In seven days we fly to Armenia.
We’ve called the expedition Project Armenia. We’ll be travelling to a remote area in the north of the country, on the boundary of Dilijan National Park and along the route of the Transcaucasian Trail (TCT). Here there extends a 7km long limestone escarpment, ranging from 50m to 250m high. The cliffs that make up the escarpment have never been climbed. This is what we are setting out to do.
But why Armenia? Why now? Howwwww?
Long story short, we’re going with a friend of a friend from the other side of the world. Lucky for us, we know Ben Allen, and lucky for us, Ben doesn’t know TOO many Canadian climbers… which led to him pass on our names to Val Ismaili. Val is no stranger to expeditions, but his trips usually involve covering long distances on foot. Project Armenia will be his first in the vertical realm.
As we are coming to learn, Armenia has a draw and a magic about it. When we mention the country people generally fall into one of two camps: either they know nothing about it and can’t place it on a map, or they are head over heels in love with the place.
Climbing in Armenia is still very young, but there is quite a lot of momentum surrounding it right now. When we began reading up on established routes last winter, we could find information documenting about 200 lines. In a surge of development this spring, it’s possible that number has already doubled. Our team will be adding the first routes on these northern cliffs near Dilijan, contributing to the growing culture, passion, and excitement for the sport in Armenia.
But who are we going with?
Our team has come together from around the world, and we’ve met everyone on the internet! Good thing it’s 2019 and that’s totally normal ;). Val is our expedition leader. He completed the first thru-hike of the TCT through Armenia and Georgia, and planted the seed for the trip. Peter and Florence are two climbers from the UK. They are friends with Val, and the first people he connected with regarding the expedition. Aleksandra and Janek are from Poland. They are coming as a film and photography team, and aim to capture the journey of route development and community in Armenia, to produce a documentary about the trip and the country. Tadeh is Armenian diaspora, travelling from Australia to join us as a climber and as additional logistical support. And then there’s Graham and I.
Planning for this trip has been unlike anything we’ve done before. We’re going into it with so much excitement, anxiety, and anticipation. Already we feel close and connected to Armenia and the people we are going with, but the real fun is just about to start.
We are grateful to our friends and family and mentors who have believed in us as we’ve been preparing for this trip. Who have talked over the possibilities with us over beers or at the crag. Who’ve provided us with insight and tips and expertise in bolting, development, preparations, expedition logistics, and more. Who encouraged us to take the leap and go for it – that this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity or the first of many opportunities – while reminding us we wouldn’t know unless we tried. Who helped us with grant applications and emails. Who lent us gear, offered us gear, or advised us on gear. So many thank yous.
We are also incredibly fortunate to have sponsorship and support from organisations in North America that are very close to our hearts, in addition to grants and sponsorship for our team from around the globe. The gesture of support is super meaningful, knowing these groups chose to believe in us and what we aim to accomplish.
I can’t believe we are just one week away.
Our team has a website here: www.projectarmenia.co.uk.
Graham and I will be documenting our trip in real time on Instagram: @kimstagraham.mcg
Our team: Val and Peter and Florence and Tadeh and Aleksandra and Janek.
With support from: