In Svanetian language word Layla (or if more correctly - Lakhla) means something shining. Maybe it was given to the mountain because of the snow wight top of it, which dominates the view to the west from the Mestia town. Another explanation of the name goes to the fact of lighting which often hits the Layla summit, maybe because of the copper of which the mountain is very rich.
Mount Layla is the highest mountain in the Svanetian Mountain Range which is parallel to the Main Caucasus Range and located to the south of it. Layla is a mountain of low or moderate difficulty, unreservedly seldom climbed mostly because of its remote location.
Climbing Layla can become one of the brightest climbing impressions of Caucasus as together with its really interesting climbing opportunities it gives the unique chance to witness the incomparable and outstanding views of all the famous mountains of Main Caucasus.
The history of climbing this fairy mountain goes to the ancient times when Svanetians - mountain hunters and born climbers were hunting mountain goats in the mountains of Mestia region, in the heart of small and inaccessible country - Svanetia. The slopes of Svanetian mountain Range are densely covered with woods where until now you can meet all kinds of wild animals, higher meadows are exceptionally good as summer pastures where locals live the warm season with their cows.
Laila massive is heavily glaciated and allows all types of alpine climbing and trekking. Mountains of Svanetian Range are not explored yet by climbers and there are still some beautiful unnamed peaks of the height about 3400-3700m which are waiting for the first alpinist who will get to their tops.
North Layla 3976 m, Douglas Freshfield, Pauel, 1888
South layla 3994 m, Gottfried Merzbacher, 1891
Access to Mount Layla is not easy. From Tbilisi you can take a regular bus or taxi to Mestia - it is 8-10 hours drive, or there is an option to take a seat on the small plane which flies from Zugdidi to Mestia, but it is not regular flight. From Mestia it is 40 min drive to Zkhumari village, from which begins the trail to upper pastures. First camping is normally done at the flat place higher than the shepherd's hut. The hut is occupated during the summer months with the very friendly people from whom you always can buy fresh milk, cheese, bread. The people are extremely hospitable, it is not a problem to stay with them for a night.
Above the hut you can see the visible lowering in the range - it is Layla Pass. The slight trail goes through that pass to another valley from which the summit of Layla can be attempted. There are no trails or marked paths higher than the last stone hut behind the Layla Pass.
No fees, no restrictions, no permits. Please respect the virgin purity of these mountains and leave no trace of your visit behind you.
Camping is allowed everywhere.
Information on the organized commercial tours and technical climbs in Caucasus (Elbrus, Kazbek, Ushba, Layla, Shkhara, Koshtan, Tetnuld and Dykh-Tau) you can find here
Fresh photos from the recent AlexClimb Caucasus expedition here