Everyone considering going to Georgia for such reasons as backpacking or hiking or mountain climbing, please be advised!
The wave of crimes in which the tourists are the victims is rising in Georgia. There were at least 4 cases in the region of Becho village in Svaneti during the last two months. Very alarming is the reaction of the Georgian police. Tourism is the only source of income for the whole region (Svaneti do not produce anything except the tourist service). Nevertheless, local police neither investigate crimes, nor inform the new visitors about danger. The information of crimes is concealed by police, and that provokes the new, more serious crimes.
Preparing to climb Mount Ushba our team got into that accident in late September 2021. We were totally robbed right at the base of Ushba route, while sleeping in the Base Camp. The thieves got everything - climbing gear, clothing, cameras, documents, leaving a group almost naked. The total impact of the rubbery exceeds 30.000 Euro. Local authorities said they are sorry -it was all the government support for the victims. The reaction of the Georgian police was totally surprising - they have literally refused to act. The excuse for them (as the police officially state) was that the tourists provoked the locals by leaving their stuff unprotected outside of the tents (but the most valuable things like cameras, money and laptops were taken from the car). Also the police apply to the fact that such an accident happened in the area for the first time - which was a lie as we found a couple of days later. We were the forth group robbed in the area during the summer season 2021 (also we have got info about two more incidents in which the thieves were spooked by tourists). This could be only the tip of the iceberg as we got info from the open sources and related forums, not from the officials.The conclusion of our story is quite alarming. The Georgian police service revived and reformed by Michael Saakashvili in 2005 was quite effective for the 10 consequent years facilitating the development of the convenient tourist infrastructure. But at the moment, this police structure got corrupted and is getting back to its primary pre-reforming condition — which was a totally useless and corrupted structure.
Such a state of things is absolutely unacceptable and dangerous. Tourism in the country could work only on one main and uncompromising condition of the personal safety of every tourist coming to Georgia.The situation we recently discovered in Georgia in the summer 2021 makes the overview very different from the previous years. Now it becomes dangerous to travel in Svaneti, where the tourists are not protected by the government structures anymore.With a lot of pain, as I really love Georgia, I have to declare the following: until all the crimes against the tourists in Georgia are efficiently investigated and the criminals found and punished, the tourism in Georgia should be reduced to minimum or totally banned.
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