Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Carpet Bagger

Middle Eastern carpets are works of art, I understand that. They take many months of tenacious weaving to create, I get it. They are historical representations of the cultures and time periods they have stood (or I guess laid) witness too, impressive, for sure!

But I don't like them.

It's not that I don't appreciate them, I'm just not enamored enough to spend thousands of dollars on one. Truth be told, I probably wouldn't even spend a hundred dollars on one.

But plenty people would, and plenty people do.

Turkish carpets are a huge industry. Their showrooms dominate every street corner in the Sultanhamet district of Istanbul. Their touts shout at you as you pass, inviting you for chai and to take a look at their wares. No thanks, I say, I just don't like them.

For the sake of information, I attended a carpet workshop a few months back. Hosted by our school, it was a low-key, informal affair with wine and appetizers. No pressure to buy, and no haggles for the sales price, the price they offered was their lowest price. I liked that attitude, and this plus the wine kept me around to hear more about carpets and their history.

They showed us lots of different types, traditional patterns favored by various Sultan's. New-age styles for the up and coming Istanbulites. Persian rugs, Afhghani Rugs, Kazahki Rugs, Pakistani Rugs; these guys had definitely traveled the region. Some of the most amazing carpets were those made of silk, which changed colors depending on the viewing angle. I learned that Turkish carpets are some of the most durable in the world, as they use a double knot to create the carpet, instead of single knot. And, interestingly, carpets get better with age--an older carpet costs more than a new one. They even showed us a few flying carpets, well, at flying in the sense that they tossed them into the air.

By the end of the show, I had gained an appreciation for this art form. I even sort-of, kind-of, liked one type of carpet they had that used all natural dyes. The earth tones in this style were more appealing than the deep burgundy colors that are more typical. I asked the man for a quote on the carpet, just to feel out the prices. $800. Yeah, just what I thought--too much for me to even think about it.

The house we've rented for the last three weeks has several Turkish carpets in it. I practiced some homework from my photography course on these, offering some abstract takes on the typical carpets. Let me know what you think.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A day on Turkey's premier alpine rock route, Parmakkaya

Yesterday I spent a great day with my new friend Adnan on Turkey's unimaginatively named "Rock Finger," or, in Turkish, "Parmakkaya." Certainly my hideous climbing partners in Colorado could summon up better names, but, no matter, it was a great route. Parmakkaya was first climbed in 1971 by John Waterman, from Colorado, and Dennis Mehmet. In my guidebook from 1993, the author calls it "Undoubtedly the most committing and hardest route to date." Well, that's not really a good description since the Euros arrived. Now, the spire has 4 routes, with grades up to 7c(.12d), seven pitches, and "nerve wrecking bolt distances." The nerve wrecking part scared me off the new routes, but I was soon to find out that the classic route was not a walk in the park.

Adnan and I set off at 4AM from our village, with the idea that we would climb light and fast, and thereby avoid the intense mid-day Turkish sun. We took the jeep road up the beautiful Apple Valley, and parked Buddha as high up as we could take her. From there, it was a 2.5 hour hike up to the spire, perched at 2880m(9,448ft). It hadn't rained in the Ala Dag for three weeks, so of course, at about 7AM, it started to rain. Adnan and I took shelter under a boulder in the scree slopes below the spire, and prayed for it too stop. Allah was on our side, because with a half hour the rain had stopped, and by the time we reached the base of the route through some steep talus, the rock was dry.

Adnan took the first pitch, and he wound his way up past rusty pitons and sharp limestone to a hanging belay off of a single thread through. From here I took the crack pitch up the face to the shoulder of the spire. The climbing was good, and I even sunk a few jams in the sharp rock. There were lots of fixed pins, and I only had to place a few stoppers between them to feel good about not ripping all of them out in the case of a fall. Once on top of the shoulder, we decided to extend the belay upwards 5 meters to cut down on the rope drag for Adnan on the last, and crux pitch. So, again, we found ourselves at an airy belay, perched on top of a detached pillar. Adnan styled the crux, though he said he was cussing his whole way through it. I didn't hear him because the wind had started howling, and dark clouds were steadily building in the valley next to us. Following the pitch, I did a bit of swearing myself....10a moves above old pitons through a roof and around an EXTREMELY exposed and windy corner to me to the safety of a crack, which I quickly followed up to Adnan and a very black looking sky.

