Mountain climbing school

all events
+7 926 233 3300 (whatsapp)
+44 7727 445099 (whatsapp)

Climbing Mount Kazbek in the year 2002

Mount Kazbek climbing program - here
Read in Telegram in English
Leer en español

Climbing Mount Kazbek - memories of the expedition leader.

Good old memories of one of my first ascents of Mount Kazbek, about 20 years ago - when everything was not like it is now! The story is not without lyrics, but what's wrong with that?!

A classic view of Mount Kazbek from the Stepantsminda village.

On the left - Gergeti monastery The white dome with an inverted horseshoe of a collapsed prehistoric crater seemed to hang in the sky above the village, it seemed so close that you can reach out your hand and touch I like the soft back of a curled-up sleeping white cat...

Looking a little closer, you can see the contour of the ancient Gergeti Monastery, built in the distant times of the reign of Queen Tamara, standing out in contrast against the background of distant snows.

Mount Kazbek, view from the south

The view of a proud and inaccessible white peak captures the viewer and imperceptibly takes him into a world full of solemn and sublime thoughtfulness... This is an effect inherent in any significant mountain peaks in general. At the foot of Kazbek - repeatedly strengthened by the harmonious merging of the power of Nature with the primordial human activity - a phenomenon that is strange for our century.

Gergeti Monastery at the base of Mount Kazbek

The ancient builders were not mistaken with the place for the monastery. Where, if not here, from the top of a gently sloping green hill at the foot of a solemn, like a psalm, white mountain, selfless prayers for the salvation of human souls were uttered with particular inspiration...

The would turbulence do not reach this place from the dark depths of the gorge, only the eternal peace of the mountain peaks reins around, and a pair of mountain eagles spreading their wings, soar in the dazzling blue of the sky.

Climbing Mount Kazbek starts right from the Gergeti Monastery

All the nonsense of the last two days - checks on the roads, greedy hands and the dirty madness of people who got meager power and sold the honor of their uniform for a pittance - all the dirt disappeared from memory and dissolved like a bad dream under the clear gaze of the peak as ancient as the world. And the warm, friendly welcome of the people with whom we met for the first time, but they were so cordial and hospitable that it seemed that we had known them all our life.

Summit of Mount Kazbek and Gergeti monastery at sunset

Our small team found shelter in the hospitable house of the Kazalikashvili family - hereditary climbers, keepers of the good old traditions of Georgian mountaineering.

Simple, but heartily presented, and therefore incredibly tasty dishes appeared on the table with amazing speed: fragrant steamy khinkali, traditional cheese with spicy sauce, homemade wine.

Museum of Kazalikashvili in Stepantsminda village

Our plans to climb Mount Kazbek did not surprise anyone here - the mountain is very popular, climbers come here from all over the world to climb the Summit of the younger brother of the famous Caucasian patriarch, Mount Elbrus.

But the continuation of our climbing program - the most serious climb of Mount Ushba, which we planned immediately after climbing Kazbek, found the warmest response in the hearts of people sincerely devoted to the Caucasus Mountains.

Our international climbing team is preparing to climb Mount Ushba

The joined team of Russian, Svan and Georgian climbers this year has set a difficult but honorable task to honor the memory of the Man. It was the Man with a capital letter, whose 70th anniversary fell on this year of symmetry - 2002. It was the year of the anniversary of the national hero of Georgia and the world-famous Soviet climber - Mikhail Khergiani.

Mikhail Khergiani - the strongest climber of the Soviet Union, Master of Sports

This great expedition has long settled in the memory of those who were with us in their thoughts and hopes, and rightfully serves as a source of pride for its participants.

Now, when the difficulties, artificially created for the sake of dirty political games, put up barriers to friendship and joint sports victories, the thought came to me to remind about the event, insignificant in terms of sports, which remained beyond the attention of journalists. But it was successful and, (I'm afraid to say a banality, but another word will not convey this meaning) - a spiritual ascent to Mount Kazbek by a Russian-Svanetian-Georgian climbing team. The ascent, which served as a good acclimatization before the most difficult and very important in many reasons ascent to South Ushba.

