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May 2013: Climbing has been baned on the famous basalt columns at Arpa Gorge and Garni Gorge in Armenia.
Photo by UpThe Rocks
The famous basalt Arpa Gorge in Armenia where climbing has now been banned.
Photo by UpThe Rocks / Andranik Miribyan
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Armenia, climbing banned on the basalt columns

23.05.2013 by Planetmountain

Climbing has been baned on the famous basalt columns in Armenia including Arpa Gorge and Garni Gorge.

Up until recently one used to climb on some truly unique rock in Armenia, up hexagonal basalt columns so unique and beautiful that it seemed like climbing in a dream. Unfortunately though this dream has come to an abrupt end as the local climbing club UpThe Rocks, and various environmental and civil groups, have announced that climbing has been banned on these rocks which are considered National Monuments.

The reason why climbing is no longer possible at Arpa Gorge, the Garni Gorge and all other basalt column formations can be found in the environmental impact connected to climbing. Since 2009 an attempt was underway to reduce the visible scars but climbing trad and using bolts at the belays only, while last year the local climbers decided to do without bolts altogether. Instead of bolts at the belays a 'V-thread I-thread' system was implemented, approved upon by environmental experts, but unfortunately some visiting climbers failed to respect these guidelines resulting in total closure.

In truth, climbing is such a recent activity on these columns that it has always been considered illegal, but up until now the authorities had always turned a blind eye. Mkhitar Mkhitaryan, the president of UpThe Rocks, explained to Planetmountain: "it's important to realise that Armenia's basalt columns are natural monuments and have "passports". Climbing has never been included in their passports, so it was always illegal and the Ministry trusted that we would find a workable solution. And got really close , we'd developing V-thread I-thread rappel anchor systems and were going to apply for the permit but unfortunately some climbers failed to respect our nature and take care of our rocks, which is why we've insisted on this ban."

Undoubtedly this decision was no easy one to take, but Mkhitaryan added "Armenia is a land of rocks, you know. Full of canyons and crags, limestone and basalt (not columns) formations For those looking for developed crags I suggest Noravanq canyon and Hell's canyon. From 25-31 May we'll be holding the Armenian Rock Climbing Festival in these canyons and many new routes will be established!"

Click here for the official press release.

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