Words Alia Fawaz
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Avedis Kalpaklian. I was Lebanese, from Armenian decent. I am a mountaineer, adventurer, and mountain guide. I mostly train in trail running, so you can say that I am a trail runner too. In fact, I have so far run the Lebanon Mountain Trail twice from Andqet in the north (near Qoubayat) to Marjayoun in the South (a distance of 452 kilometers with 23,000 meters of ascents) in just nine days – the equivalent of two marathons daily.
My main job is mountain guiding. I have my outdoor group on Facebook: the page is Sports 4 Life. I organize hikes all over Lebanon every weekend. I also manage a rock climbing school yearly. We just had one session for five days on June 17-18 and June 24, 25, and 26.
I also do caving, rappelling, camping, mountain biking, ski mountaineering – basically anything on land.
In addition I lead and guide expeditions to several mountains worldwide, such as Kilimanjaro (top of Africa), Elbrus (top of Europe), Ararat and many others.
Tell us your mountain climbing CV.
I have climbed more than 45 significant mountains of above 4,000 meters in altitude all over the world since 2009.
As mountaineers, one of the biggest challenges is the seven-summits project, which involves climbing the highest peak in each continent. I am part of Team Lebanon and we are the first national team and Arab team on the quest to complete this challenge. With my teammates we have climbed five of the seven peaks so far. We have Mt. Everest, the top of the world, (8,848 meters high) and Mt. Vinson in Antarctica still to climb. We are aiming for Mt. Vinson (4,892 meters high) in December, but getting sponsors for it is very hard as it costs $55,000 per person and we are four climbers.
Who is in Team Lebanon for Mt. Everest and Mt. Vinson?
We are all Lebanese: Peter Mouracade, Lindos Daou, Georges Mikhael, and I. (Facebook: Team Lebanon). We hope to conquer our last two iconic mountains.
What was your most recent climbing expedition?
My latest achievement was Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina (6,962 meters high). I actually couldn’t climb it back in 2012 with the team; I was 170 meters short of the summit and I succumbed to altitude sickness!
I climbed it again last February, unguided this time, and it took me 18 days. Mt. Aconcagua is considered the highest peak in South America, but also the highest of both Americas and the highest outside the Himalayan range and the Western Hemisphere.
Yet another national achievement of mine comes to my mind. I climbed four of the seven summits last year in a 10-month period: Denali in Alaska (6,190 meters high) in June, Elbrus in Russia (5,462 meters high) in August, Aconcagua in February and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (5,895 meters high) in March. I am the only Lebanese who has ever done that.
Where have you climbed in Lebanon?
I want to point out that I started mountaineering here in Lebanon. If you know which lines, routes, and trails to climb on our steep incline faces of Mount Lebanon, this is a perfect training for all the mountains of the world! I have climbed our three main summits countless times: Sannine (2,621 meters high), Mount Hermon (2,814 meters high) and Qurnat As Sawda (3,088 meters high). I’ve done them on foot, on mountain bike, and ski touring (also known as backcountry skiing)
Where are your next climbs?
With Team Lebanon Mt. Vinson is next, set for December 2017 and Mt. Everest is set for May 2018, granted that we obtain sponsors for them. Everest costs $80,000 per person and it involves two and a half months spent on the mountain. On my own I will be climbing Mont Blanc in August with some friends and a couple of 4,000-meter high mountains in France.
How do you train for these big climbing expeditions?
Basically with trail running as I said before, I run three days a week for a distance of 15 kilometers. I do some routine workouts and I am in the outdoors all the time.
What do you pack? What do you take with you?
Every mountain requires its own type of equipment. Basically, we wear layers of clothes to stay warm and dry for each altitude and temperature.
What drives you to climb?
It is my passion, I feel comfortable while doing it and if a few days pass without my being in nature I don’t feel right. If you give me the name of a country, the first thing that comes to my mind is “what is the highest mountain in that country?”, so it is like an obsession for me!
What is your next personal challenge?
Personally what is next for me is climbing 7,000-meter high and 8,000-meter high mountains such as Lenin Peak (7,134 meters high) in Tajikistan or Himlong Himal (7,124 meters high) in Nepal, and that’s a big challenge! I am also organizing a trip to Mexico to climb the four highest volcanoes there, meet the local Lebanese community, and discover the culture and history of this exotic country by the end of November 2017.