"Thanks and thanks again to Him who offers to the man whom the sorrows of life have assaulted and left naked–offers to him the fig leaf of the Word with which he can cover his wretchedness." -Søren Kierkegaard

Piramagrun Hike-Climb-Slide-Death March

Posted in Ambient, Photography, Silhouettes, Travel by matt on Friday, June 1, 2012

Below are a few photos from our recent trip up one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s more challenging mountains: Piramagrun.

A photo of Piramagrun mountain in Iraqi Kurdistan.

It started out as a fun little day hike, and our professional Swiss Mountaineer assured us that the climb was “quite easy, with a few slippery parts.”(insert an Arnold accent there for the full effect)

Our group climbing to the top of mount Piramagrun.

Several hours, slips, and worried looks later and we had all made it to the top. A group of us went on to do some rock climbing while the others rested. We’d made it.

A silhouette photo of the entire group before the whole trip became a nightmare.

The descent, however, proved to be a little bit insane. We made it down a sharp, steep ravine only to find that a loose rock had pummuled an Italian climber as he was ascending at a narrow point in the mountain. He couldn’t even walk after being hit and had to hide in a crevice; a group of local Kurds carried him down to a safe part of the mountain, which is where we found them gathered.

A Kurdish villager watches as the rescue chopper attempts to land.

The police then arrived and decided all the foreigners should stay put while they called a helicopter to come airlift our crazy selves off the mountain. I got annoyed and decided I wanted to finish the hike, but my mustachioed officer-friend had other plans, and he made sure to wave his AK-47 so as to make sure I knew that. He then told me he would arrest me if I didn’t ride their complimentary helicopter down the mountain.

It was frustrating, but what can you do? Sometimes the fabled Kurdish hospitality starts feeling a bit…inhospitable.

A Kurdish villager taking photos of the rescue chopper on his phone.

Anyway, the chopper arrived and it quickly become obvious that these guys had no clue how to call a chopper in, much less how to get people into it on a steep mountain. So they just kept asking each other “Chi Bkain?” or “What are we doing?” in Kurdish and taking photos of the chopper on their phones while giggling. Our Italian hiker is lucky that rock hadn’t seriously wounded him or he would’ve died right there on the mountain (and then had his photo taken by several camera phones).

After an hour of failed landing attempts, the police men declared that we weren’t sick enough to ride in the helicopter anyway, and they then stuffed the crippled Italian hiker into the chopper while it was hovering over a ledge and told us we had to finish our hike.

The valley below mount Piramagrun in Iraqi Kurdistan.

At this point it was beginning to get dark but, as infuriating as the delay was, I was glad they didn’t force us to Die Hard our way into the chopper like the Italian guy had to. We walked another few hours and arrived at the bottom just as the sun was setting. A group of villagers had gathered at the base partially to stare at the crazy foreigners and partially to celebrate our survival. The crowd’s welcome brought on a weird feeling of humiliation and sweet relief—we’d made it.

The moral of this story? The take-away big idea? I’m. So. Out. of. shape. Everyone who said being 25 isn’t the same as being 20 was right. I need to go on more hikes like this, because sitting at an office desk all day isn’t doing me any physical favors.

A silhouette shot of me on the Piramagrun mountain.

22 Responses

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  1. Mercy said, on Friday, June 8, 2012 at 2:04 pm


  2. Anonymous said, on Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    im going back tried to climb it once to the top peak but didnt make it
    what do you suggest in terms of well would i need an experienced villager to go up with

    • matt said, on Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 5:51 pm

      Hi there. There’s a point at which the climb becomes much more steep and slippery, and that’s when it might be nice to have someone who is experienced and knows the way. We had someone like that with us and it made the climb much better. You can hire Kurds down at Piramagrun village below the mountain, and I believe there are also travel guide companies that will take you on the hike as well. Happy climbing!

  3. Anonymous said, on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Your photography skills are incredible! Love reading your stuff…..thanks for giving me a heart attack! LOL….I am sure your parents are not surprised at all about this little hike. You have a wit about you that is so incredibly awesome….those guys should have listened to you to begin with….
    Hope to see you all soon!

    • matt said, on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 9:58 am

      Thanks, Mel! I’ve really enjoyed learning about camera work, but I’m still very green. Isn’t it great having a hobby that you can basically learn about forever? Thanks for reading. You’re encouragement means a lot to us! =)

  4. Peter Dewit said, on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Wow…thats my kind of story and adventure and climb!!!! thanks for sharing…I almost felt like i was on the mountain. How were the legs next day?

    • matt said, on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      I’m a little embarrassed to say it, but I could barely walk. The wife bought me some dumbbells a few weeks ago, so hopefully I can keep from slipping into such terrible shape. I need your drive!

  5. Karzan said, on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 12:21 am

    Hi, Which way did you guys take to get there??

    • matt said, on Sunday, March 16, 2014 at 11:29 am

      Hi Karzan. I’m not actually sure which route we took. I just remember being at a village and then heading up. Sorry!

