Go East, to Tbilisi
It was the middle of January when I and my friend F were preparing for a winter Caucasian ascent. The forecast for Kazbek region was very frosty (-40 C on the top!). We decided to start the long trip on 20th january from Ploiesti to Istanbul by a daily bus for 50$/way/person.
The second day we visited Constantinopole: Sultanahmet, Spice Bazar, Aya Sofya, Galata Bridge. It was a spring weather. By a “inter-country” bus we travelled to Tbilisi for 2000km(~32 hours). The passengers danced for us, so it was a delicious and funny moment! You can see this at the end of my story in a little movie from youtube.
23th January, Tbilisi: we found a marshrutkas(minibus) from Kazbek vilage. The weather was very frozy and the slopes of town had many ice falls but unfortunately we didn’t have the rope for climbing.
We leave Tblisi from Didube (regional bus terminal) with a minibus for 140 km(Military Highway Road). Although the young busman drives faster the way is covered by a thin ice and snow. We are overstrung and excited in the unlimited landscape. Till Kasbegi we pass through Gudauri and the high pass situated at 2300m about level sea(Jvary Pass).
The minibus gains ground in the zigzag route between the deep abyss.
For me, this winter route to Kasbegi is a second experience.
We arrived in Kasbegi village (1700 m) in the noon and decided to stay one night in a pension from Gergeti hamlet, so we found the Bella for 10 lari/bed. The hostess was very friendly. We dispatch the luggage and think of tomorrow day : approach march! The weather is perfect for climbing.
and a view to Gergeti
Second day, approach to Meteo station
24th January: at 7 o’clock we say good bay to our hostess and start with a minimum luggage. It’s dark and no cloud. We are waiting the sunrise. We enter in a little valley with abrupt slops and take some pictures of the Kazbek summit. The snow from valley is discontinous so, after 2 hours we arrived not too far to Tsimda Samemba Monastery situated at 2100 m.
Here, the large plateau is covered by old grass. It was a very warm day. I saw a small forest, very curiously. A local dog joined us. It seems it knows the route to Meteo Station but we can’t climb quickly. We follow the grass ridge, near the moraine Ortsveri but we climbed on the snow because there were footmark.
Finally we saw the small stone sign(turret) from 3000 m. After stopping for a brief bite to eat, we continued with a crossing slope not safe. In the shadow the weather became cooler.
Here, the sunset is later than other region.
At 7 PM, we cross the big glacier. The weather is changing so we enter in a big white area. We lost the dog and arrived near the crevasse. “No, the way isn’t here” F told me. We climbed on glacier until found other crevasse but not the correct path.
I decided to descend to the first crevasse. It’s dark, the moon didn’t rise yet.
Finally, at 11 PM I found the way to Meteo Station
. We have to climb only 30minutes…but we were exhausted!
Surprise! The door was closed but finally F found an open padlock.
Inside it is –10 Celsius- we’ll try to survive!
Preparation for the summit
On the second day I tried a solo climb for a little acclimatization to the chapel from 4100 m. The weather is not good: it’s snowing and it is some fogg. Nothing good, only my training on this mountain…
I recognized the places because this trip is the 2nd on Kazbek(2 winters ago I climbed solo).
F had big problem with his chilblain legs. We stayed one day more for a last solo climb to the big summit of Kazbek.
It seems that 26thJanuary is a fine day. I leave Meteo Station(3675 m) at 8 o’clock when the sun rises up. No clouds, no wind here. One hour later I arrived to the
little chapel from 4100 m but here I had a stomach trouble.
Wow! I had signal phone, hope to send a SMS in my country.
Up to the chapel, I climbed in a dangerous couloir: stone and ice unstable. Little snow.
I take off my eider jacket. To the top there appers big clouds.
After 4 hours from Meteo Station I arrived in the east saddle situated at 4700 m, but here is a northern wind, from Cecenia(Russia). I take a photo but my legs hand and face sudden freeze.
I decided to stop here, that’s not enough for me but the wind is strong…
I’m dizzy…so I descend back to advanced base camp, Meteo Station.
After 2 hours I found my friends(F and the dog) outside, at the sun. Here it’s ok to stay and look at the mountains!
Back to civilization
Sunday morning, we decided to go back to Kasbegi, at our guest house.
Approaching to monastery, the weather is changing; the wind couple out power and our battery remained without energy. All the night the wind was strong. We discussed with our hostess in Georgian and Russian language about the local food price, energy, and politics.
Monday morning we left to Tbilisi. The wind was strong but the driver was able to keep the bus on the way. Down, in Tbilisi it is spring. We visited the Romanian Consulate and prepared for a long night to Batumi (Makindjauri) by train.
Next morning, in Batumi at the Black Sea, it rains, nothing good! By a turkey bus we cross the boarder with many bumpy. We stayed there 3 hours because the bus was suspect.
From Hopa(Turkey), F decided to take a bus to Istanbul because of his chilblain from feet. I waited the Erzurum bus from 7 PM but my next trip was very unpleasant: normal time route was 5 hours but my bus to Erzurum via Bayburt took 18 hours. In the mountains it’s snowing.
Because the bad weather I left Erzurum not to my ideal route(Mt Ararat 5165 m) but to Kayseri and Ercyes Dag(another volcano from plan).
After one hour by train, the locomotive remained in snow for…21 hours so my real desire for climbing any mount was null. Although in Kayseri I tried to find a bus to Develi but it was weekend and the road was covered by snow and ice. After 26 hours in raillway station together with another trekers, I decided to leave this town for Istanbul.
Monday morning I arrived in Constantinopol(old Istanbul) and for 3 days I visited many places. It was very nice!
For other picture, please visit the diary from my website
and here for a short movie:
Full album on picasa http://picasaweb.google.com/hikerph/IstanbulAnatoliaGeorgiaWinterOnKazbekCaucasusTbilisiJanFeb2008
Cotnari, old wine
Thanks to Cotnari for financial support. COTNARI is a public house: