Mount Khustup East-West ridge in 3 days, roundtrip from Kapan Armenia

Published by pyromanov , 12 November 2017, 00h51. Photos by the participants

Region: World » Armenien » Sjunik » Kapan
Date of the hike:16 August 2017
Hiking grading: T4 - High-level Alpine hike
Geo-Tags: AM 
Time: 3 days
Height gain: 3400 m 11152 ft.
Height loss: 3200 m 10496 ft.
Route:Kapan - Chakaten - Mount Shishkert - (Shishkert) - Khustup - Kambagh - Verin Vachagan
Access to start point:travel to Kapan
Access to end point:Taxi from Kapan
Accommodation:ARK Armenia Campsite in Kapan campsite in Shiskert

After using for many trips in the Swiss alps, I'll try to give something back to the world wide hiking community. Thats why I share some trips in the Kaukasus (the "lower" in Armenia especially) where there is still a need for more and better information about hiking options. I hope this helps and encourages people to hike in these really beautiful places.

Kapan in Sjunik region of Armenia may not be known yet as famous hiking spot, but there surely is a considerable potential for long wilderness hikes, great views and challenging trails. We have stayed for 2 weeks as volunteers in the ARK Armenia permaculture campsite above the city. Its a rather inspiring place as Armen tries to combine eco-tourism with permaculture in an interesting way. There are several hikes described by ARK and available on their website. What we tried to do here in contrast to the hikes available already is;
  • a slightly more challenging option to Khustup
  • a multiday hike with tent
  • roundtrip from Kapan (not going the same way up as down)
  • avoid roads, prefere trails (the classical Khustup north-south route is mostly on roads)
  • hike on the full east-west ridge for great views
  • do something new, unknown and exiting 8-)
  • find new trails towards the Shikahogh reserve (Kapan-Chakaten...)
Day 1: Kapan - Chakaten - Khustup east ridge
So we started from the ARK Eco-Camp in Kapan with our Czech friends that were also scouting new trails for ARK. The aim was to find a nice hiking trail towards Shikahgoh that avoids the main road. On OpenStreetMaps (OSM) there are already many trails marked but some connections are missing and also the condition of the "roads" is unclear. So leaving Kapan eastwards you can take the first foot trail alternative (not on OSM) right at the crossroad where you could cross the river to the left but need to turn right towards Chakaten. Keep right to stay on the right side of the valley heading south. You can walk along the right side of the large dirty mining pond. This dirt road brings you deeper into this valley, crossing the river sometimes. At some point, the dirt road ends but we still followed some paths along the river. You probably have to fight through some blackberry and other vegetation, but the trail remains more or less visible (take some scissors with you or use a stick to remove the berries ;-) ) This part of the trail is on the left side of the creek and was not marked on OSM neither. Sometimes we had to cross the creek, climb up a small stone wall, walk through some abandoned garden and found a nice big trail on the right of the creek.

After getting back on the well prepared trail, you cross the river a last time to the left side and climb up the hill towards Chakaten. From now on there is a well visible trail or dirt road for all the remaining hike of day 1. However, following the GPS track you will recognize that we took a shortcut strait up to the hill before Chakaten… better don’t do this and follow the dirt road. It looks like an easy shortcut but its actually not, although you can easily walk through the forest, it’s getting rather steep and it was exhausting (sorry to my precious companions!). After the pass to Chakaten you can follow the road but here it is more comfortable to take shortcuts. Arrived at the village, we kept right and followed the dirt road southwards along the hills. These dirt roads seems to go everywhere on these hills and they are also available on OSM. They are mostly correct but the one going straight up to the hill (peak 1382 m) is definitely wrong. You need to go further south, however you can’t miss it. At around 1660 m height, our Czech friends left us (and the dirt road) to turn left towards Shikahgoh. There was no trail visible for them at first, but if you follow that ridge south-east wards through the forest, you will find a nicely marked hiking trail (white-red-white as in Switzerland) to Shikahogh or this peak at 1601 m. This is a challenging but very beautiful option to hike from Kapan to Shikahogh. However, we followed the dirt road all the way up along the ridge (see pictures). At about 1800 m altitude forest is replaced by grasland, the road is still a visible car track but gets more and more overgrown by vegetation. Surprisingly we even found a alp and felt like being in Switzerland, but we sadly couldn’t talk to the people there. Luckily they could still provide us drinking water and we were surprised that the water sources on OSM were actually correct. For the first time and actually also the last time we were in Armenia it started raining, so we looked for a campsite (anywhere), cooked dinner (the dried peas were not so nice) and went to sleep after roughly 8.5 h hiking (19 km, 1600 m up, 550 m down).

