Some of the events that led to the formation of R-A-D:


Up The Rocks, Yerevan

Up The Rocks a climbing association was formed in Yerevan by a young aspiring climber Mkhitar Mkhitaryan who taught himself to climb watching climbing videos. He’s a member of the Spitak Rescue Center in Yerevan, a climbing association formed in Soviet times with severe resource constraints. Climbing equipment was old and scarce, new equipment is not readily available and is very expensive. Beginner routes by the Center in Yerevan had old or no bolts. Mkhitar was keen to scout suitable rock for climbing and to establish new routes and was looking for a suitable partner.

Mkhitaryan met Will Nazarian, an Armenian-American climber with 25 years’ experience through on-line climbing forums. Will and Katy Anderson, a Geneva-based communications expert, travelled to Armenia in April 2009. Will brought bolts, a Bosch drill and a rack of cams to get Mkhitar started. See Will’s blog:

Will Nazarian (left) giving Mkhitar Mkhitaryan the climbing equipment needed to establish new routes.
Garni Gorge, close to Yerevan.

Will, Mkhitar and Katy went to Garni Gorge and Will established a 5.10 grade trad -climbing route, named Doudouk after the national instrument.


After Will’s visit Mkhitar came up with the idea for an Armenian climbing festival in summer 2009 to promote the development of new routes. The festival introduced Armenians to the sport of rock climbing. It also drew the attention of French climber Sam Bie. Sam travelled to Armenia in 2010 and put up 10 new pitches in a country that only has 15 routes. It made the front page of international climbing magazine Rock and Ice, along with the story of Will’s first ascent.


Thanks to the material Will brought, Mkhitar was able to bolt sport routes in Yerevan to promote climbing for beginners. Using the Bosch drill, in October 2010 he put up 10 routes near the Spitak Rescue Center.

Mkhitar’s climbing organization ‘Up The Rocks’ now needs harnesses, ropes and other equipment to develop the growing interest in climbing that Will’s initial visit together with Mkhitar’s enthusiasm have inspired.


Harm Reduction center Dom Ran, Dushanbe

Director Sergei HIDIROV second from left, Ira center back.

In November 2009, Katy Anderson visited a harm reduction center in Dushambe, Tajikistan for a photo/writer mission to highlight Global Fund financed programs.

Katy found that climbing has been a tool in the battle against drug addiction in a country that is beset with social problems. She went climbing with the center’s founder, Sergei and a social worker, Ira and discovered a good potential for climbing with a concerning lack of safety equipment.

Sergei Hidirov founder of the Dom Ran center worked for 13 years in an HIV/AIDS center then set up Dom Ran NGO. Dom means home and Ran stems from a Tajik word which means free from drugs. It’s been going for 5 years and is the only center in Tajikistan which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Services at the center include a TV, library, computer, counseling, psychological counseling, acupuncture, family counseling, meals and non-medical detox. The goal of Dom Ran is to attract Injecting Drug Users (IDUs), to train and motivate them for treatment. It is for people who can’t afford narcology services, which generally cost US$250, people sleep for a week then restart using drugs. Dom Ran offers non medical detox which lasts 4-5 days, nothing to eat, very little sleep, a lot of suffering but then they are normal. NGO Ran has 4 harm reduction points, 1 mobile and 4 stationary. Dom Ran is the first drop in center and the only one open 7 days a week. Sergei who runs the center says his motivation was through concern for others – he himself never smoked or drank but this problem (IDUs) troubled him from childhood. The center is financed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria. Many people want to use the services of Dom Ran. There is a long waiting list, difficult to say exactly how many people are waiting. There has been an increase of people in recent times, that Sergei has witnessed. The center is working at full capacity, but will have to reduce its number of beds from 7 to 6 due to inflation. Sergei takes Dom Ran guests climbing or hiking at the weekends as a healthy outdoor occupation. He has encouraged Ira to pursue her motivation to rock climb.

Ira (21) won first place in a national climbing competition for women, on 9 May, Victory Day 2008. She has been working at the center for 3 years. She was not IDU, but was an alcoholic until she met Dom Ran Director Sergei. Now she lives to climb.

Ira on a route just outside Dushambe.
Ira climbs using home-made climbing shoes and cut holes for laces.
Climbing equipment is also custom-made by an ironmonger at Ira’s specification.
Sergei does not own a harness so uses a tree to belay.

Following the November mission, Katy sent outdoor equipment including climbing shoes, hiking boots and outdoor clothing in a package to Sergei and Ira at Dom Ran.

Climbing shoes, sent to Dom Ran.

There is great potential for climbing in Tajikistan. Several routes have been established with bolted anchors outside Dushambe. In addition, a former Soviet climbing center exists in the Van mountains.

Katy also traveled to Khorog, the capital of Gorno-Badakshan Oblast in the Pamir region to publicize harm reduction programs at a ‘Trust Point’ center. The region shares a border with Afghanistan and is a known site of heroin trafficking. Thanks to assistance from the Agar Khan Development Foundation, the Khorog has a University and therefore a good level of education, however local youth have little opportunity for sport and the risk of heroin addiction is a ‘ticking time bomb’ according to Tajikistan’s UNDP resident representative.

Khorog, Pamirs


Alpine Club Sofia, Bulgaria

Will travelled to Bulgaria in March 2010 with a Bulgarian climber he met in Yosemite, Ivo Ninov. They explored the extensive areas of developed climbing and Will was impressed by the wide participation of youth in this sport. Will was invited to speak and gave a presentation at the Sofia Alpine Club about his rock climbing experience. Will hopes that the development of climbing culture in Bulgaria can serve as a model for other opportunities in Eastern Europe/Central Asia and elsewhere.

– ends-


2 comments on “Background
  1. Eve Nazarian says:


  2. Jan Sobel says:

    Wishing you great success in your endeavors. Rock on Will!

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