Mount Ushba

A lot has already been written about the ascent of Mount Ushba, dedicated to the 70th anniversary of Mikhail Khergiani, I will not gloss over this topic. For those who are interested in remembering the events of this ascent, you can read about it in a separate article. Now I just want to tell a little about the people whose friendship I am sincerely proud of, and the mountains that gave me this friendship...

Museum of Kazalikashvili, the first climber to Mount Kazbek, or, as this mountain called in Georgia, Mkinvartsveri (Ice Peak). An old, neatly whitewashed one-story house under a green roof, a small neat courtyard.

At the Kazalikashvili Museum, Stepantsminda

Here, the memory of those who, at the dawn of mountaineering, made their contribution to the development of the unknown and dangerous world of mountains, is carefully preserved. A world much more dangerous and inaccessible in those days than today, when all the achievements of modern progress protect us from the cold indifference and icy fury of the white peaks, where only clouds feel at home...

At the Kazalikashvili Museum, Stepantsminda

On the whitewashed clay walls there are old photographs, portraits of people who have been gone long time ago, but the memory of them is alive in the hearts of their descendants, who are proud that they bear the same surnames as the heroes of the past. Stern resolute faces, quilted jackets and army belts on the peasant shoulders. The Great Patriotic War. Dramatic page of the history of the Caucasus. The Germans were rushing south to the oil fields of the Caspian. And the way to the iron divisions, equipped with the latest technology, was blocked by ordinary people, with ancient hunting weapons in their hands and violent rage in their hearts as they were protecting their Motherland.

At the Kazalikashvili Museum, Stepantsminda

The atmosphere of pure love for the motherland and the disinterested feat of the highlanders who defended the Caucasus, is saturated with dust of many decades, but the smell of dust does not interrupt the smell of gunpowder and human pain, with which this harsh land is generously fertilized. Photographs yellowed by time. The smell of an old wooden house. Museum of Kazalikashvili, our first night at the foot of Kazbek.

Mount Kazbek, beginning of the climb

The shadow of a swallow passed over my face. A small cloud momentarily dimmed the radiance of the snowy peak. A gust of wind brought an echo of the icy breath of eternal snows lying on the tops of mountains since the creation of the world. The ascent has begun. For some of the readers, the topic of this story will surely seem strange. The answer to the rhetorical question "why" will not be found here. Everyone decides for himself and chooses those values that are close to his inner sense.

Climbing Mount Kazbek

For those who that morning went out on a path that goes up the lush greenery of alpine meadows to the harsh glaciers of Mount Kazbek, the desire was clear and understandable, desire than was forcing a person of his own free will to set goals for himself, leading him beyond the clouds.

The gray hands of the mist had almost reached the semicircular building of the Refuge. Our team was returning to the camp after a short walk to a small church, carefully built on a rocky mountainside.

A small mountaineering church on the slope of Mount Kazbek

Georgians are religious. The attitude towards the Cristian religion in this country causes respect, a little mixed with envy. After all, while our ancestors prayed to the ancient Slavic gods and did not suspect the birth of a new world religion, at that time Georgia, being a strong and educated state, consciously and proudly accepted Christianity from the hands of a little girl - St. Nina, who christened the pagan country with a cross woven from a vine branch - from that ogigins the special form of the Georgian Cross...

Georgian Cross on the southern slope of Mount Kazbek

Christianity has found fertile ground and penetrated deeply into the hearts of people who are naturally endowed with love for God and their fertile land. Sincere religiosity is felt in the attitude of Georgians to their shrines - many ancient churches literally glow with prayer, carry an aura of holiness that is tangible even for a stranger... Something that was lost in Russia faster than it had time to appear. However, I do not argue, there may be different points of view on this matter.

In a small mountaineering church on the slope of Mount Kazbek

As an evening walk, we visited the tiny church, located a few hundred meters above the Southern Shelter. A small white dome of a house built from an old cable car trailer that came from nowhere, with a cross on the roof. Stretching from steel cables and a pile of piled stones protect it from destructive gusts of wind. Modest interior decoration: a tiny altar, a few icons and candlesticks, a clean rug. Nothing superfluous, full compliance with the severity of the outside world, where is snow almost all the time and stones turn black on ice.

