Kazbek (5033 m), is one of the highest and most beautiful and most visited mountains of Caucasus. It is located in the East part of Central Caucasus, on the border of Russian and Georgia. As Elbrus, Kazbek also is extinct volcano which is clearly appreciable from its conic form with distinctive remains of ancient gigantic crater on its south face.
Technically Kazbek is not difficult for climbing although fisically it is quite chellenging as the height of the mountain is above 5000m. The Normal route is PD, mostly glacier walking, except the crux which is 100 m of easy ice climbing in the couloir below the summit (not steeper then 40 deg.) Kazbek is very popular mountain for climbing specially because of its simplicity and convenient access.
There are many tales, legends and interesting historical facts about this mountain. On the altitude 3800 m in the cave which entrance is in the upper part of 80 m rock, there is ancient monastery Betlemi (Bethlehem). In chronicles "Kartlis Tshovreba" this monastery was quoted as a depository of sanctuary and church treasury. Its monks got in by the long iron chain.
Other legend refers to some more distant times when after the quarrel in Heaven because of the stolen fire Prometheus was chained to the rock. This rock was Kazbek.
The most famous place near Kazbek is the ancient monastery of Saint Trinity Sameba which was built in XIV century on the high hill just above the Kazbegi village.
Mikhail Lermontov mentions this peak in his "Hero of our Time" and in his famous poem Mtsyri.
"Where merge Aragva and her twin,
Kura and fast rush onward, in
Times past, a lonely cloister stood;
By fields, a dense and o'ergrown wood
Encircled 'twas.... A wayfarer,
Toiling uphill, will see what were
A gate and gateposts once and, too,
A church.... To-day, no incense to
Its round dome coils, nor do a prayer
The humble monks chant, hoarse-voiced, there.
Alone, forgot by death and men,
A bent old greybeard, denizen
Of these remote and desolate hills,
Over the ruins watches still
And daily wipes the dust that clings
To tombs, of which the letterings
Of glories past speak and of things
Of like note. Of a tsar one such
Tells who by his gold crown was much
Weighed down, and did of Russia gain
The patronage o'er his domain.
Twas then God's love descended on
The land, and Georgia bloomed, and gone
Her old fears were and old suspense:
Of friendly bayonets a fence
Did, bristling, rise in her defence."
Most likely it refers to the place called Djvary which is close to Tbilisi, but beautiful anyway!
As far as I know, it is not sure whether Prometheus was chained to Mkinvartsveri/Kazbek - most early Greek authors refer to a peak in the Caucasus or "Mt. Caucasus", not specifying which mountain is meant.
Mt. Kazbek is a likely candidate though, considering it´s shape.
However, a similar (but different in certain aspects) legend indeed takes place on Kazbek - the one of Amirani, one of the legends of Georgian mythology.
He was imprisoned on Mt. Kazbek after challenging God (who had given him great powers) himself.
Author: Peter Schoen
Date: Jan 20, 2006 12:30 PM
Mkinvartsveri is the 3rd highest peak in Georgia after Shkhara (5068 m) and Djanga/Djangi-Tau (5058 m), and the
6th highest in the Caucasus (and Europe) - after
Elbrus (5633 m)
Dykh-Tau (5204 m)
Koshtan (5151 m)
Shkhara (5068 m)
Djangi-Tau (5058 m)
(not counting the Elbrus East Summit and Djangi-Tau West Summit)
The name Kazbek was given to this mountain by Russians who inhabited the Northern side of the Main Caucasian Mountain Range in the memory of one member of the communist government. The native name of this mountain is Mkinvartsveri - in translation from Georgian it means The Mountain With Ice Head..
SP member Corax writes: another name of the mountain is Mkinvari which means The Ice Mountain
The first time Kazbek was climbed by Duglas Freshfield in 1868. Other significant successful ascension of Kazbek is the climb of famous Georgian scientist G. Nikoladze in 1923 from which begins the history of Georgian mountaineering.
Approach from Tbilisi is still more convenient also the check point with Russia (Verkhniy Lars) is open now - during the summer season it is a total mess with crossing the border as the huge crowd normally collected on the Russian side. From Vladikavkaz you can get a taxi to Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) village.
If you go from Tbilisi you can take a taxi or regular bus to Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) village (150 km). There are many comparably good hotels, hostels and guesthouses in this village and many possibilities for lodging. Other way is to camp somewhere near the old monastery (1,5-2 hours walk up from the village or taking a 4x4 taxi there). From the monastery go uphill by marked clearly visible trail to Bethlemi Hut - former meteostation which now works as mountain refuge. The place is relatively comfortable (comparing with tent), equipped with stationary gas and some kind of shop, where you can by beers and snacks, but often overcrowded during the season. From here begins the alpine part of the Kazbek route.
Author: Peter Schoen
Date: Dec 29, 2005 10:12 AM
Beware that this border crossing is often closed to foreigners. Get infos about the current situation if you want to head from Kazbek to Russia or from Russia to Kazbek (e.g. if you want to combine Kazbek and Elbrus).
AlexClimb:2018 - there is no problem for border crossing for foreigners if you have visa. The only problem is very high traffik and long wait on the border
The Lonely Planet Thorn Three is a good place to ask - http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com/, and also the embassies.
2018 no climbing regulations until now. No permits, no fees. Camping is allowed anywhere, if you camp close to Meteo (Bethlemi Hut) you are to pay 10 lari per tent. Upper camping is also quite popular and free of charge (30 min from the Hut). Please take down all the garbage after you.
Kazbek is possible to climb through all the year but the most convenient time is summer (June-September). Great possibilities for ski touring during the winter months.
Camping is allowed anywhere. Bethlemi was the only hut on the route, but in 2018 another hut in the middle way to the glacier is constructing.
SP member Pulsar writes: Key to meteostation: This is a word of caution for climbers who plan to climb Kazbek. During peak season, the hut "Meteostation" is almost permanently populated with expeditions. You will not have difficulties to sleep there then. However, outside the main season, it is possible that you find the hut closed. The key is kept down in the village Kazbegi, an the keeper lives along the trail uphill to the Trinity church, at the rim of the village. It will be wise to inform down in Kazbegi prior to your trip if the hut is open to avoid unpleasant surprises.
As any lonely standing high mountain, Kazbek is a subject for sudden weather changes which normally are good to bad starting from morning and getting worse and worse after the midday time. In winter time the weather is more stable. The weather is comparable better during the full moon periods. We do not recommend attempting Mount Kazbek without a Guide or GPS - the weather changes are quite sudden, the routes are quite long. To get lost is very easy job on the flat glacier with a lot of deep crevices.