Climbing Armenia

I am still getting used to speeding my life back up even though it has been over a week since I returned from the former Soviet state of Armenia. The life there is just a bit slower: you get a couple of hours to eat a breakfast that doesn’t even start until 9 A.M.! I actually figured one morning that I could drag breakfast into lunch and possibly take a quick siesta at the table and still be on time for dinner.  Lest this made me feel a bit sluggish, I quickly woke up when I hit the Yerevan streets in my little Lada Niva. Locals all drive like they have just stolen the vehicle they are in: one foot on the gas, one foot on the horn. Once out of the bustling city I soon found myself in rolling hills that gradually grew into larger mountains. The country folks are a bit reserved at first but, like most Armenians, are welcoming and always very giving.

The climbing in Armenia is as far from developed as it could possibly be; the number of climbers there could fit in a small school bus. I was fortunate to get to hang out with Mkhitar Mkhitaryan, who started the climbing club Up The Rocks. Mkhitar has been the main developer for climbing in Armenia and was featured in Rock and Ice issue 189. Mkhitar graciously showed us as many climbing areas as he could in the two weeks we had there. Most of these areas held a smattering of routes with almost endless possibilities for future development.. From places where you could belay out the back of the Lada Niva to fairly long approches with some of the sketchiest bridges I have ever walked across, here is a photo essay of the trip!



Mkhitar on his project,”Hell’s Diamond” (5.12a). He sent our last day there and his last go.

Unfortunately, I got pulled over for speeding. They let me off but argued that a picture of my driver’s license on my iPhone wasn’t legitimate only because the battery could die! Mkhitar had to argue quite a while!

Armenia is known mostly for its stunning and dinstictive basalt columns which were featured in Rock and Ice. Here is another view of Garni Gorge.

Every time we were back in the Yerevan, Mount Ararat was looming on the horizon.

Karine “slackin” in one of the many local parks.

Climbing exists in the city as well. Here, Marius make his way up a route in the Hrazdan Gorge.

A trip to Garni Gorge from the city only takes about an hour, making day trips great!

Paige climbing one of the famous pillars. Sometimes they are detached and a little hard to protect!

Inside one of the many monasteries in Armenia, some of which are over 3000 years old!

Moving into the crux on the third ascent of “Hell’s Diamond.”

One of the many questionable “bridges” available to test a climber’s mettle before he or she even touches the rock. This particular bridge guards climbs in Arpa Gorge.


Arpa Gorge also boasts a good amount of basalt climbing. Mkhitar on “TriCam” (5.10). 



There are many vipers lurking near most of the climbing areas, so one must stay aware!

The first ascent of “Don’t Pay the Old Man” (5.9) on the Nose Buttress.

Paige on the first ascent of “Mkhitar’s Gift”(5.7) at the Arzni Wall outside the village of Arzni.


Mkhitar on the second ascent of my route, “Rainy Day” (5.10a), Noravank Canyon

I took my run on the hardest line in the country. It is a proposed 5.13+ and is still without a clean ascent.


Cheers to all for great climbing, a wonderful country, and the welcoming Armenian people!



  • "T"


    Karsten, I have a friend from Armenia and she has always posted scenic pictures from her homeland and I have always admired these Basalt areas! Now I know that you have climbed them! Great pictures and blog about your travels!

  • Yogesh Kumar


    Great pictures and photo essay!

  • Matt


    Looks like an awesome adventure! Thanks for the pics.

  • Carey Ashford


    Keep up the great work!

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