Day 2: Khustup east ridge – Shishkert peak and village – camp 2 at 2700 m

On day 2 we continued the hike on the east ridge of mount Khustup. After 3.5 h hiking we reached the place where we put up our tent again on 2700 m. We left most of the luggage up there and went down to Shishkert to get water, firewood and hopefully some snacks. The latter one didn’t work as there is no shop or nothing in the village (we just collected another 1000 m up and down). But there is one of the very few camping sites in Armenia, put up by the Shikahogh reserve organisation. Before we left we visited with Armen the office of this reserve people in Kapan to get some information. It turned out that they haven’t got a useful map, nor a English speaking guide or any idea in general what we would like to do in their nature park. There are areas of the reserve where you can only enter with guide and many of their attractions you rather have to visit by car. So we avoided the reserve, their campsite and walked up to our high mountain campground.

Day 3: Khustup – Verin Vachagan

This day is the actual highlight of this trip. We could start from high up, climb Khustup (3210 m.a.s.l.) and follow the west ridge with great views on both sides. At first we had to walk around a pre-peak on the right on a nice trail that was on OSM and partially well visible. Just before you reach the trail that directly climbs from Kapan at the northern side there is a very helpful water source (now also available on OSM). A little later you reach the pass where cars can drive up from Shishkert. Only the very last meters require more sophisticated hiking skills as you even have to use the hands for a short section. The other people we met on the peak were then effectively one of those Armenian hikers that came by jeans and low shoes, were crazy about their phones and smoked some weed (of course as true Armenians they offered me some as well). On the way down, we tried to follow the ridge towards west right after the peak. This was rather adventurous but if you like hiking without trail in steep terrain its worth it (my girlfriend disagreed while doing that). Sometimes we caught the original trail again (that is actually really a single trail, not as mostly marked on OSM a road) and followed it all along the west ridge. In agreement with OSM it gets lost later on but you can just find your own and most efficient way along the ridge. When you reach Kambagh (2971 m) you can either climb it quickly (and see some strange steal constructions on the other side) or go around on the right. From now on you start to descent definitely on a barely visible trail. The lower the more vegetation there is. At about 2500 m there is an abandoned “base camp” that was on the way from Verin Vachagan to Khustup along the west ridge. Nearby there is a water source. This whole trail used to be a “eco-tourism” UNDP GEF project that was apparently not successful and possibly not really carried out the way it was proposed. The only thing that is still in place is a sign near Verin Vachagan that describes the project. It seems not very new what ARK wants to put up about ecotourism and there was probably quite some money wasted when they tried to set up the Khustup project years ago. However, the trail down to the village is very long and maybe thanks to this project only partially overgrown. You are probably better off with a GPS, especially when it gets steep and you have lost the trail. Later on in the forest, we got once lost quite painfully because we followed a trail to the left unknowingly instead of going down. Sadly I can’t recognize this error on the GPS track (notice that the trail is rather rough as my watch was on power saving mode). At some point we reached the trail that we already knew from Verin Vachagan to Bekh Anapat. From their you could walk via Bekh Anapat to Bekh village and further to Kapan. A visit to this abandoned monastery lost deep in the forest is highly recommended, but after our long hike on that day we preferred to directly go down to the higher up Verin Vachagan and take the taxi back to ARK campsite. Day 3 resulted in 17 km, 7:45 h, 800 m up and 2300 m down.


There are possibilities to shorten the trip, by

  • taking a taxi to Chakaten
  • omit the walk down to Shishkert (get water on Khustup)
  • go down directly on the north trail to Kapan
  • go up on the north trail from Kapan and down the west ridge

Lets hope the trails are maintained (maybe by ARK Armenia) and especially the section to Chakaten needs some marking and preparation of the trail.

Hike partners: pyromanov

Click to draw, click on the last point to end drawing

 37994.gpx Kapan-Chakaten
 37995.gpx Chakaten-Khustup Ridge
 37996.gpx Khustup east ridge
 37997.gpx Shiskert exkursion
 37998.gpx Khustup-Verin Vachagan; day 3


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18 Sep 19
Khustup (3.200 m) · Riosambesi

Comments (1)

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Sent 12 November 2017, 23h15
Welcome! needs "outsiders".

About Armenia and the "Lower Kaukasus" you provide very good and interesting information! Thank you,


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