Back in the middle of the 2018/2019 winter season, WildGuru guides Sergey Ichenets and Dmitry Mikhailov, making plans for a spring vacation, set themselves an ambitious goal – to ascend to the summit of Kazbek (5034 m) by ski tour and come back down in less than a day.
Were they successful?
Sergey Ichenets, WildGuru guide
In our spare time, we are always on the lookout for interesting and challenging ski tour options in the vicinity of Gudauri – Stepantsminda. Sometimes we climb a steep and narrow couloir, sometimes we set personal records of vertical ascent, and sometimes we just explore new locations. I go to Kazbek many times each summer with groups, and in the winter I have also often climbed. The idea to go for a day somehow gave birth to itself.
A little information about the route that had to be overcome.
The height of Kazbek, according to various estimates, is from 5033 to 5047 meters above sea level. Usually the ascent begins from Gergeti Church (2170 m), which is located above the village of Stepantsminda (1750 m) right at the foot of the mountain. The route goes through the Saberze Pass (2950 m), to Gergeti Glacier (3250 m), crosses it and leads to the old meteorological station – Betlemi Hut (3650 m). Next – over the moraines and glaciers right at the top.
The length of the route from Gergeti Church to the top: ≈22 km.
Height of the ascent: more than 3000 meters.
We waited a long time for good weather, and on May 16 we finally got the chance.
And so, on May 15th. What wonderful weather! We pitched tent right by the parking lot and decided to take a break before climbing. The start was scheduled for 00:00. The plan was simple: climb to the top and come back down, spending less than 24 hours on the mountain. Tactics were also straightforward: to go slowly and rest often. We were acclimatized, but the last time we were in the mountains had been three weeks before.
For the first three hundred meters we had to carry our skis and splitboards on themselves. Even though it was mid May. The snow began at an altitude of 2450 m. We moved quite rapidly over the pass, made a small stop there and watched with curiosity as small lights were going upwards from Betlemi Hut – these were the first climbers beginning to ascend from the base camp.
There was a lot of snow above the pass. During the night it had frozen well – and we managed to walk without falling into wet snow. We crossed the lower part of Gergeti Glacier without any problems and approached the meteorological station, then immediately went along the moraine in the direction of the conventional route, deciding not to drop in to Betlemi Hut.
Meanwhile, the sun had already come out and reminded us that we were already 6 hours into our trek. To be honest, I had a savage desire to sleep, while the desire to continue ascending seriously diminished.
Duly we reached a height of 4200 m. Here in the summertime the glacier is littered with cracks, but it now looked like a perfect snow slope. We rested, roped up and went on. The snow had changed – it became even tougher and more difficult. A few days ago there had been really strong winds h ere, and the fine winter powder had been turned into waves of sastrugi and ice.
At an altitude of 4500 m, we periodically sought different reasons to stop the ascent. But we could not find one 🙂 we put everything down to laziness and continued upwards.
By ski tour, we managed to reach the point of 4700 m, after which we decided to leave our equipment in the snow and continue our journey in crampons. The snow for the descent was very, very mediocre. Fatigue and altitude also took their toll.
Slowly but surely, we continued on our way to the top. And at 15:00 we did reach the desired height. Ten minutes of rest and it was time to begin our descent.
At 16:45, we began to descend from a height of 4700 m, already on skis and splitboards. The glacier was perfectly covered, but the difficult snow prevented us from fully enjoying the descent. However, at an altitude of 4000 m the cover changed – the sun began to heat the slope, and we drove through beautiful spring snow, and every turn was free and easy. Right down to 2400 m.
Three hundred meters down the path we knew well and we were back at the car. The clock said 19:00.
We had done it!
Total time: 19 hours.
GPS ascent: more than 3000 m