A dream of many years in Çakıt
This article I wrote on a train journey back to my warm country from a piece of land at the northern end of the world, a place where everything is covered in snow outside and it keeps on snowing, where even the sea is frozen, makes my mind drift away towards other dimensions.. I hope it will help get yours elsewhere as well..
‘Issız Adam*’..January 4th 2012..
A day history was made in Çakıt...
Climbing into the new year is tradition to us; but this year in Çakıt we started the year by deciding to do something crazy on a large massive block on the west face of the valley. We had had our eyes there for years, wondering if there’d be climbs on it. So, attack!
As a new years present I got myself a new drill machine. 1000 something Turkish Liras.. The moment I had been waiting for for years.. Several times I went into the store where the drill was sold and just gazed at it, like a cat would do at a butchershop. I meow’d my way into a treat from the butcher.. Buy now, pay later.. But when? Whenever, I’ll take note.. Do take note Mr., I will pay.. I am so heavily in debt because of the house I just built, numbers are beginning to look smaller in comparison.. One wasn’t that big a deal next to fourty and one dream was actualized to make way to another.. The drill was mine and all it needed was ammunition before I’d start shooting.
I carefully prepared myself and my gear at home. Time to hit the road.. on January 4th 2012 we drove to Çakıt with a new buddy, Atakan (Enç). Since Atakan was new, he didn’t have much of an idea what we were going there for. Actually, he doesn’t even know how to rappel. That’s why I gave him this brief explanation:
If you hear me screaming a long one, know that I’m flying downwards and all you can do is sit and have a cigarette, unrushingly go down to the village and get me the İmam (Prayer leader at the mosque, conducts funerals). I will have fallen like a meteor and crashed into the earth with a large hole around me. Just bury me there.. It’ll be easy, throw in some earth and.. Oh and, I just bought the drill, could you bury it along with me?
-You’ll be fine.. See you tonight..
With the silence within me and the reassuring response of Atakan we got to work. We drove uphill to the last point on the right hand side of the valley with the car. Put on our packs and started walking up. Atakan as an ex-commando was crushed under the load, and I was developing a my hunchback further.. I tried to get as little as possible of everything but still, the pack was heavy as if I was carrying a whole camel on my back..
As we walked uphill slowly the way one would to the top of the world, the camel on my back was restless. Via a push there and a pull here it took about an hour to bring it to heel and get to the top of the hill. Quickly I rappelled off a tree and sent a large-ish piece of towering rock down, then started counting: 1-2-3-4-5 seconds and BOOOMMM!!! The sound of rock crushing into the ground echoed through the valley. And shivered through me. Mama I’m scared.. Went back up pale and shaking to Atakan saying:
Howdy Mumin you’re not looking too well..
Coffee-d’you have any coffee?
You wouldn’t know, could be the last cup you’ll have.. Would have wanted to call and apologize to people I’ve left heartbroken, but the list is so long.. Not enough phone battery, nor a long enough life..
I took a rest and then rappelled about 1.5m off the tree and drilled the anchor, making up the bolts of the last pitch. Since I’m used to bolting from the bottom-up, doing it on rappel confused me a bit of course.. Seeing big wall routes in China that were set bottom-up, with bolts drilled in whenever stuck had gotten me a bit upset. European standards.. Of course it’s stupid to criticize, its tough work afterall.. Maybe it was the capacity, or the scene that required this. One should learn before criticizing.. All my life, whatever I was doing, I wanted to do it well.. I’d rather rappel than set a route like that. And as finding a belayer is problematic.. If you belay next time we’d go bottom up.. How about that? Would you? If you’re in, I am in, take..
How did we get to this topic? Oh, I was rappelling..
Atakan, do you know how to pray for the deceased?
Dude, you’re the one named Mumin (meaning ‘believer’). How would I know?
