Join me for an epic trekking adventure into the beautiful Kackar Mountains in Eastern Turkey where raw wilderness and ancient lifestyles leave lasting memories.
I began my Kackar mountain journey walking up a dirt road towards lush green foothills from the small tourist town of Ayder. Passing the occasional deserted yayla next to a river swollen with fresh snow-melt.
Yaylas are small Turkish mountain villages inhabited by nomadic herders who bring livestock here to graze high pastures in spring & summer months. Many were abandoned, a few showed signs of life as locals began returning with their animals.
In one such village, called Yukari Kavrun, I was startled to find a large angry bull blocking the road. I cautiously backed away until the snorting animal decided to harass a group of cows nearby while locals yelled and chased it down with ropes.
The people who live in these valleys come from all over. Their ancestors were originally from Armenia, Greece, Georgia, Russia, even Uzbekistan. They make a living herding cows and sheep; producing delicious cheese, yogurt, and the best honey in the world.
Climbing a steep trail above the village, I stopped briefly for lunch on a hill surrounded by colorful orange, yellow, and purple wildflowers. A jagged wall of snow-capped peaks loomed ahead as I hiked on.
Weather changes quickly in the Kackar Mountains. Bright blue sky was consumed by a blanket of dark clouds rumbling with lightning and thunder. Then came the hail!
I was forced to retreat into a valley to find cover as lightning repeatedly struck the exposed ridge in front of me, hastily constructing an emergency shelter using a rain tarp and crawling under just as the worst weather hit.
CRACK! BOOOOOM! It was the loudest thunder I’ve experienced, practically shaking the mountain beneath me. Soon followed by blinding flashes of lightning. I love crazy weather, but this was pretty scary. Hail hammered down from the heavens — closer than usual here at 8,000 feet.
Alpine Lakes & Backcountry Camping
The bad weather passed almost as quickly as it arrived though. I emerged from my shelter to begin hiking again, searching for a decent camping spot. Stopping to set up camp and prepare hot tea beside a deep blue alpine pond as the sun dropped below the horizon.
What kind of shelter was I packing? A hammock of course! But at these altitudes there are no trees… only rocks. However you’d be surprised at just how versatile a camping hammock can be. A set of rock climbing nuts, a large trash bag, and a foam pad turns a hammock into a traditional bivy sack for sleeping on the ground.
The temperature dropped and I gazed at the stars in total silence for a while, drinking some olive oil and doing pushups to build up some body heat before climbing into my sleeping bag for the night.
The next morning was cold and sunny. I scarfed down some bread, honey, and trail mix for breakfast before heading back out on the trail.
Walking down into a valley through snow towards another mountain lake. The sunlight didn’t last long though, and dark clouds soon moved in for a 2nd day, threatening to delay me again.