High peaks within large mountain systems, set amidst a scattering of more humble summits, are like kings or lords surrounded by their retinues. But most volcanoes are not like that. In their solitary splendour they are far more striking, as anyone who has seen a photograph of Fujiyama in Japan will know. However high they might be, they are always alone, and you can feel this fact whether looking upon them from afar or climbing on the mountain itself. And when you go to Hasandag you feel this loneliness with extraordinary intensity.
Looking from the west the mountain rises in a single and perfect cone from the flat central Anatolian plateau. Approaching from Ankara to the north-west on a sufficiently clear day the mountain is visible from a distance of 60 kilometers, and as you draw nearer the view becomes increasingly spectacular.
We had been planning to climb this magnificient mountain just south of Aksaray on the Ankara-Adana Road for a long time, and one May day we set out. The month of May is probably the loveliest time of year everywhere in Turkey, but for the Anatolian plateau with its freezing winters and blazing hot summers, this month is undoubtedly the loveliest, an exquisite interval when the grey-brown steppe rolling into the distance is transformed into a brilliant green.
We got out of our car at the village of Yukarı Dikmen amidst just such greenery. At an altitude of around 1700 the three of us put on our backpacks and began walking. A crowd of children from the village insisted on accompanying us for a while before bidding farewell. At 2000 meters we were alone with our mountain.