I recited the name of God for blessing and set out the first attack by throwing down a rope longer than a kilometer. At the weight of a dead elephant cub, my bag was full of enough static ropes, bolting and climbing equipment as I rappelled and started bolting the route. It’s the beginning of the route but the end of the way to me.. Till the first anchor (about 70 meters) I was quite scared, reciting all prayers I know.. Fear was my pal all the way down.. When rappelling alone off a wall higher than 400 meters, one thinks of these questions:
Would the rope break? Would gri gri take this much weight? The rope seems to rub against the rock over there, would it tear? What if a rock hits me in the head and I end up fainting right here, what then? Mama I wanna go back up, too scared.. Fear leave me alone.. Leave a little peace of mind for me.. With these and a lot more on my mind, hanging in the air on a rope, questioning life, I kept on rappelling..
Life is about being on the tip of a rope and climbing.. I questioned almost every single day of the last 12 years I spent climbing.. I gave all my attention to what I was doing and with intense emotions and an overhanging wall I slowly descended..
All these occupied my mind until I got to a small ledge 70 meters down and drilled an anchor at the tip of life and a small piece of rock. I got into another phase of thinking, saw where I was and got Sülo (Süleyman Vardal) involved through the phone. ‘Man you wouldn’t believe what it’s like here! I’m calling from the tip of life, about 300 meters above ground, the top of a block of rock.
Don’t worry I’m tied in.
Yes teacher the anchors have two bolts each.
I’m tied to three on this anchor.
Stop checking and listen: It’s so beautiful here..
Right now I’m about on the same level as the roof we have been gazing at from the ground for years.. Incredible.. It’s all massive rock and there are marvellous lines for routes.. The color and quality of rock, view of the valley and scenery from here is breath taking, I can’t put it in words. Ah, wish you could have been here to see how slow and how intense life is.. It’s all so wild, I’m on a piece of nature that has never been touched before.. I feel one with nature.. Yeah, got all emotional, heights do that to you.
Ok, will call you when I get on the ground.
Left the emotional stuff aside, focused on the bolting and kept on drilling one by one. On a moment when I couldn’t turn my head away from the massive wall right next to me I said goodbye to my hammer. I just dropped it and noticed the cord was broken when it was already too late.. Well, it wasn’t meant to stay with me. How could I drill bolts without a hammer? Did it halfway with the gri gri, and the other with a 18/19 wrench. Now was time to get smart.. Must have been a lack of oxygen in my brain due to the altitude- I suddently realized I had more than 300 meters left to descend in case the gri gri broke.. I evolved into a caveman from my current primitive state and started looking into solutions.. I need a new hammer.. A bit below me there is a piece of rock.. Yes, that is the item I am looking for. Rock, stone age, caveman, barbarian.. There, you have me.. Using the rock as a hammer I drilled about 40 more bolts (and accidentally brought the rock all the way back home too). The rest of the route was relatively easier than the upper part so the bolting was simpler. For meters I was super-focused, punching holes, nailing, descending, descending and descending..
Late in the afternoon the legendary beeping sound whispered in my ear that it was the last battery and the end of the last pitch... But I was still 100 meters above ground. For the time I stopped bolting and prepared for descent. Made 35 meter rappels towards the ground. My pack had gotten a bit lighter as the ropes I fixed got out of it but where was this wall descending to? I kept loweing myself with questions remaining. Fear, won’t you go away? You were with me all along the wall, isn’t it time for you to leave? There was something sparkling on the wall but it was difficult to identify as it was getting dark… Suddenly my eyes lightened up.. What was that? I had finally found the treasure on the wall.. I was right above American Life, a route Sülo and I established bottom-up years ago.. Exactly where I’d like to be.. Luck was with me as always.. Had found the last bolt of an old route of ours.. A total of 4 rappels later I had my feet sturdy on the ground..
After a huge adventure taking longer than 4 hours, being back on the ground, back to life as usual was something else. Now everything was different.. As soon as I got to the car we drove to kebab-land while enjoying sips off a beer, the taste of which I will probably remember all my life. The trip back was enjoyable in its unique way.. In the evening I felt as wrecked as if I’d been run over by a truck and all I thought of was that the dream of many years had come true and I was alive and it was not an end for Çakıt, it was a brand new beginning..