In a small mountaineering church on the slope of Mount Kazbek

Several thin candles burn in front of the icons of St. George and St. Nina. Severe bearded people stand silently and seriously, trustingly opening their hearts to God, hearts cleansed by mountains from worldly soot.

The South Refuge of Mount Kazbek, located at an altitude of 3900 m on the south side of the eastern summit of Mount Kazbek, is the building of a former weather station built in 1938 and very similar in design to the famous Shelter 11 on Mount Elbrus. The South Shelter is actively used by climbers as a base for climbing various routes on the snowy dome of Mount Kazbek.

Southern Refuge on the slope of Mount Kazbek

The interior of the former weather station bears traces of asceticism and post-Soviet desolation. But with the care of a few enthusiasts from the village of Kazbegi, homely atmosphere of comfort lives inside. Rough wooden bunks are upholstered with felt, the walls are insulated. A gas cylinder is in the corner, a huge vat of snow is heated on the stove - hot tea at an altitude brings back to life the traveler, exhausted by a hard day's climb.

Southern Refuge on the slope of Mount Kazbek

The sun was rapidly sinking to the jagged edge of the neighboring mountain ridge, gray wisps of fog peered into the dark windows of the Meteorological Station. We settled comfortably around a black, wrinkled table - a local old-timer, a mute witness to the change of many generations of climbers. Then it was tea with lemon in iron mugs, stories about expeditions, memories of friends. The company gathered was very interesting, the conversation was about the mountains, with which the lives, fates and dreams of the climbers were inextricably linked.

Climbing Mount Kazbek

...In the heavy darkness of the shelter, the alarm clock rings. Someone's electronic clock beeps briefly. A few more ruthless killers of sleep are poured into the morning disharmony by a few shrill voices. It's time to get up. This night we have to start the summit attack.

Climbing Mount Kazbek requires early start

Having slightly stretched my stiff joints, I gradually begin to get out of the sleeping bag, at the same time dressing the exposed parts of the body. Despite all attempts to insulate the walls, the temperature in the refuge was quite chilly, and the water in the vat was covered with a thin crust of ice. A tiny candle flame cut through the darkness of our temporary dwelling, and it immediately somehow warmed up the air around. Psychologically. Nobody likes to get up early, but in the mountains, it is inevitable. The summit does not like lazy people.

Before the sunrise, before the snow frozen during the night loses its hardness, it is necessary to cross the glacier with a lot of deep crevasses - an insidious trap for a belated traveler - one wrong step - and you can stay forever in the dark depths of the ice hole.

Night summit attack of Mount Kazbek

A string of specks of light, oscillating to the beat of slow steps, crawls over the black night snow.

Our team is heading for the summit. Of my own free will, I follow a cruel and uncompromising inner command, a decision of my will that gives impetus to the accomplishment of big and small, great and obscure, feats inevitably appointed by fate, with a sense of indifference and inevitability.

A light mist of clouds covered the horizon in the west, which had not yet completely lost the yellowish hue of the sunset. We walk silently, lightening our path with flashlights mounted on our helmets, so as not to accidentally step on a rope crawling through the snow. Below us was a closed glacier, with deep crevasses that are safe to cross only until the snow freezes into a hard crust. But using the rope it was not much to risk, 12 people tied with one rope will not let one comrade to get fall into crevasse.

Climbing Mount Kazbek

Slow endless climb in the dark. A good friend of mine is walking ahead - an experienced Georgian guide, a professional climber. How many times he climbed Kazbek - he hardly remembers himself. A lot. But experience in mountaineering does not bring a sense of security. Vice versa.

The more you know the mountains, the more dangers you see in them. Mountains and people are inseparable, but opposite to each other creations of the world. The eternal peace of the mountains means just death for a human. Death from a ridiculous accidental mistake, from inattention or neglecting. Death from naive over self-esteem, from pride. The elements of the mountains is out of the human power, a person can be, at best, only a toy for them. However, sometimes mountains descend to respect for a person. Which is a rare but well-known case.

Climbing Mount Kazbek

It is difficult to earn this, and such respect is very valuable. But the fate of Mikhail Khergiani, the man to whom we dedicated our expedition, proves that this is possible. The mountains were his element and obeyed to his power and will. Although, in the end then they took him. Mountains are capricious and unpredictable.

