Friday, December 25, 2009

Sabalan Mountain

Sabalan (سبلان) is an inactive stratovolcano located in Meshkinshahr, Ardebil. Sabalan is the third highest mountain in Iran and a permanent crater lake has formed at the summit. Sabalan has a ski resort (Alvares) and different tourist areas such as the Sarein spa. The mountain is known for its beautiful vistas, including the Shirvan gorge, where few climbers ever venture. The summit region runs along a southwest-northeast trending ridge. The volcano is quite old as its rocks have been dated to millions of years ago. Some references state that volcanic activity continued into the Holocene, less than 10,000 years ago.

The mountain enjoys specific attractions in various seasons of the year where the mountain climber feels he has entered a land of dreams and wonders. On the slopes of the mountain many mineral water springs flow which attract thousands of tourists each year, and many have their healed in the springs. There are also many trails and a few very small villages in the area, as well as many nomadic people with their round "Yurt" tents. Visiting and seeing these more primitive people is one of the best reasons for climbing the mountain. Located in the extreme north west of Iran, this is the second-highest peak. Its 4,821 meters makes it taller than Mount Blanc in the Alps. Sabalan is a volcanic peak, and at 3,600 meters you can see sculptures which are eroded volcanic stone outcrops which resemble animals, birds and insects. The most stunning of such sculptures is an eagle statue known as Ghartal, seemingly gazing over its surroundings to maintain control over the Sabalan slope and valley from atop.

The mountain, the crater, and the lake can usually be ascended from the northern and southern tracks. Once ascended, one can see a panorama of the beautiful region for more than a hundred kilometers around. The crater lake is located on the southeast side of the mountain, is elliptical and measures 145 meters across and 80 meters wide and with a depth of 25 meters. Since it is covered with ice from mid-September through early June, mountain climbers use it for ice skating. There are two famous warm water springs in the area, Ghotursoui and Shabil which is closer to Sabalan.

In 2008 and for the first time a female hiker managed to swim in the icy waters of Sabalan’s crater lake. Following the ascend of the group of 20 female hikers and upon reaching the lake 50 year old Shahin Baghchehsaray submerged herself in the lake. She swam for approximately 45 minutes in the below freezing temperatures and as the lake was still frozen and iced over on the opposite side.

It has been mentioned in the holy book Avesta, Zoroaster, the Iranian Prophet, was born by the river "Daei Yeta" which is now called Aras and wrote his holy book in the Sabalan Mountains.

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