Mount Erciyes (3916m) is a volcano in Turkey, revealing itself as a gigantic snowclad pyramid from most places in Cappadocia, and creating a nice backdrop to the city of Kayseri. It looks easy from below, but to get to its highest point requires climbing (III/IV) in dangerously loose rocks.
In contrast to the touristy spots of Cappadocia (eg Göreme which has a large crowd of western tourists), there are very few tourists to be seen in Kayseri and Erciyes, if any at all. This is probably related to the fact that Kayseri is dubbed 'the second most Islamic city in Turkey' (only after Konya).
It took me one hour by bus from Göreme to Kayseri (10 lira). Arriving the huge terminal at the outskirts of Kayseri, I just crossed the main road, where there is a ticket boot, and flagged down a Otobus towards the city center (1.25 lira). I instructed the driver to stop where there are minibuses departing for Erciyes. I found these white buses quite easily, lined up and departing as soon as they fill up. Don't expect much waiting time, the buses fill up really fast, so I estimate they depart at least every 15 minutes or so. The price tag for the 25 km ride up to Erciyes at 2200 meters elevation is also very modest (5 lira).
I did not buy any sorts of provisions in Kayseri. That was pure gambling, but fortunately it turned out that Erciyes has several cafes, most of them also open during summer time (which is low season for a ski resort like this). Some of the hotels were also open, among others, the year-round-running Hotel Bülent with room prices starting at 50 lira. And best of all, most hotels and cafes have a Wifi connection. It is also possible to pitch a tent virtually anywhere, especially on the other side of the river, where there are many good spots (but rather spoilt by garbage though). If safety is a concern, the Gendarmes will allow you to pitch your tent near their building.
The first thing to do as soon as you have checked into Erciyes, is to visit the Gendarmes, where you will have a climbing permit issued and served a cup of tea, both free of charge. The officers are very nice too, I sat and talked with them for at least 30 minutes. Your passport must be left there, and can only be retrieved when you are well down from the mountain. The Gendarmes also has a very cheap shop and it is open until 21:00. I bought soda, chocolate and lots of biscuits to a total price of 5 lira only. This shop is mostly aimed at the serving forces, and thus net prices without profit. I had my majority of meals at the cafe near the chairlift, serving kebab (7 lira) and a good breakfast with omelet (6 lira).
After a night at Hotel Bülent, where I was about the only guest, I walked over to the chairlift. I had a hearty breakfast in the café and waited until 10:00 when the lower lift began to move. Unfortunately it turned out that the upper chairlift was defective and not in operation this morning. It was slightly irritating to know that I had waited until 10:00 only to gain 250 meters of elevation, from 2200 meters to 2450 meters. I paid for one stage (12 lira return) and boarded the lift. Arriving the end of the lower lift, I hiked straight up a trail along the upper chairlift until I got to its end. I had a long day ahead of me, 1500 meters gain of altitude and by no means acclimatized. Thus I hiked quite calmly to avoid stress on the body at this elevation. From the end of the upper lift it was approx 20 minutes of walking to High Camp, an area suitable for tents. But as a warning to people doing Mount Erciyes as a two day hike, there was no water or snow to be found (as Summitpost claims are year-round). The nearest snowfield, a very dark one, was at least 20-30 minutes away and up a steep slope. Hard work indeed, so it must be much better to bring all water from below during summertime.
From High Camp, one can either head left to the East Ridge, or alternatively, choose a more direct route up one of the snow gullies. But the snow had melted off in the lower parts of the gullies, and it seemed to be a lot of falling rocks in them. Not so tempting territory in late summer. Thus I chose the East Ridge, and the trail was easy to follow. But it is quite far up, and at one point I lost 60 meters of elevation. At approximately 3700 meters elevation, the ridge rise vertical across a great tower with the striking name Camel Hump Rock. This can be climbed directly (III) or bypassed on the right wing, traversing a quite steep slope which usually is covered by snow also in late summer. I headed for the snow slope, and being rather late in the day the snow had softened, and there was no need for crampons.
Back on the ridge, it was easy going to the East Summit. At that time I had spent almost 4 hours. Near the summit I met a teacher and a doctor from Kayseri. They must have spent a lot of time, because I saw them far ahead of me earlier in the day. Incidentally, we were the only ones on the mountain this day. We signed the log-book, which revealed that this top was quite frequently visited, then we set the course towards the slightly higher West Summit (true summit). The last few meters to this summit require a rope, because one must climb a tower rising 17 meters with a vertical drop on all sides. Very rotten rock make this a risky affair to climb. The Turkish teacher walked out on an exposed ledge and climbed unbelayed up the passage (III-IV). He sent down the rope and a ladder of rope to the doctor, who had second thoughts when he studied the exposed pitch. I was quick to sign up voluntarily, and with a loop around my chest I climbed up easily. But I would never have done it unbelayed like this Turkish brave climber, without a hint of height sense. The doctor eventually decided to give up.
The log book on the West Summit had not been signed the last 12 months. So it was clear that this was a very exclusive top, contrary to the frequently climbed East Summit. I was secured down the tower, before I took farewell with the two Turks, knowing that they would sink me considerably if we were to keep up all the way down again. With the exception of the 60 meters regain of elevation, it was an easy descent along the same route. The upper lift was now opened, so I agreed a price of 6 lire to ride down again. I was back 17:30, so late that I chose to stay a night extra in Erciyes, but now in the tent to save some money. I headed over to the Gendarmes to get my passport, and sat there another half an hour talking with the officers over a cup of tea. The commander must have had some kind of shoe fetishism, for he noted the shoe brand for all who climbed Mount Erciyes. My pair of Garmont, however, was not in his extensive list ....
(1 Euro is about 2 Turkish lira per August 2009)