SECOND ROUND WITH ‘ISSIZ ADAM’
I was done with my big project in Geyikbayırı, what was I still waiting for? After three holiday-like weeks of climbing in Geyikbayırı my body was restless with the infection it got from the big wall of Çakıt. The wall was beckoning. Come Mümin come.. Finally it was time to encounter high winds again. With Adana Team we left Geyikbayırı and the heavy rain back and got on our way to Çakıt again. I couldn’t wait.. This time for the second round with ‘Issız Adam’ Peyami (Nazik) was to come too. Our goal was to climb American Life, forming the first pitch of the route, drill the last three bolts bottom up and complete this pitch! This little thingy that’s normally easy to say and do for me had become practically impossible because of the icefalls that we were encountering fort he first time in Çakıt. Our way to the route was like ‘Oh boy look at the seracs, whoa what was that?!‘. There, Issız Adam, an icefall...
Mümin, maybe we should go back?
Peyami will you belay? I’ll demonstrate proper ice climbing to Atakan.
My confidence in my climbing shattered in the middle of the icefall with these ways:
Uh bro, shouldn’t you be using like, an axe and crampons and stuff for ice climbing?
Normally yes, but it’s Mümin, he’ll make it anyhow..
Alllaaahhh... (Goddddd..) (stands for a long fall)
After a long fall, the coffee I had in the morning before the climb just kind of burst within and catalized me. I think I warmed up.. With a better adapted body I climbed the waterfall and got to the dry section of rock absolutely soaking wet-including my rock shoes-, with frozen fingers and a rope worn of the fall (Peyami noticed this at the anchor) and myself worn out in general. Took a brief break to rest and kept on climbing with all I have. As I got to the anchor of the first pitch, completed preperations and started hauling, this was the question on my mind: Why didn’t we rappel from the top-down? Well, bygones, we’re on our way, no point in questioning.. We climbed the second pitch with our gear and started preparing at the anchor. Peyami was jumaring the 70 meters to get to the first pitch. I started bolting the third pitch and slowly drilled my ammunition upwards. When I was around the middle of the third pitch Peyami had gotten pretty near the first anchor but since jumar isn’t a technique Adana Team is accustomed to he was quite worn by it. We were kids raised with free climbing.. Jumar, gri gri, load, pull, what.. When Peyami decided to quit and descend I was again alone as I kept going and completed bolting pitch three. Now the route had been bolted 7 pitches, 350 meters but still wasn’t ready. Instead of clearing the line I stepped into new explorations. First I traversed right over the ledge to see if there was a passage to Zeytinlik(Olive Groves) Sector where it ended. Being on the ledge 200 meters above ground with no protection and detached from the rope felt like being free as a bird but just learning to fly recently, and a bit anxiously I ascended. Fortunately my old buddy Fear felt what was on my mind and came along as company.... As far as I saw from the end of the ledge, one can easily traverse around the back to here from the Zeytinlik Sector, come to this lower ledge that looks enormous and with 60 meters of climbing, jumar, via ferrata, whatever later can get to the ledge I am standing on and walk the way to the bottom of the legendary roof. For this incredibly attractive cavish formation 200 meters above ground the approach seemed impossible, but could it be that I had found a way? What do you think Fear, buddy, could it? Lets go back and see the rest of the way.. On this land noone has set foot on before, as I approached the temple above, I was maybe the first wayfarer to what may become Tapınak(Temple) Sector later. This time my steps were anxious and slow. Fear, adventure, discovery, curiosity and many other feelings were intense with me as I walked. The Temple was incredibly enchanting for me. In a part of super wild nature, never reached by man before, incredibly beautiful and solid lines suggesting a climbing style I’d never seen before.. I was finally at the treasure destination I dream of all the time.. Just the day before I was hostage in the hands of the mafia for money, in debt for the house, motorcycle, thinking about life.. All thoughts evaporated. Routine life lost all meaning and I stepped into another dimension. All of a sudden everything gained another perspective. For the moment all I wanted was to be able to spend a few days of my life there.. The wilderness had gotten me, we had become one.. This place calmed down the unsupressible, inexplicable feeling in mankind all at once.. I was where I seeked and searched and wanted to be.. I could not step or walk anymore. It’s tough to walk on top of the world, I saw that.
