Trek Iraqi Kurdistan expedition into the majestic Zagros Mountains
This unique trailblazing expedition will take a team to trek Iraqi Kurdistan, specifically the majestic Zagros Mountains of Kurdistan, Northern Iraq and to climb Mount Halgurd (3,607m). This is the highest climbable mountain that lies wholly within Iraq.
The Zagros Mountains stand at over 3,000 metres and guard the high passes into Persia. They are sacred to the Kurdish people who offer their warm, traditional welcome and hospitality to any visitor to this remote region. This is a truly unique opporunity to explore one of the world’s most inaccessible peaks, where but a handful of outsiders have ever ventured.
Mount Halgurd stands in the Zagros Range, which bisects Iraq, Iran and Turkey.
The mountain does not require any technical experience, and the skills required on the mountain will be taught on the lower slopes. This includes use of ice axe and crampons.
Why you'll love this adventure
- Trek in high-altitude Iraqi Kurdistan, an area steeped in history.
- Explore an area with no tourism infrastructure outside of the cities.
- Visit Erbil, one of the oldest inhabited citadels in the world
4 March 2024
12 March 2024
This expedition is run with framework itineraries, rather than as a guided tour with set daily plans. The following is the outline plan for this Iraqi Kurdistan Expedition – the ‘substance’ rather than the specifics. A fuller itinerary is provided in the trek Iraqi Kurdistan expedition handbook which is available if you make a booking enquiry.
- Professional leader carrying full communications and medical kits.
- Specialist guides and instructors.
- Tented accommodation throughout.
- All food (snacks and meals) and soft drinks.
- Internal transport as outlined in itinerary.
- Special permits and permissions within Kurdistan.
- International flights/ travel to and from Erbil.
- Taxi/ bus to hotel.
- Travel insurance (obligatory).
- Visas if required.
- Tips to local guides (discretionary).
- Alcohol unless provided by hosts with meals.
- Personal equipment (full kit list in the Handbook).
Accommodation will be in a basic hotel in Erbil at the beginning and end of the expedition, and in Choman en route to the mountain trekking phase. Teammates can leave a bag at the hotel in Erbil at their own risk. On the trekking part of the expedition the team will wild camp on the mountainside in tents.
Food in Kurdistan is plentiful. In urban areas it is usually kebab-based, served with fresh salads, rice and bread. During the trekking phase on the mountain, teammates will eat dehydrated trekking rations which come in a huge variety of flavours and can accommodate vegetarians (choices more limited). Expect to be invited in occasionally along the way, to eat delicious yoghurt and to drink traditional tea.
Who is this trip for?
This expedition should be achievable by anyone with a healthy lifestyle and a good level of general fitness.
Team members should be willing to be part of a team working together to achieve the goal of the expedition. The biggest challenge on this expedition will be dealing with the potentially cold or snowy weather conditions, carrying full winter kit and camping for many days.
Teammates who arrive without meeting the agreed minimum fitness requirements can jeopardise themselves and the expedition’s goal so do take training seriously, prepare as appropriate and arrive fit and ready to go.
Teammates must be comfortable with the following.
Minimum fitness requirements
- Trek: up to eight hours per day.
- Carry: up to 20kg.
- Terrain: cope with mountainous terrain (up to Scottish Grade 1), reaching 3607m in altitude.
- Climate: temps ranging from -5 to 20 degrees C.
- Age: 21+
Once you make a booking enquiry you will be send more details about the expedition including a Handbook with further expedition information.
Climbing Mount Halgurd
Mount Halgurd (3607m) is a trekking peak that does not require any technical experience. The skills required for the higher reaches of the mountain will be taught and practised on the lower slopes. This will include the use of ice axe and crampons, both of which will be provided along with training in how to use them. Until the mountain was climbed in 2004 by British mountaineer Ginge Fullen, Halgurd was thought to be the country’s highest mountain.
Many still consider Halgurd to be the country’s tallest mountain although competition comes in the form of Cheekah Dar, arguably a few metres higher at around 3611m. Cheekah Dar, however, straddles the border with Iran and is not currently climbable (and not wholly within Iraq).
