The northwest face is a 400m, yellow, limestone wall, totally overhanging and extremely impressive from below. With so many smooth sections, there are few obvious lines. We looked for the easy within the difficult. Right from the outset, it was obvious that we understood each other; independently we picked the same line. Without wasting a minute we set off that same afternoon and before nightfall had finished the first two pitches: a 55m 7b followed by a 20m 6c. The latter was to become the easiest pitch on the entire route. Unfortunately, during the next days the temperatures plummeted to 3–4°C, and gusty winds forced us to climb with numerous layers of clothing.
Our daily program began with the 5 a.m. alarm. This was followed by breakfast, a one-and- a-half hour approach to the wall, and then continuous climbing until the stars came out. We then rappelled the fixed ropes by headlamp, returned to camp, and ate a Turkish dinner of Kebab and Pide until we were stuffed. During those days the route name sprung to mind: Red for the color of the rock face, Moon that we saw as we set off each morning, and Star for the stars that accompanied us during our descent. All three are found on the Turkish flag. I have fond memories of those intense days, with their long immersions into climbing, and the exploration of friendship, wild nature, and endless landscapes. Eagles flew freely above us, and I vividly remember the voice of the muezzin who, from afar, called for prayer.
After Rolando established the difficult 9th pitch, the angle eased to vertical, and we realized that the greatest difficulties lay behind. We scrambled up another 60m and then reached the top of the pillar, exhausted and cold. We took shelter behind a rock and stopped to listen to, and observe, the world around us. We were happy with life, and happy to have discovered all those holds to free climb such an overhanging face.
It then rained for several days, but we used the time for resting, and to visit Recep’s crag, four kilometers along a dirt track from the campsite. We parked on a plain with no crag in sight, but after walking no more than five meters, a beautiful canyon unfolded beneath our feet. This was the Kazikli Valley, which now boasts 230 perfectly bolted routes, all put up by Recep.
When we returned to the route it was cold; one day it snowed, and we felt we were carrying out a winter ascent. On our penultimate day we set off, determined to play our last hand. Rolando had trouble at the start, but after warming up, his engine was able to climb well all the way to the summit. I began much better, sent the first pitches immediately, but used all my reserves rather quickly. Just before nightfall, in light rain, Rolando redpointed the final pitch first try, a terrible slab with a hard obligatory section of 7b. I failed to redpoint this pitch; time had run out for a second attempt, as had my energy.
Recep followed us up the entire route with his jumars, camera and video camera. By the time we all dragged ourselves to the car for the last time, we were exhausted yet warmed by an immense inner joy for having achieved, in extremis, our goal. Red, Moon, and Star (established ground-up, then redpointed in a day) gave nine pitches up to 8a/8a+, 7b obl.
We owe our success to the unconditional support given by Recep and Zeynep, and their fantastic, nourishing meals. The area has great rock faces, and peaks that reach an altitude of 3,800m. It is ideal for ski mountaineering too. I promised myself I’d return with my family.
Luca Giupponi, Italy, supplied by Rolando Larcher CAAI