The South-East Face is the prominent line that forms the left skyline of Mkinvartsveri when seen from Kazbegi or Sno Valley, which is one of the most beautiful mountain sights in the Caucasus and beyond.
The line that can be seen directly above the meteorological station. It is the most direct route to the top, topping out just a few vertical meters below the summit.
The actual face starts at about 4100m where it starts with a short, gently inclined narrow funnel, and then broadens again, following 40-45° to finally steepens to 50° on the last 200m. If you stay on the left close to the rocks it is steeper in the last part (55°).
The route was skied at least twice:
- First partial descent (upper part, right var., 55°, 5000-4750m): Peter Schön & Deon Louw (2006)
- First full descent of SE Face (via variation around rock gendarm): Simon Schels (snowboard), Dominik Bartenschlager, Michi Stacheder (ski) (2007)
- First full descent of SE Face direct: Peter Schön & Andi Riesner (2008)
From the meteorological station head up to the little chapell above the station, and straight towards the right of the two prominent funnels.
Climb through the funnel and then stay on the right side of the face of or go wherever conditions seem best - ice and snow cover conditions differ from year to year.
There is a prominent gendarm at 4700 - 4800m. On its side is a small, flatter spot where you can rest if needed (right of the direct line up).
Be aware that the prominent wind and storm direction here is from the west, and that these winds can load the face with snow, potentially creating unstable snow conditions after snow storms (also later in the season).
When to Go
This depends a bit from year to year. In April you are most likely to find a good, settled snow cover with little ice contact. However, April weather can be very unsettled, leaving March (colder, good avalanche knowledge essential) or May (expect ice contact) as good months.
The ice below can be quite brittle at times, making climbing the upper pitches in little or no snow cover scetchy business.
I climbed the route one time in April and could avoid almost all ice contact. Two times I climbed it in May, with one time needing the rope (tibloc-ing) to secure the dance on the brittle ice.
Stone fall danger seems no major issue during March, April and May.
- 2 ice tools
- rope and ice screws are advisable
- binoculars to check line from the meteo station