Twelve years ago with a new step in my life I found out about climbing, learned it and started doing it. With a second step I drew myself a path and started advancing in its direction. On the third step, now I understand that the reality is something completely different.. I had a long way ahead of me and needed to work a lot. I was at the beginning of the path to the truth, needed to ask for forgiveness and pray at the temple. My body and my soul were worn with the disciplining of nature, now I was laid on the floor watching the roof collapsing over me, dying.. I wasn’t scared because a new me was being created.. I woke up reborn and ready to go for now, my way back to routine life was long.
February 2nd 2012 A significant day for life...
THIRD ROUND WITH ‘ISSIZ ADAM’
February 4th 2012, exactly a month later..
For the third round with ‘Issız Adam’ this time Sülo, Peyami and I hit the road. Atakan is too tired to get on stage this time. This time there are no icefalls in the valley, just a totally wet route... Peyami is beat from 2 days before, he decides to be a spectator instead of joining the fight. To watch us and enjoy the scenery he heads off to the left slope of the valley across the route where the view is good and airy. This time I and Sülo jumar the first pitch so we don’t lose much time and get to the anchor. We quickly climb the second and third pitches and reach our goal. My goal is to try to route and get to know it, Sülo’s is go top-rope and clear the route of loose rock when there is no risk of them falling on the rope. I stick to that plan but Sülo? I don’t hear anyone yelling ‘Take!’ or rock falling.. After a long silence Sülo and I meet.
What happened? I didn’t hear anything? You ARE taking down the loose rock right?
Uh dude I’m like paralized..
And the rock?
People could be trekking in the valley with their families, if I drop them, someone could die..
Man you’re theorizing for the worst again..
I understood that Sülo was paralized due to the height, the environment we’re in, long pitches, being above ground, doing a super extreme climb in his point of view and several other theories he had going in his mind. There was nothing to do. The clean up was cancelled. Sülo thought I needed a new climbing partner, I thought we needed a new plan... We tossed a coin, heads or tails determined our new agreement..
I will climb up to the next ledge and clean up on rappel, you will sit on the ledge, have coffee, see if anyone’s trekking in the valley.. Let me know when it’s clear and I’ll shoot- bombard the place with drills. The answer was clear: Clear, shoot! With the new agreement we climbed all the way to the 5th pitch and got to the upper set. This time Sülo stuck to our plans and commanded shoot, which I would immediately. Even though I had pulled the rope aside the first block of rock I dropped accelerated fast and crushed the rope in the air, damaging it bad. Nothing to do.. New bombs follow.. Sending blocks larger than a table, watching them fall and hearing them crush is an incredible experience.. It was especially unique to Sulo and Peyami.. Me? I’ve always loved this barbaric task.. The block cutting through the wind ‘whoosh’ as it falls, the moment is hits the ground and scatters into pieces, the unique smell of burnt limestone.. Just love it.. As scary as it looks and frightening it sounds, watching it from above is an interesting experience.. Off the steep wall, without hitting anything, directly to the ground the rock falls, and falls, and falls.. The moment it hits the ground you wake up from the illusion, shiver with the sound bursting in your brain.. See how life flows and understand actually how quick time passes..
After rolling all these rocks down we set off to get to the ledge again and leave a static rope for the right side. I threw down a 60 meter rope but lets see if it’s the correct spot?
The next day at the Zeytinlik Sector, on a break from climbing we rushed below and to the left of the block of rock. Sülo, Çağlar Çaylı and I couldn’t believe our eyes. The rope was visible and it took only a short walk to get to it! Just behind the wall that was right next to us for years there is an incredible new sector and a major shortcut to Tapınak Sector.. This block of rock was actually so close to us, just a couple of minutes by foot. All it needed was the guts to turn around the corner.. Sometimes that takes years...