Tagging the summit, the first thunder rumbled ominously and echoed down the valley. Over one shoulder was blue skies, and over the other it was completely black. I freaked out a bit, and made Adnan hurry off the summit...we still had at least two full length rappels and limestone is notorious for catching ropes up during the descent. Adnan tried to assure me that the weather would not come over to us, but that's not how it works in the mountains I know. So, off we went in a hurry.

As we tossed the ropes off the summit, I instantly regretted not coiling them up into bowling balls, a common trick for windy days. The ropes blew back up towards us, tangling themselves in an impossible nest. Adnan took 20 minutes rappelling and sorting them out, while I sat on the summit, trying to focus on the slowly dissipating blue sky, not the growing black sky. Finally rappeling down from the summit, thunder roaring more and more consistently, I happened upon a midway station. With a few wits still about me, I realized that I should stop, pull the ropes from there, and break Adnan's long rappel into two smaller ones. It would, of course, extend my time exposed to the weather up high on the spire, but it would also insure that the ropes would pull cleanly. It was a good choice, as even pulling the ropes from my mid-station was a struggle. As we pulled the ropes, they whipped around the tower, commanded by the a higher source of power than us--the tempestuous winds, but slowly we were able to retrieve both ropes and I instantly calmed as we tossed them off our second rappel and I saw them both graze the ground. Our long ropes had broken two final rappels into one, and I didn't care if my rope got stuck once I was on the ground.

Five minutes later, there I was. Done with Parmakkaya, chased off by a thunderstorm, but not without tagging the summit.

Hiking down and back to the car, Adnan and I were struck by the sun, which had positioned itself behind the spire, and sent light streaming down either side of the rock. Clearly this rock had a better name in mind for itself than "rock finger."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Climbing in Turkey's Ala Dag Mountains

A good week here in central Turkey, hot, but good.

You can see our house in the middle of the photo, just above the trees and to the left of the road.

Last weekend the climbing crew from "Team Ankara" showed up for a second weekend in a row. It's almost felt crowded with about 25 climbers here, but everyone is so friendly in Turkey, more people just means more folks encouraging you to climb hard. And we did. I reached a big climbing goal, finally pushing myself out of the 5.10 rut I've been in for many years. My reward? A Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA that we found and bought in Finland this past June. Erin has also been doing well, climbing several 5.10's without falling.

We also tried climbing an alpine peak, Eznevit 3560m; but obscene heat, no shade, and a serious lack of water left us retreating from the false summit at 3,000m. Still, it was a nice climb of 2nd and 3rd class slabs up to our high point.

A couple good photos of our friends climbing routes in the Kizikli Valley.

Mostly, we've been saving money by cooking meals here at home. But, with friends in town, we decided to splurge by going into town and getting a home-cooked meal of Turkish Pizza "Pide" and Chicken Kebap. The meal was 8 dollars, so, I guess it's an okay use of some extra money.

Here is Erin's lamb, egg, and cheese Pide

And of course, afterwards you must have your chai.

Finally, a couple more of my homework assignments from photography school. First, an open "bulb" exposure of the moonrise above the Ala Dag mountains.

Next, a black and white photo, with a red filter to intensify the colors in this sunset photo of Demirkazak, the tallest mountain in the Ala Dag at 3756m.

And, finally, a photo from the inside of our house, purposefully underexposed to let in the light of the shutters.

As it's a rest day before my friend Adnan and I try to climb the alpine spire of Parmakaya, I've also spent some time uploading more photos to facebook. You can see the gallery with this public link.


One more week before we are back to Ankara, I can't say I'm excited to leave the Ala Dag, but it will be time to start another school year.

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