South face of Kazbek is a medium difficult route, on ice and hard snow, which may be a faster way to climb the peak (depends by the skill, partners and acclimatization).
Is a route for those who want more fun at altitude with 1-2 technical ice axes, crampons and ice screws, in a pretty safe environment (not very exposed to falling rocks if you go earlier).
Getting ThereFrom Bethlemi Hut, follow the classic way to the top, across moraine. In approximate 1 1/2 - 2 hours, you will reach the glacier. The classic way is crossing the glacier coming from right (from the south face of Kazbek) and enter on the moraine again (aprox. 3900m alt.)
Here you have to turn right and climb the glacier for half hour. As you go high, you should keep a little bit right, to avoid the upper crevasses. Around 4.000m alt. the glacier became horizontal and crevassed.
Prepare your equipment, rope up and you can start to climb the south face of Kazbek.
Route DescriptionThe South Face has 3 different parts.
PART 1: Lower part (4.000 - 4.500m)
Starts with an easy ramp (hard snow/soft ice) for 100-150m.
As you go high, the consistence is changing from hard snow/soft ice to hard alpine ice (AI), mixed with sand and small rocks.
You may find some crevasses (as we did in 2010), but depends by the quantity of snow from previous winter (in 2009 the lower south face was clear).
From the base, climb straight and a little bit to left, trying to reach some rocks which are to your left (as you climb).
Soon as you are at the same altitude with those rocks, you can go below them, traversing on a kind of ledge far left. Doing so, you can reach a slope with an lower angle, but only after you will climb the end of rocks along a small gulley (often with ice or even water not frozen!).
But you should take care to falling rocks (!) which will start to come, soon as sun starts to burn.
A better way is to avoid the rocks to the right and only above them to start going to left. The negative aspect of this way is that you`ll climb only on ice and the face is going steeper (50/55 grade or even higher).
As you go high, the hard ice became soft ice, then hard snow. The angle is lowering and around 4.500m alt. you will reach a small boulder with a great horizontal platform. A nice place for rest, eat and drink.
PART 2: Middle section (4.500 - 4.650m)
From the boulder, you should go in traverse to right, on the same level or a little bit higher. But not to much, if you want to climb between crevasses.
If you go higher, you will be above a big crevasse, difficult to climb down. You can try to avoid it at the other end, but you`ll have to climb all the way on a stepper face, at the base of some rocky towers (with falling rocks off course!).
Soon as you successfully cross the first crevasse, all you have to do is to walk on an almost horizontal glacier, with small crevasses (take care to hidden ones!). Try to reach the final gulley below the final saddle (1-2 hours).
You will have to cross a narrow "shooting field" and you are the targets! Stay alert, climb fast as you can in that area and rest before and after you cross the area.
PART 3: Final part (4.650m - final saddle)
This part has no technical problems, just climb straight on soften snow (sun started to burn some hours ago!) for around 300-400m.
Keep the middle way to the saddle and stay away from rocky sides (both sides).
This part looks easy and saddle pretty close, but some are just giving up here, in this part.
Essential Gear1 or 2 technical ice axes. Leader should have 2 ice axes, the other partners may have just 1 ice axe.
Ice screws (minimum 3);
1-2 snow pickets;
Climbing rope (50 or 60m);
Technical crampons (to leader);
Quick draws for ice screws