Peak Experience: Climber says “Masis” at top of mountaineering achievements

Karo Hovasapyan has followed Noah. And when he reached the Biblical hero’s landing site, the mountain climber fell to his knees.

“When I reached the summit of Masis, I was dead on my feet so I fell to my knees with tears of delight burning my eyes.” says mountaineer and polar explorer Karo Hovasapyan, who fulfilled his dearest dream by hoisting the Armenian tricolor on the snow-white top of the Mount Ararat, now the property of the Turks, but the spiritual peak of every Armenian.

Climbing Ararat was not Hovasapyan greatest mountaineering experience. He has reached the highest peaks of the six continents, including Mount Everest and the North and South Poles.

Toping “Masis” (as it is known by Armenians), however, was his greatest joy.

“I have felt excitement and pride each time I climbed the mountains, but standing on the top of the Mount Ararat symbolizes something very special that I think every Armenian should feel,” says the mountain lover.

Hovasapyan and 10 others launched their Ararat expedition on September 3, and reached the peak 5,165 meters later, on September 6.

He says climbing Masis (the bigger Ararat) was not a complicated task in terms of mountaineering. However it was difficult to get permission.

A citizen of the US and Russia, Hovasapyan had been denied permission to climb in Turkey, three times. His fourth application succeeded because Hovasapyan had joined Russian mountaineer Shataev’s expedition. Shataev has been making expeditions on Mount Ararat in search of the Noah’s Ark for the last seven years.

Hovasapyan has been the only Armenian who has reach the North Pole and the South Pole and will soon become one of only 11 alpinists who have been able to conquer the highest points in seven parts of the world.

“I have only the Mount Winson peak in Antarctica to reach. I think I will manage it this December,” he says.

A carpenter by background, and a native of Tehran (then Russia, Canada and, finally the USA), Hovasapyan, age 47, has been enchanted by alpinism since childhood, when the heroes of the books about mountain climbers became his everyday friends.

“I dreamt of passing the same route, of overcoming all those difficulties. It seemed to be a challenge. You take the dare, you overcome and ask nature to help you, to make you its part,” says Hovasapyan.

Hovasapyan got acquainted to the whims of nature in the Geghama Mountains and on Mount Aragats (the highest peak in Armenia), which he climbed six times.

But the idea of overcoming Everest would haunt him. “I had been dreaming of reaching Everest for 23 years but I managed to do it only last year.”

Hovasapyan reached the roof of the world at first attempt losing 14 kilograms of his weight in two months.

He reached the summit of Everest on May 30th 2005 at 6:15 a.m. seeing the sunshine on the whole world’s panorama in front of him.

Hovasapyan’s two dreams of reaching the tops of Ararat and Everest have coincided in time: he has reached both summits at 6:15 a.m. and it has become a symbolic time for him.

“I am lucky. The weather on the summit was perfect that day and I managed to stay there for 30 minutes and enjoy the wonderful view of the dawn,” the mountaineer says.

Staying on the top of Ararat for so long turned impossible because of the strong wind, when the climber was forced to go down in ten minutes.

Hovasapyan says the weather on Masis is difficult to forecast. It changes quite frequently and unexpectedly.

And still, no weather has ever hindered Hovasapyan to climb the mountain he wanted to and to hoist the flag of independent Armenia. Until last Friday (September 8) Hovasapyan himself hadn’t been in Armenia since 1988, when he came to be a rescue worker after the Spitak earthquake.

He does not live in Armenia but its flag is with him even in the most difficult moments.

“In the future I will give the flag that has overcome all the difficulties with me as a gift to Armenia. That will be the first flag that has been hoisted on the highest peaks of seven parts of the world,” says Hovasapyan.