OverviewFrom the west, Lyalver is the beginning of the Bezengi Wall. It's one of the easier peaks in the area and by far the easiest in "the Wall". Many climbers use it as a starting point for traverses to the next peak in the ridge, Gestola and the real elite for longer and harder traverses further along the massive wall of peaks.
It's also used as an acclimatization climb for the higher peaks in the Bezengi Wall.
The easiest route is 2B Russian grade, but more hard routes are available. The "standard hard route" is 4B and involves 320m of snow/ice climbing and 150m of rock on the summit pyramid. This route holds a permanent threat of avalanches and should only be attempted under good conditions.
We ended up on the "wrong" route on Lyalver. Arrogance to blame. An easy walk-up turned into a steep snow climb and later a climb on rocks with tough sections (150m, grade 5 UIAA). This turned us back as we had no gear with us.
Getting ThereYou have to arrange transport from Nalchik, a small city at the foot of the Caucasus. For a minibus for 6 persons, it's €100. It'll take you all the way through the checkpoints along the way to Camp Bezengi. There are no regular transport and the military checkpoint on the way will bounce you if you haven't the proper documentation. IF you're going with the minibus, all this is taken care of by Bezengi Camp's head office in Nalchik.
The start of the walk from Camp Bezengi is easy and pleasant. Follow the paths along a green valley and head for the Bezengi glacier. When the meadows come to an end, you have to negotiate rocks, gravel and scree for approx. 1 - 1½ h walk. There are some trails through this mess, but they are hard to find. When hitting the glacier proper, try to stay in the middle and walk as much as you can on the moraine.
The closer to the T-crossing of glaciers you get, the more danger of crevasses. Be especially careful at the junction and head west/right when you hit the main glacier.
There are very good camp spots up the steep hill on your right.
From here on you better leave the main valley and circumnavigate a small peak in order to avoid an icefall on the glacier.
Walk the snowfields towards Lyalver. Watch out for crevasses!
The ridge below Lyalver's NE wall is good for camping.
No summit fee is required for any of the peaks in Bezengi.
You have to register at Camp Bezengi and the fee to be in the National Park of Bezingi is at the time writing, €3/day.
This fee includes free camping, rescue service and free acess to Camp Bezengi, whic includes a library with good photos and route descriptions of the mountains in the area. In addition you can also use the rest of the facilities at Camp Bezengi, which includes a little training room, sauna, free gear stash, safe desposit etc.
You also have to have "Bezengi" written on your invitation to Russia.
If you attempt a mountain which is at 5A/TD or more difficult you have to borrow a walkie-talkie from the administration in Camp Bezengi. You are also obligued to report to base every three hours. Exceptions are only made if you are a large party consisting of well known, experienced climbers.
Camp Bezengi lend you the walkie-talkie free of charge.
The best way to get all the red tape is to contact Camp Bezengi directly.
Camp Bezengi's official website
When To ClimbThe mountain is climbed during all seasons. It can be frigidly cold in the winter, but it all depends on which type of climber you are - green grass and warm sun or rough winter conditions.
The recommended climbing season is from May to August.
Camping is allowed everywhere in Bezengi National Park. The only time you have to ask where to put the tent is close to Camp Bezengi, so you don't interefer with the plans for larger parties which the camp-administration may await.
There are accomodation available at Camp Bezengi. Prices starts at €3 for a basic room and the most expensive rooms are at €10, where you have hot shower and toilet inside the room.
Basic huts are to be found in various places in Bezengi National Park and they are free of charge.
Mountain ConditionsThere are no websites which monitors the weather on the mountain specifically. The best alternative is to either call Camp Bezengi or get in contact by e-mail.
When at Camp Bezengi itself you can get updates every day in the base or via radio communication equipment from the Camp Bezengi.
Many people seem to think the whole of the Caucasus is synonymous with extreme danger of getting kidnapped, shot or ending up in the middle of a civil war. It's not the case. Of course Chechnya, parts of Dagestan and some of the border areas are dangerous, but the Bezengi area and almost all areas west from there are perfectly safe. If there are a danger spot close to the border, there are armed forces which keeps you away from the danger. In all valleys leading to the border to Georgia, there are army checkpoints and they will make sure you don't stray into an area where you are at danger.
Most interesting mountaineering options are west of Bezengi anyway and the only "popular" mountain east of there is Kazbek. The option of going there is sometimes dangerous and when asking about the peak I was strongly advised not to go there.
Maps and more information
A lot of photos, route descriptions and other info is to be found on this great mountaineering site.
A great report about a complete traverse of the whole Bezengi Wall. Start from the east with Shchara and ending with Lyalver in the west.
Good maps of the area are available at the small shop at the base. It's really good topographic maps at 1:50 000. Hard to get elsewhere and a nice little detail on them are the rating of the passes. The shop have maps of Bezengi, but also for most of the interesting parts of the Caucasus. Price a sheet: €1.5