Kazbek is one of the highest peaks of Caucasus and it is located on the territory of two countries – Russia and Georgia. It is about 5037 meters high. Once Kazbek was an active volcano, but the last time it erupted in 650 b.c. and now it is covered with glaciers. Nowadays it is one of the most popular mountaineering routes in Caucasus. There are 2 possible climbing routes – from Russia and from Georgia. The most popular is the easiest one is from Georgian side.
A short clip about ascension:
The climbing route corresponds to the classification of 2A grade of difficulty. Also from Georgian side, there are several routes 3B category of difficulty, but they are not so popular, and less visited. In this article, we will talk about the classic ascent of Kazbek at 2A.
The starting point of the route is the village Stepantsminda (Kazbegi).
Preparation and organization of Kazbek ascent.
Required personal alpinist equipment
- Ice axe
- 2 screwgate/locking carabiners
- Belay device (winter)
- Ascender or T-Block (winter)
Required group alpinist equipment (For a 2-3 person rope)
- 4-5 ice screws (winter)
- 4-5 slings (winter)
- 2-3 station slings (winter)
It will be quite useful to have at least 1 GPS with preloaded track
If you have a big group, it will be quite useful to have a radio for easy communication between the ropes or with the camp. If you plan to spend a night at Lower Plateau, you should bring an avalanche shovel for making wind shelters and preparing a base for future camp.
Important! For all winter ascensions, all avalanche equipment is mandatory (beacon, probe, and shovel)
The best option would be to rent climbing equipment in your hometown. There is no rental in Tbilisi. There is one in Stepantsminda.
The cost of one item (cats, ice-axe, harness): 10 lari ($ 4-4.5) per day. However, you can negotiate a discount, if several sets of equipment are taken at least for a period of 5 days. Company website in English: http://mtainfo.ge/.
The range is large enough cats, ice axes, harnesses, ropes, tents, mats, etc. Condition of equipment is good enough: it is clear that it was in use, but works well. The exceptions are the shoes, so please take care of them earlier.
According to the rules, you can not transport gas cylinders on a plane or train, however, it is possible to bring up to 15 cylinders by car. Also you can purchase them in The North Face stores in Tbilisi.
- Tbilisi, Mitskevich 68
- Tbilisi, Vaja Pshavela 10
Both stores are near the metro station Medical University. The price of one cylinder: 25 lari ($ 10-10.5). In Stepantsminda it will cost 30-35 lari ($ 12-15).
Tbilisi – Stepantsminda (Kazbegi)
Distance from Tbilisi to Stepantsminda: 155 km. By car – 2.5-3 hours.
Transfer by shuttle bus: 10 lari ($ 4-4.5). Minibus starts from metro station “Didube”. Schedule is floating. The first bus leaves at about 9 am and then at intervals of 1 hour with a break from 12:00 to 15:00. Sometimes there is an additiona 5 GEL fee for luggage.
Kutaisi – Stepantsminda (Kazbegi)
Distance from Kutaisi to Stepantsminda: 330 km. By car -7-8 hours.
Minibus Kutaisi (city) – Tbilisi (Didube): 10 lari ($ 4-4.5), then transfer to a minibus to Stepentsminda.
Direct bus from GeorgianBus – 55 lari ($ 23) per person. Tickets can be pre-booked on the company’s website.
Taxi from Vladikavkaz will costs about 2000-3000 rubles per car.
Phone stable catches network of n. Stepantsminda to pass Sabertse (See below.) And near Betlemi Hut. All the rest of the time the connection is very weak or non-existent.
!!! Short number Rescue Service in Georgia: 112
It is recommended to go to the house of rescuers in Kazbegi and register a group to climb (see. Map) before the start. In addition, for security purposes, you can ask for a personal phone number of a lifeguard who will be on duty at the time of your registration.
The second and more substantial registration – in the former weather station, now shelter Betlemi Hut. It is best to notify rescuers on duty immediately before the ascent.
Description of the ascent on Kazbek from Georgia, route 2A
- Way to the Kazbek summit takes from 4 to 7 days, depending on the weather and physical condition of the group
- Elevation gain about 3800m
- The totalverticaldrop(based on descent): 7,000
- The lengthof the routeStepantsminda-Kazbek-Stepantsminda: more than 35km.
The first part of the high season: middle of July – end of August. This is the most comfortable time for climbing. Weather is the most stable. Most of the time – sunny days. A protracted period of rains is not seen – mainly storms that come one day. Temperature in Stepantsminda +20 … + 25, on top is -5 … 0. Glacier during this period the most open, all the cracks are visible. Often there are calm days when it is possible to sunbathe, even at the top. The maximum length of daylight.
The second part of the high season – a short period – the second half of September. In the first half of September, usually comes a series of cyclones, which bring precipitation in the form of snow at an altitude of 4000-5000 meters above sea level. After that the weather reminiscent of summer, however, the temperature falls to 5-10 degrees, it is felt especially at night. During this period, strong winds are possible at night.
- The first half of July;
In the first half of July in the Kazbek is still “late spring” with her thunderstorms and precipitation in the form of rain, but there are already some windows of clear weather – the period of 2-3 days, when the ascent is possible. At this time, the cracks are not all open, snow destroys “bridges” and you need to be extremely careful while travelling on the glaciers. The temperature is almost summerlike: +15 … 25 … in Stepantsminda and -10… 0 at the top.
