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Georgia 2017

Ascent to peak Tetnuldi 4858m and attempt of peaks Shkhara & Kazbek

A travel to Svaneti region in Georgia with ascent to peak Tetnuldi 4858m and attempt of peaks Shkhara & Kazbek
19/8/2017 - 2/9/2017

Tetnuldi 4858μ
Shkhara 5193μ


Photographs

The travel diary

The trip to Georgia began very early on Saturday, August 19, 2017, from Thessaloniki Airport, where we arrived by car from Trikala. From Thessaloniki via Wizz Air direct flight, we landed in Kutaisi airport in Georgia, a city located 230 km west of Tbilisi. At noon at 12:00, the flight landed in Kutaisi and without any delays at the airport, we bought butane bottles for the gas stove and at 13:30 we boarded on a 4X4 jeep which we had arranged from Greece to pick up us from the airport to Ushguli village at a cost of 150 $. With the jeep travel west to Zugdidi city and then ascended to the crafted lake of the Patara Enguri River, the road goes alongside the long pond from the eastern side of the lake, which eventually leads to the Svaneti area. Throughout the journey on the streets there were hundreds of carefree cows in the middle of the road. After we passed the town of Mestia, we continue to Ushguli village. The most part of the road from Mestia to Ushguli is dirt road. Tired, we arrived at 21:00 in the village of Ushguli and we stayed the night at Guest House Ailama in the central village. Ushguli village is at an altitude of 2100 meters and is one of Georgia's most important tourist destinations because it is a World Heritage Site of USESCO for the famous stone towers built in the 12th century. Roads do not exist in the village, except alleys that only jeep with difficulty can pass through. Beyond the cows, the residents have many horses for transport, while on the road freely circulate dozens of pigs.

Sunday afternoon on 20/9/2017 after we passed the Border Police Office to say we will climb up Shkhara Mountain, we left at 13:30 hiking with a heavy load. Initially, the trail follows for 7 km of a woody dirt road without any special inclination until the small cafe near the glacier. Then for about 1 km the trail crosses a dense forest of bushes and enters the glacier moor. There is no distinct route, but the best climb is the entrance to the glacier from the left side. Going up the glacier, the easiest route is to cross it to the right, where the ascent takes place. On the right side of the glacier the slopes are smoother and they lead to the base of the mountain. After several hours of hard trek, we found at 18:30 a smooth but exposed on the glacier point where we camped (2827m).

The next day for security reasons and to get closer to the mountain we pushed the camp one hour closer to the starting point of the route "South Pillar Beknu" at 2900 meters below of the wall. We erect the tent on the glacier just over the ice. At noon we started climbing on the route. Initially, after climbing to the waterfall, climbing over the precipitated volumes of frozen snow that we had sloped up to 60 degrees in parts, we reached the starting point of the route at 3080m. The starting point of the route is about 50 meters to the right of the characteristic waterfall. The route starts with climbing first a monolithic ramp 30 meters, at the top of which there is a belay with 2 pitons. Then we move diagonally for over 150 meters but in losing slopes up to a characteristic passage of a gate. After the gate there is a small downhill ramp that leads to the next slope initially open but climbing upwards and leading to a hook. There, we found a sling on a stuck stone. The way ahead was very steep, such we decided to go right from the flat ramp. The flat ramp was easily climbed at the begin but leads to steeper slopes (harder) so we could not continue farther. Such, we place a piton, and we return back by rappeling more of the route, returning back to our camp.

On the morning of Tuesday 22/8/2017, after we picked up our camp, we carry all the equipment and we started climbing. First we climbed the frozen side to the cascade and then freely climbing most of the way to the toughest spot. Arriving on the wall before the chimney, George, after several attempts to find a way, climbed up straight ahead and entered into the chimney. He moves left into a cave in order to make the belay, because he supposed that the ropes would not be enough long to reach the end of the chimney. Nikolas follow as second and arrived at the belay point but he continued up to the col where he found an old sling for rappel. Until the tiny col they had climbed just the first 350 meters of the 3100 meters of the route. The main problem we had during the climb was the weight and the large volume of the backpacks. The ascending method we followed could not have taken place on such a steep slope. That's why we decided to abandon the effort knowing that from the next day the weather would worsen and we would not be able to continue climbing. We took the decision to return. First we did a 60 meters rappel and continued descending. Eventually, we arrived at 15:00 at the point where we had made the last camp and after we got all the rest equipment we had left there. We took the way back without wasting time. Soon we passed from where we made the first camp and with great effort we traversed the entire glacier and we reached the valley where there is a small canteen. We made a stop for drinks and continue our trek to village where we need to reach before get dark. A few kilometers before the village a jeep passed and accepted to return us to the village for 20 lari. After we got to the village I realized that I have loose the satellite phone. Unfortunately, we were unable to find it again.

