In this post we will discuss step by step the route from Stepancminda (Kazbegi) to the place which is the main base during the entire trip to Mt. Kazbek, an old meteorological station Bethlemi Hut, which is popularly called by everyone Meteo Station, or simply Meteo.
Stepancminda (Kazbegi) – a hill with the Church of the Holy Trinity,
around 1800 m a.s.l. – 2170 m a.s.l.
We have already written about how to get to the beginning of the route to Mt. Kazbek, or the hill with the Church of the Holy Trinity over Stepancminda (Kazbegi) HERE. From the center of Stepancminda (Kazbegi) you can get there on foot, which takes about 1.5 hour. The road is simple and you can not get lost. The second option is to hire a driver with an off-road car that will take you to the hill where the trail begins. In order to get there by car, you need about 30 minutes. You can rent a car in our office. The cost is 60 lari for a car, which takes a maximum of 7 people plus luggage.
When you get there, it’s worth visiting the most famous Orthodox church in Georgia, which is the Orthodox church of the Holy Trinity (the Georgian name is Cminda Sameba). Do not leave it for later, because we know from experience that after leaving the summit you will only dream of a good supper and a shower, not about any sightseeing. The time you need to visit the church is a maximum of 30 minutes. There is a water point near the church itself. The water is drinkable. It’s best after boiling, but without cooking it won’t not kill (tested many times).
If you decide to rent horses to transport your main luggage to the Meteo Station (we have written about this possibility HERE), horses will be waiting for you right here – on the hill, at the beginning of the trail. If you use this option, you leave the main luggage here, and you will only travel with small backpacks. The horses go directly to the Meteo Station. You will get there the next day, so in small backpacks you must have everything you need for two days (the first day of 5 hours of trekking + overnight and the second day of 4 hours of trekking). We always arrange that going through the place of the first night, the so-called Saberdze, the guardian of horses pulls tents, sleeping bags and crampoons from the luggage and leaves them there for you and then he continues the way to Meteo. On the second day you take only tents and sleeping bags with you and on the first day you go really “lightly”.
Church of the Holy Trinity – Saberdze,
2170 m a.s.l. – around 3100 m a.s.l.
Let’s move. We start our adventure with Mt. Kazbek. From now on we are only dependent on ourselves and our supplies. From that moment on, there are no more shops, restaurants, toilets and other facilities. Until we leave the summit and reach Stepancminda (Kazbegi) we will only eat foods that we prepared for ourselves.
To overcome the first section of the trail, depending on how fast we will be moving and how many breaks for photos we will do, and above all, in what period we will overcome this route, we need from 3 to a maximum of 5 hours. The route to Mt. Kazbek is not marked. It’s worth having a map. In the summer season, when this route is followed by many people every day, you will see a trodden path that you can follow. In any other period of time you will have to make your own way. Until the Arsha pass (approx. 3000 m above sea level), which is a landmark, because there is a small chapel with a cross on it, the path leads sharply up and upon reaching the pass everyone feels the first fatigue. When standing on the pass, you will see the river below, which will be the last obstacle before reaching the first night of the so-called Saberdze, which will also be visible (unless there is a fog around, which will make you see absolutely nothing). From the pass, for the first time, we will see a view of the glacier, which in the following days we will have to overcome on our way to the summit.
The style in which we overcome the river depends primarily on the time of the trip and the prevailing weather conditions. Sometimes it’s enough to jump from stone to stone, and there are times when you have to use a rope for belaying, because the current is very strong and the water is deep.
Saberdze is the standard place of the first night during the trip to Mt. Kazbek. At this point, we will find a fairly large flattening of the terrain, which allows us to pitch tents easily. It has one more plus: a point with water, or a protruding pipe, through which water flows down from the above. This water is suitable for drinking. It is best to boil it before, of course. We often drink it without prior cooking and we are still alive.
You can find at Saberdze also AltiHut, a hostel with accommodation, a restaurant and a toilet. However, prices for services are quite high (price from September 2018 – 150 lari / 1 person in dormitory, 20 lari / 1 beer), so most of people decide to stay in tents.
Many teams skip the stop at Saberdze and go directly from Stepancminda (Kazbegi) to the Meteo Station. However, we recommend this extra accommodation to everyone for acclimatization. Overcoming in one day the difference of about 1850 m that divide Stepancminda (Kazbegi) and the Meteo Station is a lot. Usually too much for our bodies. It often ends in reaching the Meteo with the symptoms of altitude sickness. Most often they weaken us and we have no strength for the next acclimatization trekking, let alone the peak attack. The only reasonable option is to go down below. Remember that entering Mt. Kazbek is an alpine expedition, not a one-day trip to the Tatra Mountain, where we can actually enter any peak within a dozen hours from leaving Zakopane. Here, correct acclimatization is the basis for the success of our entire trip. Neglecting the issue of acclimatization can effectively prevent us from reaching the summit and even lead to our death. We also recommend that everyone should plan their entire mountain action.
Saberdze – Meteo Station,
around 3100 m a.s.l. – 3560 m a.s.l.
The next day we head towards the Meteo Station, which we will reach after 4 hours of trekking. The trail continues upwards. But the most important thing is that on this day we will pass the first part of the Gergeti glacier. For many of us, it will be the first meeting with a glacier in life. You should take special care here and if you do not have previous experience on the glacier, use the guide service. Depending on the time of our trip and atmospheric conditions the glacier may be covered with snow, totally frozen, or flooded with water from melted higher parts. However, there will always be dangerous fissures that you can fall into if you do not have enough experience and equipment. It is true that in exceptionally good weather conditions, the first part of the glacier can be covered in sneakers. However, we encourage you not to disregard and not assume in advance that atmospheric conditions will be great. We recommend that you overcome the entire glacier at least in crampoons, which will give you confidence and stability (if not on a rope).
Goal: Meteo Station (Bethlemi Hut), 3560 m a.s.l.
On the second day of the trip, after about 9 hours of trekking together, we will reach the first destination, the Meteo Station, which will be the starting point for the Kazbek peak. This is where we will spend the next 2-3 days (assuming that we will find good weather conditions). This is where the whole adventure with an alpine expedition begins. It is also the last place to be reached individually by all those who do not have the equipment and experience of mountaineering. Everything that we need to do above the Meteo Station requires both of them. The difficulty of reaching the Meteo Station and the subsequent top attack on Kazbek is a completely different story, so we warn all those who, after coming to the Meteo Station, believe in their high-mountain skills or recognize that they will perform well without equipment.
The Meteo station can be treated as an end itself. In summer, in good weather, you can even take a one-day trek to the Station and back to Stepancminda (Kazbegi). It will be a long and tiring day, but it is possible. If you do not sleep at the Meteo Station, you should not have problems with altitude. You can also divide the route to Meteo for two days according to the plan we proposed, then spend the afternoon and night at the Meteo Station, and the next day return to Stepancminda (Kazbegi). The route to Meteo itself is a great adventure, even if you do not continue your trip to the top of Kazbek. You can always treat such trekking as a safe reconnaissance before the Mt. Kazbek expedition.
Everything about the Meteo Station, about staying in it and about acclimatization outputs you will find: HERE.
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