Explorations in Çakıt continue. As my life expands into new dimensions, lets see what this unstoppable feeling within me will get me and you into?
I’am sincerely grateful to Adana Team for being with me always and helping me greatly to actualize my dreams, and to the companies Petzl and Toros fort he gear support they provided for me to establish this route.
FOURTH ROUND WITH ‘ISSIZ ADAM’
My wounds haven’t healed yet.. I’m like a badly beaten and bruised boxer.. The fourth round with ‘Issız Adam’, the burden of which I still bear, was quite tough for me. It took me days to pull myself together again but my wounds are still open...
On ???? when Adana Team was heading for the Zeytinlik Sector I disregarded all Sülo’s doomed theorizing and couldn’t keep myself from heading up. My body and soul, bored of several days of rest, took me to the top quickly despite my heavy pack. Meanwhile the story Sülo told on the way from Adana to Çakıt influenced me deeply.
In sum, the rocks I clear off the route will kill someone and I will end up spending the rest of my life in a jail doing pull ups. Sülo had even dreamt of it..
When was the last time something you’ve seen in your dream actually happened? You just had strange dreams, maybe had a cold..
My answer was clear, everyone has a project, so do I.. Today I clean the route.. Trying to forget all Sülo’s theories of misfortune, relying on my own good wishes and luck, I set off for work. As I prepared I catched up with the high winds, exchanged a couple of words.. This time I was alone and since the obscurities of the first time didn’t exist anymore I started work without losing much time. My goal was to fix whatever was lacking on the route, drop as much loose rock as possible, clear the route of dust and all that is excess..
Since the last pitch was quite wet and overhanging I ascended fast using the rope I had fixed for aid. This section scares me for reasons I still can’t define.. As I descended quickly, old buddy Fear appeared with a warm welcome..
Howdy there? You haven’t been around lately, been missing you..
Fear watch your words, this time I’m holding a wrench, leave me alone or I’ll hit you in the head..
Threatening Fear with hitting it with the wrench I had for clearing loose rock wasn’t that effective at first, but when the huge blocks I dropped started echoing through the valley, things got serious. So how about that Fear, see you’re curling up, you look pale..
This time my rock-bombing with the wrench was continuous and strong. The sound and smell of some blocks got me into their gravitational zone and had me shaking along with the valley. God what a block that was! How could something two meters wide and four meters high drop that easily? Everything in life had a weak spot, wasn’t finding it the important part? Had I found my weak spots? When were these meanings in these lines behind life, spent on the road, to drop me down? Please not today.. Still a lot to do.. Something parted from me with that block of rock.. The wrench Rolling in my palm and ripping off a large piece of skin got my attention back..
Got back to life seeing the importance of using gloves better.. It hurt but there wasn’t anything I could do that high above ground.. Need to push buttons to send the rockets.. For hours I worked like a Russian soldier using an antiaircraft, kept on blowing my firecrackers one by one. Watch out, it’s coming, booomm.. As the sun set I had some jumarring and a life I had to meet by getting to Zeytinlik Sector ahead of me. It was almost dark when Sülo and I started ascending simultaneously. Sülo hiked to the summit and took the 100 meter static rope I left at the top section of the route and I got on my way back before it’d get too dark..
Back at home having run over by a truck felt good and I fell into a deep, peaceful sleep. The route was ready to be climbed now, but what about me? I am looking forward to the day the route will be dry and climbable and we will meet for our fifth round.. In spring..
*Issız Adam, meaning lone guy, or mot-a-mot ‘deserted man’ in Turkish, is a movie title with a pun: ada means island and the movie is about the relationship of two characters complicated in their own ways and with commitment issues, the female named Ada meaning island and ‘Issız Adam’ also meaning ‘my Deserted Island/Ada’ with m as a suffix. Long footnote I know. Just in case you wondered.