In the evening we stay in Guest House Ailama and the following day we decided to leave from Ushguli and to go to Mestia. While we wanted to go by a small bus (marshrutka), marshrutka did not depart if the small jeep don't not left before. Even though a crowd had gathered and waited for the small bus, the driver of jeep don't let marshutka to depart. Eventually, along with a couple of Polish trekker, we got the jeep with 160 lari to take us to Mestia. At midday we reached Mestia and we found a room at the Sweetnight Guest House, a ground floor room that had a lot of humidity especially those days that it was raining. We spent the evening for resting and the next day (24/8) we walked around the village and spent a lot of time in the very useful information office in the village center. We also visited the museum (house) in honor of the historic legend of mountaineering Mikhail Khergiani who was born and lived in Mestia.

On the morning of August 25 we had a taxi arranged to take us for 70 lari to the top of the ski resort at an altitude of 3050 meters. The uphill dirt road passes next to the ski chalets and then follows the slopes up to 3050 m. Our goal was to climb the mountain Tetnuldi 4858m. From the point where we left the taxi we decided not to lose altitude and to traverse the rocky slopes for 2-3 kilometers further east until to reach Amanati pass at 3380m. Our choice of going straight without losing altitude was probably not good because the field was continuous moraines and we were tired until we reached the Amanati Pass. After Amanati pass the path is quite steep and there are some scrambling passes until to reach the glacier on 3697 meters, where we make the camp. It took us 4:30 hours in total to approach the glacier from the south side. The camp was made next to the lake that formed on the ice (13:30). Shortly afterwards three German climbers arrived in the camp site. The weather was not good, it had a lot of humidity and it was foggy and we could not see far away. We decided to wake up very early next morning in order to begin the long climb to Tetnuldi.

At 4:00 in the morning it was still dark and foggy, but at 5:00 the fog left and the shadow of the Pyramid Peak appeared. At 5:20 we left from the camp, first, we traversed the glacier and grabbed the icy slope which is leading to the southwest ridge of the mountain. The first 100 meter of the slope has 40-degree inclination. We made many circles around of the many and big crevasses. Finally, climbing a steep slope we reach the southwest ridge where there was a small plateau for placing an advance camp. The route was not very difficult until to reach the ridge, although it is needed attention because of the large crevasses that the glacier had.

Without wasting time, we started scrambling on the rocky part of the southwest ridge for about 100 meters altitude up to the altitude of 4400 meters. The ridge from that point onwards was from ice and frozen snow with a steady incline making the ascent quite laborious. Also there were not places for stop and rest due to continues inclination slopes. We were followed by the three German climbers, they were about an hour back of us. Knowing that the total ascent of the climb from the camp to the summit was over 1200 meters, we climbed fast without stopping. The slope of the ridge was 30 to 50 degrees in parts. The left side of the ridge has big cornice, such we had to climb always on the right side (north-east) of the ridge. The climb was done only in parallel and locally placing belays with the ice-axe. At 10:00 we reached the summit of Tetnuldi 4858m in just 4:40 hours, such we had plenty of time for returning back to camp. The view was amazing and we saw the peaks of Elbrus, Ushba, Skhelda, Shkhara and Dykh-Tau. The descent was also done in parallel and placing the ice-axes and an ice screw. The descent was also laborious and slow.

