The First Ascent Festival, Armenia was held in May 2011.
A preliminary site survey was conducted in April 2009 and the appraisal revealed extensive potential to establish climbing routes. There was enthusiasm among locals to rock climb but a distinct lack of necessary experience and equipment. Development of identified sites for the purpose of sports tourism could help stimulate an improvement in local amenities, generating income for communities associated with the provision of services.
Participants attended the festival from UK, USA, Germany, Russia, Iran, and Armenia. In addition, locals who had not heard about the festival beforehand tried rock climbing for the first time.
The itinerary consisted of 5 sites over 10 days at Hell’s Canyon, Noravank Canyon, Arpa Gorge and Garni Gorge. Garni, just 45 minutes from Yerevan is a unique location due to its impressive basalt columns and is part of the Khosrov Nature Reserve. It is adjacent to Garni Temple, an important religious site for over 4,000 years and Geghard Monastery, a 4th Century Christian Church. Photos of Garni are now well recognized in climbing circles due to international media coverage of the cliff where the first free climb was established by Will Nazarian during the initial site visit in April 2009. The awe inspiring characteristic of the place known as The Symphony of Stones has proven to be a draw for climbers to come to Armenia. Festival participants confirmed as much. The climbing is adjacent to the picnic areas, providing easy interaction with people out for the day, and a chance to try the local barbecue.
Participants also had the opportunity to establish bouldering routes in an undeveloped site at Chiva in the Southern Province. This location is supported by a grant from the Competitiveness Foundation Armenia, a local NGO.
A lot of preparatory work was done before the festival by Jared Neilson and Jason Stevens who put in high quality bolts and anchors. Their work is a good example of quality route building.
Overall the festival produced a significant advance for climbing tourism in Armenia.
44 new routes and 6 boulder problems were established by the participants making a total of 50 new lines in Armenia, doubling the amount of climbs in country.
List of new routes established during the First Ascent Festival:
New Sport climbs in Hell’s Canyon
Route name / Grade / Height / Route setter / FA
1. Redemption 5c/5.9 20m. Jared Nielson Caroline North
2. Hells Diamond 7a/5.11d 30m Mkhitar Mkhitaryan Will Nazarian
3. Project 6b+/c? 35m. Mkhitar Mkhitaryan
4. The Maple way of drilling 15m Jared Nielson project
5. Cliff Chicken 6c+/5.11c 25m Jared Nielson project
6. Institutionalize 6c,+/5.11c 20m Jared Nielson Jared Nielson
7. Death Spank 6b/5.10c 20m Jared Nielson Jared Nielson
8. Centipede 6a/5.10a 20m Jared Nielson Jared Nielson
9. Side Swipe 5c/5.9 20m Jared Nielson Jared Nielson
10. Frost Bite 6a+/5.10b 20m Jared Nielson Jared Nielson
11. Fire 6a+/5.10d 20m Jared Nielson Jared Nielson
12. Spinal Crack 6b+/5.10d 20m Jared Nielson Jared Nielson
13. Screaming Khorovats 5c/5.9 15m Jason Stevens Jason Stevens
14. Cheese and Wieners 6a/5.10 15m Jason Stevens Jared Nielson
15. Ignorance. 6a/5.10a 15m Jason Stevens Jared Nielson
16. World Famous Nobody 6b/5.10c 15m Jason Stevens Jason Stevens
17. Estragon and Sissy Bolts 5b/5.8? 15m Jason Stevens Jason Stevens
Bouldering problems at Chiva Blocks
Problem Grade FA
18. A V3 Caroline North
19. B V3 Caroline North
20. C V2 Nasim Eshqi
Block 2 21. A V4 Caroline north
Block 3 22. With a Help of Nature V0 Andrea Poppova
23. May 23 V0 Aurelia Schwarzmann
Traditional and Sport climbing routes in Noravanq Canyon
Route / Grade / Height / Route setter / FA
24. N&C 6a/5.10a. 35m Nasim Eshqi and Caroline North
25. Soviet Nail 5b/5.8 20m Jason Stevens Jason Stevens
26. CatAlex P1 6a/5.10a 45m
P2 6a/5.10a 40m
P3. 5b/5.8 30m=115m Andranik Miribyan and Vahe Tamamyan
27. Jo.Si.To. Girls Power
P1 5b/5.8 – 35m
P2 6a+/5.10b – 40m
P3 6b+/5.10d – 40m
P4 6a+/5.10b – 50m 165m Caroline North and Nasim Eshqi
28. Vehicular Homicide – Sport ungraded 20m Jason Stevens Jared Nielson
29. Eghegnadzor – TG 6a/5.10a 35m – Aleksey Antonov and Aleksey Adamov
30. Marshuka Melee – Sport 6a+/5.10b 25m Jared Nielson Jared Nielson
31. The End – TG R1 6a/5.10a – 50m
R2 6a/5.10a – 32m
82m – Caroline North and Nasim Eshqi (after the event)
Clean Climbs in Arpa Gorge
Route / Grade / Height / FA
32. Find the Pleasure – 6b/5.10c 20m Caroline North and Nasim Eshqi
33. Eagles aren’t Home 6b+/5.10d 28m FFA by Vladimir Belousov
34. Short Trip (Natural anchor from webbing) 7a/5.11d 26m Vladimir Belousov
35. The Village Hour – 6a/5.10a 30m Aleksey Antonov and Aleksey Adamov
36. 2 Girls in Dreamland – 6c+/5.11c 32m Caroline North and Nasim Eshqi
37. Good Bye Tricam – 6b/5.10c 32m Caroline North and Nasim Eshqi (after the event)
38. Gri-gri Guide – 7a+/5.12a 37m Caroline North and Nasim Eshqi (after the event)
Clean Climbs in Garni Gorge
Route / Grade / Height / FA
39. Orphans of Justice 5b/5.8 20m Jared Nielson
40. Thongs of Virtue 5b/5.8 20m Jared Nielson
41. unnamed 5c/5.9 12m Aleksey Antonov
42. Snakeskin 5b/5.8 12m Aleksey Adamov
43. Guano Apes 5b/5.8 12m Will Nazarian
44. AnDoVenture 5c/5.9 12m Caroline North and Nasim Eshqi
45. Spitak is Rescued 6a/5.10a 12m Caroline North and Nasim Eshqi
46. Geghard 7a/5.11d 35m Will Nazarian
47. Knot Doudouk 7a/5.11d 30m Will Nazarian
48. Up The Rocks 6b+/5.10d 35m Caroline North and Nasim Eshqi
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