Ice and Turkey are not the words that come to mind together. However, there are dozens of natural and at least one artificial ice climbing spot in Erzurum, in Eastern Turkey. In this article, I’ll cover some of these routes.
The place to fly is Erzurum. There are hotels, car rental services and everything you used to have in a big city.
The village to stay is Uzundere, some 80 kilometers north of Erzurum. Most of the routes are located somewhere around.
The hotel to live in is Uzundere Öğretmenevi — a decent place for teachers but also available for the regular public.
If Uzundere doesn’t work out for some reason (in January 2024, the hotel doesn’t work due to renovation), the next convenient place is Tortum with Tortum Öğretmenevi. In both places in 2024, one room costs 750 TL (23€), with breakfast included.
It’s worth noting that all the cafes in the area close at 6 PM, so be sure to get there before then if you want to grab a bite to eat. If you miss the cafes, you can always buy groceries at one of the local shops.
When it comes to getting around, renting a car is the best option. For a week of driving, prices start from 250 €. We had to refill the tank twice, paying around 1300 TL (40€) every time. Consider a crossover rather than a regular city car, as most routes are in the mountains, and even light snow makes steep parts challenging. Believe me, I drove a regular car there.
Have a look at the map at the end of the page. Before that, here are the routes:
- The Most Predictable · Sarı Gelin and Lucifer
- The Most Spectacular · Excalibur
- The Longest · Nakavt
- The Shortest · Küçü Enişte
- The Hardest · Anatolian Pillar
- The Most Accessible · Serafin
- The most predictable, diverse and easiest to reach · Ice Park at Palandöken
The most predictable: Sarı Gelin and LuciferDifficulty: WI3 — WI4
Length: 60–70 meters
These are located one hour walk from Uzunkavak village. The approach isn’t steep and takes about an hour. There are three waterfalls: Kucuk Fare, Sari Gelin, and Lucifer. Due to the altitude and amount of flowing water, these routes form the best.
Küçük Fare WI2 15m is a good warmup and a playground for those new to the activity.
Sarı Gelin WI4 70m Could be thin at times.
Lucifer WI3 60m is just good. It could be done as one long pitch or divided into two shorter ones. There is a rap station at the top.
The most spectacular: Excalibur
A free-standing 30-meter column of ice. Depending on conditions and your car abilities, Excalibur could easily share “The Most Accessible” nomination, as a dirt road comes basically to the bottom of the route. Due to lower altitude and thus higher temperatures, it only forms some years. Extraordinarily picturesque and fun to climb.
The longest: Nakavt
Located in the area above Kyrazly village, it hides in a gulley on a mountain face. Nakavt is a long but never too steep route, with ledges dividing ice walls. Think of it as an alpine route and be prepared: start early, bring warm clothes, snacks, and headlamps. After big snowstorms, the route (as well as other routes in Kyrazly area) is prone to avalanches.
There are other routes on the same face: Tovarisch and Sugar Couloir. In a separate valley but still in the same area located Cetin, which is an adventure on its own.
Also, there are a couple of routes on the same face but over the pass.
The shortest: Küçük Enişte
A short vertical column is on the outskirts of the city of Tortum. A fun way to round up a day of climbing in other places. We climbed this route with the landowner’s permission, as we had to cross his backyard.
The hardest: Anatolian Pillar
The route is on the left of a giant amphitheater above Cevizly village.
Anatolian Pillar is a thin stripe of ice on the vertical face. Typically, it’s done in three pitches. In sub-optimal conditions, the route could be challenging to protect. Highly aesthetic and satisfying line. There are a few other routes on the face:
Çetin Ceviz WI4 80m is a waterfall to the right of Anatloian Pillar. The lower part is relatively easy, while the upper pitch could be tricky. I’ve only done it with no-question WI5 conditions with vertical shallow ice. In more favorable conditions, it climbs at WI4.
Soru Işareti WI3+ 100m forms yearly, but sometimes it’s too wet to climb. Except for this, it could be “The Most Predictable” as well as Sarı Gelin and Lucifer.
Avize, Büyük Şelale, and İsviçre Çakisi form rarely; I could never try one because none were in climbable conditions during my visits.
There are at least two more routes up Çevizly valley—Sakalaçarpan and Sol Kroşe.
The most accessible: Serafin
One of the most surprising lines: the slopes around are brown and yellow, while Serafin is bright white. It’s clearly visible from Erzurum → Uzundere road. Park a car, cross the bridge, walk several minutes, and here it is. If it exists, of course. Due to lower altitude and mild temperatures, it forms differently from year to year. So, in 2024, there was dry rock without any trace of ice. If it’s there, it’s definitely worth visiting.
The most predictable, most straightforward to reach, and with various grades: Palandöken Ice Park in Erzurum
Difficulty: WI1 — WI4
Ice Park is perfect if you need no-hassle ice and are okay with climbing on artificial features. It’s located beside one of the ski runs at a ski resort, and it takes only 15 minutes to get there from the parking. From novices to those with experience, you will have something to do there. At first, I was skeptical about climbing there. But after a day of climbing, I’m sure the place is worth visiting. Especially if conditions at other spots could be better. Also, there is a friendly staff, and it’s a rare chance to meet local climbers. A day of climbing for one person costs 500TL.
I urge all who know the location of the other routes to share their knowledge. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will add a location to the map and mention it in this article.