The Zagros mountains
The Zagros range is around 1500 km long. Its mountains and foothills sprawl westwards from Iran’s western border into northern Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan) and up to the eastern reaches of Turkey. This formidable natural barrier has for centuries kept cultural and political entities apart, from early Mesopotamian and Median cultures to the more recent Persian and Ottoman empires.
In addition to ethnic Persians, the surrounding regions are home to communities of Assyrian Christians, Kurds and Turks and many other significant ethnic groups with agriculture, animal husbandry, carpets and rugs the mainstays of many local economies. These mountains are considered sacred by the Kurds.
Meet the Kurds
Kurdish people are renowned for their hospitality and generosity. A chance encounter can often lead to new friends and an invitation to tea or lunch, as teammates have discovered in the past. The fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, up to 35 million Kurds live across the mountainous zones straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. Their distinctive community is united through culture, race and language, though they have no standard dialect. Kurds belong to various religions and creeds with a majority being Sunni Muslims. Though they have no nation state, there is a semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq – the mountains of which are the setting for this epic expedition.
Mountain skills and experience
Teammates at all skill levels will find challenge and satisfaction in this expedition. Those new to higher mountains or environments requiring helmets, crampons and ice axes will learn everything they need to know to feel confident once up at higher altitudes. Those with significant experience will also find the peak enjoyable, with superb views of the surrounding peaks and valleys from the summit. In such a hard-to-access region, everyone will enjoy camping above the snowline and waking to find no other parties on the mountain: its peaks and slopes are all yours.
For anyone wishing to learn mountain or Alpine skills in a more dedicated way ask us about mountain skills training you can do before you go. Although, Mount Halgurd is an excellent first expedition for any fit teammates keen to get their first taste for such snow-bound adventures.
What are crampons?
Crampons are spikey things that attach to the bottom of walking boots to facilitate trekking on snow and ice. For this expedition it is imperative that everyone’s boots are crampon compatible, a B1 rating boot is advised. Consult the internet or your local outdoors shop staff for advice. Crampons will be provided for all teammates.
Can I bring my own crampons?
Yes you can but let the organiser know so they don’t pack extras
Do women need to cover their heads?
In Erbil and urban areas women will need to cover their hair/ heads with a scarf or similar. Modest other clothing (long sleeves, long legs) will also be required.
Once out on the mountain with just the team for company, there will be no need to cover hair (though you’ll want to anyway – with a nice warm hat!).
Can I charge all my electricals?
This will be very challenging with limited access to power once the trekking section begins. Please ensure that you are self-sufficient in terms of charging your appliances by bringing things like spare batteries, lightweight solar panels or power packs to avoid frustration.
Will my camera work in the cold?
Battery life can be a challenge in cold climates. If camera or phone battery life is of paramount importance, research the best ways to protect and keep your batteries warm and come equipped accordingly.
Will there be telephone signal?
In Erbil, yes. Don’t rely on it but there has also in previous years been some signal on parts of Mount Halgurd.
When it comes to getting off the beaten track these guys can’t be beaten. They lead pioneering expeditions to some of the most remote regions on earth. The organisers are dedicated to creating imaginative experiences for adventurers around the world and their team of expert military guides are some of the most experienced in the industry. Nowhere is off limits and no idea is too crazy. They have achieved ground breaking world firsts such as mountain biking in Afghanistan and mountaineering in Iraq and their first ever expeditions to walk across Madagascar and pioneer white water rafting in South Sudan both made the headlines…. and a bit of history.
Being wild and wacky is one thing but with their background as commanders in the British Army and experienced team of specialists in every kind of terrain and environment means that all of their adventures are thoroughly planned and the safety and security of teams is always their highest priority. Expeditions can be inherently risky, but they do everything possible to minimise potential hazards and for that, and the utterly extraordinary trips they put on, we salute them.
Trek Iraqi Kurdistan Expedition
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