      • karzan said, on Sunday, March 16, 2014 at 6:32 pm

        Thanks Matt..i am looking at it from google earth, i ll try to do it from the other end, it seems easier

    • Isma said, on Sunday, March 16, 2014 at 6:55 pm

      Hi Karzan,

      I also would like to go there. Yesterday, the views from Slemani where georgeous! It would be a pleasure for me to join you to this trip or any other you’re thinking about, if possible.

      Best wishes!

      • Anonymous said, on Monday, March 17, 2014 at 12:18 am

        Hi Isma,
        There is one just by slemani, Goyzhe. good one to start with.. send m your contact if you were interested

      • Anonymous said, on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 10:54 pm


        you can contact me at ismasanchez83 in g mail do t com

  6. Isma said, on Saturday, March 15, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Hi! I liked to much the pictures you added to the post! It looks like really awesome climb close to Slemani.
    I’m living now in Slemani and I would like to do some hiking and climbing around here. Do you know any club or hiking group to join me?
    Otherwise, would you mind to send me some useful information about the climbing of this mountain? I mean, how to arrive, timing, and recommended material that is needed for the hike. It would be really nice!
    It seems that you didn’t arrive up to the top of the mountain. Is a rope necessary for that?
    Thank you very much for your help!!

    • matt said, on Sunday, March 16, 2014 at 2:33 pm

      Hello Isma. So glad you liked my post! Yes, it’s not far from Slemani at all. I don’t actually know of a hiking or climbing club nearby. If I did, I would consider being a part of it. I usually just go out with my photography buddies to explore and take pictures.

      As for info on this climb, I’d say you can go as high as you want. I went with a larger group of friends led by a Swiss mountaineer who has made this climb many times, so we were in good hands. There are some steep areas where you would need ropes, harnesses, and an experienced rock climber who knows how to belay and guide you. I hope that at least helps a little!

      • Isma said, on Sunday, March 16, 2014 at 6:53 pm

        Thank you for your rapid answer, Matt!

        If you’re living in Slemani or nearby, maybe could I go some day with you and your buddies?

  7. Anonymous said, on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Hi Guys!

    I liked the article and the photos so much. We are also planning to climb the mountain, but our local friends are worried about us because of landmines… Do you know anything about it? Is it a real danger there? I know there are some dangerous area near Penjween and even above east Slemani on Azmar mountain. But what about Piromagrun?

    • matt said, on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      Hey Bence. Glad you enjoyed the article. I’ve never heard of landmine issues on Piramagrun, but I’m no veteran to the area. I’ve only been on a few excursions, all of them in the Slemani province. That said, Kurds tend to over-worry as a sign of affection—especially for us helpless foreigners (assuming you are foreign?). I’d encourage you to ask around and to get opinions from locals and experienced foreigners alike, and I’d also encourage you to resist this country’s ability to induce fear in a person. Be smart, of course, but don’t let fear and hearsay dictate. Just my $.02, hehe.

      • Karzan said, on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 10:41 pm

        Piremegroon was never an active frontier of war (land mine areas are usually places where Iraq-Iran war was fought) , so I do not think that area to be dangerous, if you made your mind to go there I am in. Karzan

    • Anonymous said, on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 10:55 pm

      I’m in too! hehe

  8. Rawand said, on Friday, April 18, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    hoho, nice job budd, I got some questions for you if you don’t mind,

    1. can you estimate the mountain height ?
    2. how many hours did it take you to rich the peak ?
    3. can you tell me the type of supplies that you had with yourself when climbing ?
    4. and also the month that you go?
    5. I am going to a place everyday, that place is just in front of the mountain piramagrun, I decided to climb the mountain, but based on your experience, can we group of 3 people Go to top and go back at the SAME DAY ?? or it takes more than a day to do so ?


    • matt said, on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 4:35 pm

      Hey Rawand! Please forgive how late this response is coming. If you’re interested in more stories and info like this, check out our new site: http://travelkurdistan.wordpress.com/ We only just started it, but hopefully we’ll have more info for you there soon. As for your questions:

      1. can you estimate the mountain height ?

      I don’t actually know. You could probably search around on google and find the elevation.

      2. how many hours did it take you to rich the peak ?

      It’s hard to recall since it was years ago, but I think it took about 4-5. We had a large group, so it could probably be done faster.

      3. can you tell me the type of supplies that you had with yourself when climbing ?

      Most of this would be classified as moderately difficult hiking, so a good pair of shoes and some sturdy legs (and a highly-functioning brain) should be enough. If you want to scale some of the steeper points at the top, you’d need experience in that along with the appropriate equipment.

      4. and also the month that you go?

      We went in May. It was lovely. Beware of falling rocks!

      5. I am going to a place everyday, that place is just in front of the mountain piramagrun, I decided to climb the mountain, but based on your experience, can we group of 3 people Go to top and go back at the SAME DAY ?? or it takes more than a day to do so ?

      We did it all in one day, but we were completely exhausted by the end. Some of the girls were in tears. It was a great memory, but it was tough.


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