Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Running and rock climbing in Armenia


From Instagram

The first two nights that I spent alone in Armenia reminded me of how much I loved not knowing a single soul in a new place and the social challenge aspect of meeting new people. I think I'm addicted to the challenge because since I was young I was always on the up and go. New school, new
neighborhood, new country, new social environment, new culture. Fortunately it was smooth sailing for me, I think it helps that I'm from Costa Rica as that gives my introduction a fun unexpected kick. Where the fuck is Costa Rica?

I'm addicted to active living now and since I have a Tough Mudder coming up towards the end of September I had to bring my running shoes and train a bit. I cannot afford loosing my stamina. I'm also into rock climbing and based on a friend's advice I checked out what the possibilities would be.

Running in Yerevan, Armenia

From Instagram

I got up at 6am for my first run in Armenia. Running in a new city is one of the most rewarding things one can do. You get to explore the city fast, this will help you get around easier in your other trips, you can also easily pick up on certain cultural values and practices, which should help you adapt faster. I believe its possible that you also end up shaking off your jet lag faster given that you are accelerating your metabolism by increasing your oxygen intake at the times your body was previously was used to resting. I ran at 6am and then at 10am on first day. The second day I did a bit more lengthy run, ~6-7 miles and made it an objective to get to an iconic high point in the city, the Yerevan TV tower which turned out to be the highest point in the city. I even found one bus close to the Yerevan TV tower that looked like the bus from Into the Wild (2007).

From Instagram
From Instagram

Both runs allowed me to explore the city quickly in random areas that eventually ended up being recommended tourist destination spots that I was recommended to visit once the family arrived the following days. I had explained I thought I knew where they were talking about when they made recommendations to visit some city places but nevertheless I went again to explore such recommended sites just to confirm. Since I was running really early I was also able to observe easily and safely that Yerevan was a city that slept extremely late, was extremely secure, and when was the best time to avoid walking around due to temperature. Given the empirical gains anytime I visit a new city I will now run it or bike it as soon as I arrive.

From Instagram

Armenia happens to be part of what is called the Caucasus. One of the attributes of being part of the Caucasus is you get tons of water, to the extent you see public water faucets running on 24x7. The amount of faucets around the city makes it a great place to run in the city without the need for you to carry water. Good thing, as I didn't bring my CamelBak.

From Instagram

I only saw one young crowd running near Republic Square, but that's it. There were no other runners in Yerevan. In fact prior to running in Yerevan I was told I'd likely get looked at oddly if I did run in the city. I didn't personally feel awkward but a few old people certainly raised an eyebrow or two as I dashed by. Likely folks do not run as most folks are pretty fit in Yerevan, and also it just has not picked up as part of the culture. Nevertheless culture could be enhanced, I encourage more folks to take the streets and run and take high advantage of all that abundant succulent water.

Rock climbing in Armenia

From Instagram

Rock climbing in Armenia... wow... so much land scape full of routes waiting to be claimed, named, and set. There are mounds of places you can go and rock climb with 0 minute approaches. At least from what I can read online Rock climbing is actually a new sport in Armenia and the only resource for information that I could find about it was a site called Up the Rocks. I tried contacting Mkhitar Mkhitaryan to see if I could arrange a trip. I was quoted $150 for the a trip to Hell's Canyon ~70 Km from Yerevan for the guide work and $10 for each set of shoes and harness, this did not include the price of my transportation and lunch. Frankly that seems a bit steep to me for given that I'm used to just taking my own equipment at this point and I've only heard quoted figures around that price for long multi pitch rock climbing guide around Yosemite. I was hoping to just offer some beers in exchange for some route / map information / gear rental, perhaps next time. In the end it didn't work out for me for this trip but check the video below for what is possible. Other options Mkhitar mentioned was to go to Noravanq Canyon ~100 Km from Yerevan. Personally I saw tons of routes possible with no approach distance (just park your car) on the way to Jermuk. At one point I couldn't resist and just tried to climb a level 5.5 scramble by a river in Jermuk. I only had my sneakers, the rock was a bit dirty, and I could have fallen badly both left or right but I just had to try... What can I say, I'm addicted. I didn't even travel much around Armenia so I'm sure there has to be tons of other great places. If you are in Armenia and are curious about rock climbing I highly recommend you attend / become active with the next Armenian First Ascent Open Festival May 25-31, 2013 and also befriend Mkhitar Mkhitaryan on Facebook and buy him a beer. Better yet, start organizing folk and start practicing for the event.



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