Friday, July 20, 2018

Kazbek 5033 m

Horse on the glacier on the way to Bethlemi Hut
Horse on the glacier on the way to Bethlemi Hut

Kazbek is a beautiful and relatively easy mountain. I do not mean technical difficulties, but the organizational ones - cheap tickets to Georgia, you don't need any special permits, guides, etc. For this reason, many people choose Kazbek as their first five-thousand peak. Still, you must remember it is an alpine peak. You can't compare it with lower, easy going peaks. You need to prepare adequately. You need to increase your body efficiency and get necessary knowledge about the mountain (study map of the mountain, plan the route, learn what is the altitude sickness), prepare necessary equipment (tents, ropes, crampons). You need to be in a good shape, especially if you plan to make a popular peak attack from the Bethlemi Hut. The altitude difference is close to 1.5 kilometres, from 3560 to 5033 meters in one way, and you still have to come back, right? That's why many unprepared ones is out at 4400 meters. What if you marginalize the preparation. Rescue taxi will not come for you. When the weather conditions are bad, the rescue team will not go out to the mountains for death to rescue tourists. Still, many have not come back from the Kazbek. It is, because their bodies could not be found. It's good to do it in a smart way, so you can tell the story to your grandsons afterwards.

Kabek, www.MATTrail.com
Kazbek

Arrival and the first camp

Georgia has good and cheap flights operated by low-cost airlines. You can make it even cheaper if you combine two backpacks into one bag to the plane. Only you need to remember about the weight limit. The planes touch down in Kutaisi. Some of them are there at dawn. From Kutaisi to Kazbegi is 340 km. In economic trip you travel by small buses called marshrutka. In expensive, but much quicker way you can rent a taxi for approx. 150 USD. The driver will take you directly to the Kazbegi.

The Cminda Sameba church
The Cminda Sameba church

There is exhausting walk from the town to church Cminda Sameba. It is a ery beautiful place. Many tourists come here to see only that church. You can rent a small 4x4 bus to take you up to the church. It's not so expensive. Next, only walking up in the mountains. On the way to the Bethlemi Hut, there is many local guides with horses. Probably you can rent such horse to carry your backpacks to the Bethlemi Hut. We set up the first camp at 2900 m. It was before the glacier terminus. Despite the heat at the bottom, here it's cold at night at this attitude. Note, the route from Kutaisi 125 m to almost 3000 m above sea level or what worse immediately to the Bethlemi Hut, what is 3653 m is dangerous. The altitude difference would be 3 kilometres in one day! One person in our team suffered from the altitude sickness.

The first camp, Kazbek, www.MATTrail.com
The first camp on the way to Kazbek

The second camp and the Bethlemi Hut

The weather is perfect, no clouds at all. At the night we can see stars on the sky. Above the Kazbek peak is visible the Big Dipper / Plough. There is also visible the light from the Bethlemi Hut. At dawn is breakfast and breaking up the camp. We set up our camp next to the bigger team. They had to wait already for one week for better weather conditions. We have perfect weather at the very beginning. Halfway to the Bethlemi Hut we reach the glacier terminus. Local guides with horses and dogs seem to walk easily on the ice. They have four legs, we only two, so we put on crampons. It is the first contact with the glacier on that mountain. We don't have any problem on that part, but we need to watch out for the crevasses.

Crevasse on the glacier
Crevasse on the glacier

The glacier on the way to Bethlemi Hut
The glacier on the way to Bethlemi Hut

We make a longer break in the Bethlemi Hut (3653 m). After debate we decided to split the team. Half of the team stay here with the colleague with symptoms of the attitude sickness. Second half continue to set up the second camp a bit higher. Next day, in the morning we all meet at breakfast in the second camp. Despite numerous suggestions the sick colleague did not walk down to compensate the attitude sickness. Hopefully aspirin helped him. It has the property to attenuate the blood. So, it helps to get the oxygen from the air when there is less than usual. I'm not a doctor, it is only my personal deductions. The second camp was set up at about 3800 m. All the time was wind, so we had to cover our tent with stones. In the morning everything was under the thin layer of snow. Soon, the second part of our team arrived and we ate the breakfast.

The second camp before night, Kazbek, www.MATTrail.com
 The second camp before night

The second camp in the morning, Kazbek, www.MATTrail.com
The second camp in the morning

The third camp under the peak

It is the the most dangerous part. On one side, falling rocks, on the other side is the glacier with crevasses. The rocks really go down, we could see and hear them from time to time. We walked on the glacier, so the rocks are far enough away from us. We passed already 4000 m, we can feel it. Every move is three times more tiring. We walked slower, ponderously, we felt tired all the time. We can't act too fast, because shortness of breath may be dangerous when there is not enough oxygen in the air. A thick fog covered the glacier. We tied up each other with a rope. GPS and footsteps after previous teams helped us to find a proper direction. Finally, we reached the Plateau. The third camp was set up at 4422 m on the glacier. We were in an open space. We had to flat the area under our tent. At that attitude, this easy exercise is not easy any more. It requires a lot of effort from us. The weather improved. It was sunny, without any wind. A few hundreds meter below was another camp. They had few tents. It looked like we are on the highest level than any other team.

On the way to Kazbek, the rocks fall down here
On the way to Kazbek, the rocks fall down here

Peak attack

In the morning, we were woken up by other teams walking near us to the top. They were attacking the peak directly from the Bethlemi Hut. We were already at Plateau, so we didn't have to wake up in the middle of the night to be able to come back. We ate a breakfast without any rush. We attacked the peak in light style. We took only what is necessary: crampons, ice axe, small portion of food, etc. The peak attack is on a steep hillside. Footsteps of previous teams helped, but the crampons seemed to be still necessary.
 
Views on the way to Kazbek peak, www.MATTrail.com
Views on the way to Kazbek peak

On the way we passed next to a dead dog. Later, this dog got up and walked with other teams that were giving him food. This dog spent a night at 4500 m, on the ice, on the steep hillside. I think people shouldn't give food to that dogs, because it may kill them. This one was lucky. He had enough power to survive and the wather wasn't bad. We had a perfect conditions for the peak attack. Very sunny, no wind. The visibility is even better than ideal. On Friday, September 16 at 10:50 am we reached the top. At that time many other teams reached the top as well. They also want to have an usage of the perfect weather.

On the Kazbek peak, www.MATTrail.com
On the Kazbek peak

On the Kazbek peak, www.MATTrail.com
On the Kazbek peak

Going down

Descent from the top was much quicker than going up. This time, you get more power with every meter, because at the same time there is more oxygen. On the Plateau we broke up the camp and went back. We decided to make it more comfortable - we slept in the Bethlemi Hut. We didn't want to set up again the tent. Living conditions are better than few years back. They put windowpanes. Next day, without any problem and relatively quickly we went down to the Kazbegi village. We had incredible luck with the weather conditions. We could reach the top without any breaks. Much faster than it was expected. The additional time we used for sightseeing Tbilisi.

Kazbek, www.MATTrail.com

Kazbek
The Kazbek peak was reached in the alpine style. We took minimal amount of equipment. We did it in a small team, without returns, practically without acclimation. This style is not a style for everyone, because it is very intense. Our four person crew of four sporty and strong guys who travelled tens or hundreds of kilometres in mountains in different conditions. We were very well physical prepared, so we could do it in that style.

Kazbek, www.MATTrail.com
 Kazbek

Something on the way to Kazbek
Something on the way to Kazbek

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