Exploring Iran Canyons with Gus Schiavon by admin | Sep 28, 2018 | Lifestyle | 0 comments Deep in the path of the Qashqai nomads in the Chaharmahal & Bakhtiari region, in the heart of Zagros range. It is here that one of Iran’s most famous canyons is located: Tange Zendan, Farsi for Prison Gorge. The route requires at least 2 days to complete. The dry, open and sunny upper part consists of multiple rappels and lengthy boulder fields which slow down the progress while the lower, aquatic section provides the thrills with narrow gorge sections filled with jumps and whitewater swimming. Impressive layers of limestone violently pushed up by the collision between the Eurasian and Arabic tectonic plates determine the aesthetics of the canyon. It’s still early in the season and we are the first to descend it in such high water levels. Due to the relentless summer heat the decision is to start late afternoon, walking and scrambling down the dry gorge until the first drop. We pull the rope just as the day becomes night, finishing up the first rappel and entering a steep limestone gorge; pure water begins to run as a trickle originated from a natural spring directly beside our campsite: a ledge with enough room for our team of 7 to brew up chai in the fire, rest our packs and lay down to sleep beneath the stars. We exchange laughs, camaraderie, and a bite to eat. Tina removes her headscarf and takes shelter in Amir’s arms. The mood is light, there are no rules or protocols; the outdoors have united us, set us free from routines and establishment. The next day begins slowly as we make our way down the upper section, with easy rappels up to 25m and plentiful downclimbs. Amir Jelvani, leading the group, is constantly evaluating the current anchors and choosing which ones need to be updated on their next descent of Tange Zendan; there is little time for bolting on our current schedule. At approximately 3pm, the canyon opens up and takes a left turn leading to a wide, grassy knoll. What we see from here leaves us all speechless: it’s Kerodi Kon, a majestic 100m+ tributary waterfall dumping considerable flow into our gorge. The spray and wind draft generated by the height and force of the water is such that we struggle to make our way to the belay; we’re screaming in order to pass-on instructions to each other. The increased water levels meant tackling the upcoming section – the narrowest and most committing of the canyon – would take significant effort and would lead us into the evening. Sa’eed Mohammadi, an experienced local mountaineer with 10-plus descents of the canyon mentions it’s the highest water level he had experienced here, “by a lot”. “There’s a particular rappel which will be very difficult in this flow and with the current anchors” says Sa’eed. Amir commands the team to settle for another camp. The morning begins with a short walk on the river bed leading us to the start of the lower section. From here, the challenges are plenty. Amir jumps across a scary-looking whitewater pool leading to a dangerous pour-off; we hold our breath, waiting for the outcome. He succeeds, but progress is slow as we manage the backpacks and ourselves in each obstacle; Amir always leads the way, counting on Sa’eed’s insights on the canyon configuration to make decisions. After plenty of small jumps up to 5m and short rappels, we reach the crux: a 15m waterfall called Abshar Dogholou (Twin Waterfall in Farsi), where the existing anchors meant a rappel directly under the heavy flow. A deviation is set-up to allow a rappel in between the two veins of water; despite, the pool below was another big threat due to heavy water movement. From the top, I watch as Amir rappels and disappears under the curtain of water. Seconds seem endless as we all wait for a sign that he’s safe. Suddenly, I feel the rope go slack; he’s off and in the pool. A hard swim gets him past the danger zone, and from below he sets up a guided rappel for the rest of the group to descend. In terms of thrills and excitement, Tange Zendan was really delivering it. At approximately 6pm, the gorge opens up and the canyon joins the Deraze Rood river, signaling the end of the technical section. We push forward aware of the long 11 km return trek after the canyon, filling our water bottles in the last available spring and following the river as the sun sets. Exhausted from the day, we agree on another night spent in the wild. It’s incredibly warm for an evening, and the surrounding boulders blast the heat accumulated during the scorching-hot day. We feast on the remainder of the food and remember the 2 last days of adventure as the burning fire reduces to ashes. This is an extract of an article previously published on Action Asia Magazine in January 2018. Words and images by Gus Schiavon. 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