Mount Khustup, Armenia / Photo: Gayane Tonoyan
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The best adventures always happen spontaneously – an idea that comes at the right moment, a few phone calls, and there you go, packing the backpack to hit the road, this time towards Mount Khustup. Located in the Syunik Province of Armenia, this mountain is truly the jewel of the Khustup-Katar mountain range, with its summit looming over the town of Kapan, solemn and beautiful in all four seasons.
On the way to Kapan, Armenia / Photo: Gayane Tonoyan
The winding road took us over several mountain passes with some stunning sunset views. It was already evening, when we reached the small eco-camp located near the village of Baghaburj, some 10 minutes’ drive from Kapan. Established as a community development initiative, the eco-camp provides a cozy camping site with a nice garden, a campfire and basic facilities. We were hosted by the founders of the camp and a volunteer, Assel, a kind lady from Kazakhstan who was helping them run the camp.
We woke up at 5 AM the next day to start the hike as early as possible. The trail ran up and down the lower slopes of the mountain which were blossoming with all possible colors – July is the best season to catch the full palette of the alpine flowers at this altitude. When we started the hike, we were walking through thick fog just following the trail without seeing where we were going.
The start of the trail to the summit of Mt. Khustup / Photo: Gayane Tonoyan
But as we gained altitude, we found ourselves literally above the clouds and finally saw the rocky edges of the crest, which meant that the summit was near. The white clouds were embracing the green hills and flowing back to the horizon like ocean waves. The scenery was changing every second because the wind was very strong and it was shaping the clouds into mysterious patterns hiding and revealing the landscapes around us.
Leavning the clouds below, the summit is near / Photo: Gayane Tonoyan
Up to this point, the trail was pretty easy though at times quite steep. However, as we reached the rocks, it got tougher and we even lost the trail a couple of times. But moving forward slowly, we finally reached the summit… only to discover that we were actually on the false peak of Mt. Khustup – the real one was the summit of another rocky hill a bit farther, with a cross on its top.
By the time we reached the real peak, we were all exhausted. But the reward for all the difficulties on the way up was absolutely breathtaking – we stood above the clouds that spread as far as the horizon, the silence on the top was so thick it felt almost tangible, the crystal-clear air smelled of fog and mountain herbs. I realized once again that moments like this, standing on the top and feeling the absolute power of the mountain, are the reason why people strive for the mountains despite all the risks and difficulties.
We spent about two hours on the peak absorbing the spectacular views and listening to the wind. As the weather started getting colder and the clouds darker, we decided to start descending because it looked like it was going to rain. On the way down, we gathered thyme to make very a delicious and healthy herbal tea. The slopes of the mountain were abundantly covered with blossoming thyme plants so we got back with the winter’s stock of herbal tea.
The view from the top of Mt. Khustup (3,201m) / Photo: Gayane Tonoyan
As we walked down into the clouds, it started raining and by the time we reached the car we had left somewhere on the lower slopes of the mountain we were soaking wet, cold, hungry but absolutely happy – a feeling you get only in the mountains after an exhausting day which is at the same time so full of new impressions and unforgettable memories.
We drove back to Kapan and then to Goris where we stayed overnight before going back to Yerevan on the next day. It was the second time I climbed Khustup Mountain. For me, it is definitely one of the most beautiful summits in Armenia, a hike not to be missed if you want to feel the power of the Syunik mountains!
Embracing the power of Mt. Khustup / Photo: Courtesy of Gayane Tonoyan
Mount Khustup Travel Tips:
To get to Mt. Khustup, you first need to reach the town of Kapan, about 300km from Yerevan. The minibuses for Kapan leave from the bus station on Sevan street, behind the Yerevan train station (starting from 7:00 AM, ticket costs AMD 3500). Another option is to take a taxi – the ride to Kapan will cost around AMD 30.000-35.000 (use the GGTaxi mobile app). Lastly, you can always hitchhike, since hitchhiking in Armenia is safe and easy.
The classical hiking route to the top of Mt. Khustup begins from the village of Baghaburj, 4km to the south of Kapan. To get here, you can take a taxi from Kapan, or hitchhike. You can either walk all the way up to the summit on a well-visible trail (as you reach the rocky part, look for red and white trail markings to guide you to the summit) which is about 10km one way, and involves an altitude gain of 2,200 meters. For this option, you better plan an overnight stay at the Storot (Nafcha) Base Camp (located at about 2,100 meters above sea level) and continue the hike on the next day from the camp. As an alternative, you can drive up to Storot (Nafcha) Base Camp on a 4WD vehicle, and start hiking from there reducing the hiking time and elevation to make it to the summit in one day.
The other, easier route starts from the village of Shishkert, about 50km to the south of Kapan. This is a good option if you’re short on time or just lazy to take a long hike. A 4WD car can drive up pretty close to the summit, reducing the hiking time to about 1 hour. Mind that the road is not good and quite dangerous at some points, so a good vehicle and an experienced driver would be needed for this option.