The Germans eventually decided to return after crossing the rocky ridge and we met them on the plateau before entering into the slope of the glacier. After 4:30 hours of far descending we reached the camp at 15:00. Because it was still early, we decided not to stay there and after we pack the equipment of the camp, we continue to climb down. After a few hours we reach grass slopes of the mountain at 2850 meters altitude where we camped. Clean water runs in the grass slopes and the environment here was more human friendly. The next day, 27/8/17, we started hiking towards to the ski resort. We follow the ski pistes for 1-2 Km and after we got off the pistes, following the path on right side of the piste that is leading to the village of Chvabiani. Chvabiani village is the starting point of the multi-day trekking route Ushguli village. On this path we met dozens of hikers who made the long trek to the village Ushguli. By taxi that we found in the village we travel to Mestia where we found a guesthouse to stay. The next day 28 August was a national holiday and everything was closed. Due to the bad weather forecast for the next few days we decided not to try Ushba but to go east to the Kazbek area supposing that it will have better weather. So, at 8:00 on the morning of August 29, we catch a marshrutka bus from Mestia to Tbilisi, where we arrived at 17:00. We did not have time to see Tbilisi, so from Didube station we took a taxi to the Kazbeki area in the town of Stepantsminda. The area of Tbilisi and up to Stepantsminda is drier than the western part of the country. The road passes from the Gudauri ski center and the pass at 2380m to reach the Kazbek area. This road joins Georgia with Russia and it has a lot of traffic from cars and big trucks. To have easier and quicker access to the mountain, we went by taxi to the village of Gergeti across from Stepansminda at the foot of Kazbek and stayed at Tamila Guesthouse.

At 6:00 in the morning of August 30 we started with small backpacks the attempt Mount Kazbek. First we took the path that runs right from the Gergeti Trinity Church and head towards Sabertse 2960m. Then we follow the good and smooth path that passes from the camping site at 3030 meters altitude. Here there is a faucet with drinkable water. Following the path we enter into Gergeti glacier at 3350m. Throughout the route we met many climbers in groups with guides as well as individual ones, such as two girls from Poland who tried to climb alone Kazbek mountain, unlike the crowd that is all organized by travel agencies with mountain guide and horses for transporting the equipment. The glacier is static, smooth and without crevasses. In the ascent we did not wear a crampons and we cross the glacier diagonally (about 1km) without any problem. The path begins again from the other side of the glacier and after about 500 meters reach the old meteorological station, nowadays the Bethlemi Hut at the altitude of 3653 meters, on the foot of mount Kazbek. The trek from village to Bethlemi Hut it took us just 4:30 hours, which is about half of the usual time that the climbers do.

In Bethkemi Hut we met 4 Greek mountaineers from Ioannina who had just returned from Kazbek summit. Also in the shelter I met Victor, the Russian mountain guide we had on our expedition to the Caucasus from the Russian side in 2005. The weather in the afternoon began to get worst with strong winds. Everything got white out due to hail. The weather forecast gives that the folloing days the weather will be even worst.

At 2:00 in the morning, it is the time that climbers are leaving for the summit. But few have wakened and gathered in the shelter's kitchen. Eventually everyone decided to postpone the departure for later because of the strong wind. At 3:00 a Russian team was ready to begin the climb, but they also canceled it because it did not seem any weather improvement. Finally, we decided not to try because no one of the dozen mountaineers tries the ascent on that day. Later, I regretted for my decision because, despite the wind, we could have reached the summit even if we had no visibility at all.

At 9:00 in the morning, we left the hut to go back to the village. After 2:45 minutes of continuous and very fast descent we got back to the village and stayed at the Tamila guesthouse. In the afternoon we spent it with a rest and walking in the village of Kazbeki. The following day 1/9/17, we took a taxi with 3 girls from Israel from the village of Stepantsminda to Tbilisi where we arrived at 13:00. The taxi leaves us to Freedom Square and after we found a hostel and we left our luggage we had a long walk in the city. We first crossed the river and visited Holy Trinity Cathedral built on a hill with a beautiful view of the city. Then we walked a riverside and went north of Freedom square to the Rustaveli shopping street. We spent the day wandering around the city and at 23:00 with the bus of Georgian bus, we left for Tbilisi towards to the airport of Kutaisi, where we arrived at 3:00 after midnight. Our flight left at 6:00 and at 8:45 we landed in Thessaloniki. With the car that we left at a parking lot near the airport we drive for Elati where we arrived at noon on Saturday 2/9/2017.





Team
Nikolas Kroupis
Dr Electrical & Computer Eng.
Elati, Trikala
George Margaritis
Student of physical education
Neraidochori, Trikala

 



Trip Cost
The cost of the travel
Euro
Flight ticket
245
Jeep Kutaisi-Ushguli
130
Guest House /room/night
22
Taxi Mestia-ski Resort
28
Minibus (marshrutka) Mestia-Tbilisi
12
Taxi Tbilisi-Stepantsminda
35
Refuge Bethlemi /person /night
13
Shared taxi Stepantsminda-Tbilisi
50
Typical meal in restaurant
6
Total travel cost per person
700

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