October – late autumn with the inherent to this period prolonged rainfall and strong winds. Bad weather can stand even for a week. The temperature at the top can reach -15 … -20. Glacier is often covered with new snow, cracks partially sprinkled. There are strong winds at altitudes of 3500-5000 m.
Ascent of Mount Kazbek in the off-season
November and winter months is a very cold and windy period. The temperature at the top of -20 … -35. Glacier – Ice bottle, often lightly sprinkled with snow. Strong winds at altitudes of 4000-5000 m.
Spring – a time of precipitation and storms that can last several weeks.
During this period can climb only “under the weather”.
March – time of the “winter” ascents on ski tour
Ascension route of Kazbek divided by days
The entire route is divided into several sections, which is primarily due to the convenience of places for overnight stays, water availability, and the need of acclimatization to the altitude. Some transitions have alternatives. In particular, the monastery Gergeti have the opportunity to ride by car (in Stepantsminda there are many drivers offering their services). In addition, to lighten the approach you can hire horses that will take backpacks with equipment directly to Betlemi Hut. However, a common recommendation is – take acclimatization under load in order to be better prepared for the final assault on the summit.
Transition Stepantsminda (1750 m) – Gergeti Monastery (2150 m)
- Transition time: 2 hours
- Path length: 4 km
- Elevation gain: 400 m
- Water: organized source near the church Gergeti
- Location and the base for a tent: flat grassy spot
From the central square of Stepantsminda (Kazbegi) follow the way to the village Gergeti, then you can choose: a steep dirt trail directly to the monastery or the flat dirt car serpentine road. No water sources are available along the way, so store some in advance. The remaining time could be spent on acclimatization and to visit the church.
Transition Gergeti Monastery (2150 m) – Zelenye Nochevki (3000 m)
- Transition time: minimum 3 hr
- Path length: 7 km
- Elevation gain: 850 m
- Water: Water pipe near the camp space and the stream 20 m away.
- Location and a base for a Tent: relatively flat, grassy spot.
The smooth ascent goes on a sloping ground trail with small circular to the pass Sabertse. Next, the trail goes to the glacier river, followed by Zelenye Nochevki. No water sources on the road, so it is worth to take some at the monastery. No technical difficulties on the route.
Transition Zelenye Nochevki (3000 m) – Betlemi Hut (3650 m)
- Transition time: 2 hours
- Path length: 4 km
- Elevation gain: 650 m
- Water: Betlemi Hut, glacier melt water
- Location and a base for a tent: flat stone ground or shelter Betlemi
Shallow soil and stone path leads to the tongue of the glacier. You traverse the Glacier of 10-15 degrees to the moraine. Then follow the steep scree trail to the weather station. Be careful at the glacier – possible cracks by the main trail. At this point, the use of crampons is desirable; rope is not required – the final decision taken by the head of the group depending on the conditions of the glacier.
Transition Betlemi Hut (3650 m) – Black Cross (3900 m)
- Transition Time: 1 hour
- Path length: 2 km
- Elevation gain: 250 m
- Water: glacier meltwater near the camp:
- Location and a base for a tent: flat stone ground with wind walls
From Betlemi Hut follow the traverse stone trail with a few steep sections. The trail is marked “Turik” (small stone piles). In this area should stick to the path, if you lose “Turik” out of sight, you should return to the last visible one
Transition Black Cross (3900 m) – Lower Plateau (4250 m)
- Transition time: 2 hoursPath length: 3 km
- Climb: 350 m
- Water: glacier meltwater near the camp, the snow.
- Location and a base for a tent: snow and ice spot.
One of the most difficult parts of the route. Stone path with elevation gain and loss of an average steepness. This part of the route runs along the moraine dismembered with a lot of rocks and ice. There are few trails at the site, each marked with “Turik,” but often paths cross and are hard to see in the dark. Be especially careful in the area near the rockfall Hmaura. In summer, every few seconds a rock melts off the wall and falls down. After the moraine trail leads to the flat glacier. It is time to put on crampons and rope until the arrival to the campsite. You can find a place for bivouac near the trails (a little to the south).
Transfer Lower Plateau (4250 m) – Mount Kazbek Summit (5034 m)
- Transfer Time: from 4:00
- Path length: 3 km
- Elevation gain: 784 m
- Water: glacier meltwater near the camp, snow
The trail in high season is a set of footprints in the snow and is almost always visible. With the elevation gain, the angle of the climb grows. The first difficult part – a steep climb to the saddle between the peaks of Great Kazbek and Little Kazbek. The second – the most important sector – rise to the top. The snow-ice slope with a gradient of 30-40 degrees. In winter, there is no trail, often glacier ice is exposed, it is recommended to organize anchors, especially when climbing to the summit from the saddle.
The rise to the top, you can make from Betlemi Hut, Black Cross, or lower plateau, and it depends on common physical condition of the group and the weather. Typically, the assault is assigned in the range from 2 to 4 o’clock in the morning, depending on the overnight position. The higher the base camp, the later you can go. The descent from the summit takes place on the same route and takes from 2 to 5 hours (depending on the location of the camp) .In the same day, most of the groups descent down to the Zelenye Nochevki camp for a better rest after the climb. Further descent does not have any technical difficulties.
And finally, the panorama from the top of Mount Kazbek in the summer.