Carefully checking each step, the guide leads the group along the endless night glacier. The monotony of walking gradually turns into a state of mechanical apathy, when one step follows another, keeping to the footprints of the climber walking in front. The snow crust creaks elastically under the points of crampons, spots of light from lanterns sway from side to side.

The summit dome of the top of Mount Kazbek in the lenticular cloud

After several hours of continuous walking, the edge of the sky ahead of us began to lighten and got separated from the dark band of a gently sloping glacier. Dawn is not yet close, but there is a feeling of its approach, the sky is preparing for a new day.

We went to the upper [art of the glacier, to the altitude of more than 4000 meters. A bewitching panorama of the frozen mountains, illuminated by a lightened sky, opens before us. The Main Caucasian Ridge stretches to the west, in the foggy, obscure distance, the top of Mount Elbrus glows like a crimson coal. By the right of the Patriarch, it is the first to greet the rising sun with the blazing reflection of the eastern summit. Only a blind person can miss such a spectacle... Although this person, too, with the nerves of his face sharpened due to blindness will probably feel the grandiose silence of the mountains, solemnly waiting and holding its breath before the great mystery of the sunrise.

Sunrise over the Main Caucasian Range, view from Mount Kazbek

Only in the mountains, at aa altitude where eternity is not hidden behind the hustle and bustle of everyday life, one can experience this grandiose feeling that does not fit and is out of place in the familiar world of man.

The snowy summit of Mount Kazbek lit up, a rapidly flaring fire broke out above. The day began, and all the magic of a clear sky, waking mountains and a magnificent dawn was stored in the recesses of the soul, intended for the most expensive things. In the piggy bank of memories that decorate life with incredible patterns. Storage of valuables that are not subject to inflation and depreciation of currencies.

Climbing Mount Kazbek summit dome

After we climbed to the top there was a surprise. It turned out that this is not the correct summit at all, that is a summit, but not that one. Climbing from the west, we found ourselves at the highest point of the Western, lower peak, separated from the Main Summit of Kazbek by a deep saddle. By this, too, Mount Kazbek could not resist imitating his bigger, also two-headed brother Mount Elbrus. Behind the saddle, an obvious ascent path was visible - a steep ice couloir, squeezed between two rocky ridges - not a difficult obstacle, but requiring protection, caution and some effort.

I went out to the gently sloping snow cap of the summit pulling on the tightly stretched fixed rope, driving the points of my crampons into the ice, hard after the night frost and crumbling and showering with sparks.

On the Summit of Mount Kazbek

Victory! How, who defeated and to whom - does not matter at such a moment, filled with pure and long-awaited joy. Moment that is reflected by the smiling sky. From the feeling of this radiant smile, it feels like if something burns inside, breaks and splashes out. I want to scream with joy and my tired body was overflowing of love for this world. Love for people who are carelessly sleeping in their beds and not suspecting that somewhere, someone is about to explode from happiness. The happiness which everyone is looking for and cannot find. And it's here, on the Summit, for everyone. And completely for free!

Short break on the Summit of Mount Kazbek

The sunny weather continued until noon - the practice of an early start worked well again. Soon we descended from the glacier to the moraine, drunk from the euphoria of victory and fatigue. There began the path to the Refuge, marked with heaps of rocks. The sky frowned, turned gray, and it began to rain.

The descent of climbing team from the summit dome of Mount Kazbek

Almost at the very moment when the heavy boot of the last member of our team crossed the well-trodden threshold of the Refuge, the dam in the heaven broke, and a terrible downpour of rain fell from the sky. The curtain is down, the performance is over, and the stage of the grandiose theater has disappeared behind a solid wall of falling water.

Mount Kazbek is covered with a veil of rain

Under the protection of strong stone walls and a reliable roof of the old Refuge, we drank sweet hot tea with lemon, preparing for a quick return to the valley, to civilization. There, where nothing is like in the mountains, but now, in a new way, valuable and dear. That is a strange effect of the mountains which return humanity to human. A strange effect, but very clearly felt after the descent from the conquered Summit.

Silhouette of Mount Ushba at sunset - it is the symbol of Caucasian mountaineering

Expedition leader, author of the text and photos - Alex Trubachev