Climbing Mount Kazbek
Where: Kazbegi, Caucasian Ridge, Georgia, Central Asia
When: Mid-June to late September
Best sights: Hot springs and walking on a glacier
Remember to bring: Ice axes and crampons – be aware this is a difficult climb graded 2/3
Where it’s at
Mount Kazbek, also known as Mkinvartsveri, is the highest and most beautiful of the mountains in the Caucasus ranges. It is located in the central part of the main Caucasian Ridge in the Kazbegi region of Georgia. The southern side of the range falls within Georgian territory and the northern side falls inside Russia.
The Georgian regions of the Caucasian Ridge were once known as the ‘Switzerland of the Soviet Union.’ Kazbegi is known for its vineyards and remote mountain villages. The region is a four-hour drive from the capital city, Tbilisi, and traverses stunning glacial mountain passes. Mount Kazbek is a glaciated volcano that stands 5047 metres high. The first person to climb Mount Kazbek was Douglas Freshfield in 1868.
Suggested Route – the North Face
If you drive to the town of Kazbegi, which is situated at 1,700 meters, then you can walk through alpine meadows along a moraine (glacier debris) to the Gergeti Glacier at 2950 meters. You will pass hot sulphur springs on your way to the first camp site, a sign that this region is still volcanically active. It is perhaps advisable to spend a day acclimatising at this point, depending on how experienced a climber you are.
When you are ready to climb, start the ascent at the Maili Plateau at 4500 meters. Above the plateau up to the saddle you will need to put on crampons to climb through the ice and snow. Once at the summit, 5047 meters, you will be rewarded with stunning views out over the Caucasian Mountain Range.
– The climbing season is from mid-June to late September and it is advised that you are in a good physical condition before attempting this climb.
– The route described, ascending the north face, is relatively easy, but this is a serious mountain and the overall grading is 2. Experience of using ice axes and crampons is advised. It would also be wise to leave the eastern face to the experts as this climb is difficult (grade 3).
– Mount Kazbek, the Mont Blanc of the Caucasus, is climbed each year by only 100 to 150 people. It is advisable to contact the Georgian State Mountaineering Guide Training School in Kazbegi who will be able to advise you of conditions and will also be aware that you are making the ascent in case of any problems. To hire equipment and a guide, contact the Georgian Climbing and Mountaineering Association in Tbilisi for advice.
Georgian Mountaineering and Climbing Association
Contact details for the Georgian Climbing and Mountaineering Association in Tbilisi.
By Faye Welborn