During our trip around Georgia and Armenia we spent only 2 nights in the Caucasus Mountains. Our trip was more sightseeing than trekking but we wanted to see Kazbek, which is third of the highest peaks of Georgia (5033 m / 16 668 ft above sea level). The feeling that you are surrounded by four- and five-thousanders is unforgettable! And I also made one of my dreams come true – I stepped on the glacier!
First day wasn’t the best. It was raining heavily when we were coming to Stepantsminda (former Kazbegi) from Tbilisi by marshrutka. And when we got to the glade it was covered by clouds. In fact it made our pictures more interesting and the Tsminda Sameba church looks more spooky than usually.
Later wind scattered clouds a bit but it was still chilly. Luckily animals here helped us to warm up. Friendly dogs wanted to play all the time and one big bull didn’t like our tent and was just about to trample it but the Georgian shepherd chased the bull away. Really, it was an adrenaline rush!
The following day we trekked to the Gergeti glacier, where the landscape is really rough.
We left our tent on the glade near the church and took only the most important and valuable things with us. (Luckily, when we got back nothing was missing or eaten or destroyed by cows.)
The landscape was just amazing. Summits around us were coming out from the clouds from time to time, the higher we got, the more rubbles were everywhere. At one point whole grass moved over and only rocks left.
I have to admit that I’m not very experienced in the mountaineering, I just like hiking. My pace is not so fast and I have to rest more but I don’t complain and give up. From the church glade to the glacier is about 9 km and we walked this distance in about 6 hours (the way back took us 4 hours but it started to rain and hail, the path was really slippery so we had to slow down).
The glacier Gergeti (by Georgians called Ortsveri) is about 7,8 km long and the surface area is 11 km². The tongue of the glacier descends to 2930 m above sea level and the highest point reaches almost Mt Kazbek. Except Gergeti there are also some more glaciers and the total surface area of all is 135 km².
Frankly, seeing the tongue of the glacier in reality is something that everybody should do at least once in a lifetime.
The glacier is white only in higher and more inaccessible parts. Lower, where you can stand on it, it’s covered with dirt. But still it’s slippery! That’s why people who are not experienced in ice climbing should not go far into the glacier. The weather can break down and you can lost your sense of direction because of the clouds which can cause you even a life!
Pics show narrow ‘rivers’ made by snow and ice, that is melting high in the mountains, and you can see small crystals of ice when you look closely.
The last day the Caucasus Mountains said goodbye to us with beautiful weather. Later we met a lot of people who were near Kazbek almost at the same time but they were not as lucky as we. Some of the didn’t see Kazbek at all! We spent there only few days but it was enough to collect some experience and memories!
Closing, these are some pictures showing small town Stepantsminda.
The Lonely Planet’s Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan gives the best instructions about getting from Tbilisi to Kazbegi.
Remember that if you want to walk to Gergeti glacier you should start your trekking very early from the glade but not from the town! It’s about 2-3 hours walk from Stepantsminda to the plateau but you can hire a jeep ride or camp on the glade if you have a tent. The walk from the glade to the glacier takes even about 6-8 hours and back another 3-4 hours.
I recommend to start trekking even before 7 am. In Caucasus weather can be very nice in the morning but later, when sun shines already for few hours, the clouds can gather very fast and the weather can break down! Please bear in mind that these are high mountains – you should have good shoes (not necessary for trekking but stabile and covering whole feet) and something rainproof. Be responsible for your safety and don’t imperil your companions!
But standing on the glacier is really recommendable! Live your life and collect your memories!
Have you ever been to Caucasus mountains? Have you ever see or stand on a glacier? Did you like it? Or if you haven’t, would you like to experience it? Share your opinion with us in the comment below!