It took him three days, but Sebouh Oshagan has lived to tell the story of how he climbed Mt. Ararat in the face of altitude sickness, an ice storm and crippling fatigue — at age 13.
The Crescenta Valley High School freshman, now 14, will tell his story at 7 p.m. this Wednesday at the Glendale Central Library, 222 E. Harvard St., detailing how he accomplished his ascent up Mt. Ararat, which has two peaks, one reaching an elevation of nearly 12,800 and the other to 17,000 feet.
He tackled most of his climb up the shorter peak, known as Greater Ararat, in a pair of jeans.
Sebouh didn’t intend to climb Mt. Ararat when he traveled to Armenia for the first time in the summer of 2012. In California, he had taken on local, easy hikes, his father said, never climbing up any steep mountainside.
But over breakfast one morning while staying with family friends in Yerevan, they asked Sebouh if he would be interested in climbing the mountain that is regarded as sacred for Armenians and the place where Noah’s Ark rested after the biblical flood.
Sebouh only needed to email his parents for permission, and they supported the idea immediately.
“Of course, there’s risk involved in it,” said Sebouh’s father, Ara Oshagan. “But I think risk is good... When I told friends here, they were freaking out. I was really confident he wasn’t going to have any problems.”
Sebouh’s parents mailed him hiking poles and boots and his family friends took him to climb the mountain beginning at roughly 10,000 feet to see how he would do at that elevation, Ara Oshagan recalled.
On the day Sebouh set out to climb Mt. Ararat with several others, he was nervous. The journey began with an 11-hour drive from Yerevan to Turkey by way of Georgia.
He made the climb by hiking up to six hours each day alongside a mule and two Kurdish guides who fed the group chicken breast, chicken soup and tea.
Sebouh hiked the last part of the climb in snowboarding pants with sore legs, chapped lips and a nose that wouldn’t stop running.
He says willpower kept him going, and the animated fish named Dory from the movie, “Finding Nemo,” who says, “Just keep swimming.”
“I didn’t think it was going to be that hard,” Sebouh recalled this week. “It was really tiring.”
When it was over, he thought to himself, “I can’t believe I did that. I totally did not expect myself to ever do this.”
After returning to base camp, Sebouh called his parents to relay the good news.
Even now, he said, his mom will tell strangers she meets about Sebouh’s climb, including cashiers working at the grocery market who may not even be familiar with Mt. Ararat.
“My mom — she tells everyone,’ he said.
What: High school freshman Sebouh Oshagan will share his story and photos from his climb of Mt. Ararat.
Where: Glendale Central Library, 222 E. Harvard St.
When: 7 to 10 a.m.
Contact: (818) 548-2027
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.