Kazbek (5045m), Georgia
After finishing my basic training in Greece’s mountains, including Mt. Olympus in winter time, it was time for me to climb some real high mountains. Mt.Kazbek, third highest in Georgia, was a convenient destination for me and a good test since it would be my first climb over 5000m. I have not too much time until next April ,so going higher and higher was required to be done the sooner the possible.
So after fixing a strict plan about my next climbs, August was the best period for me to climb in Mt. Caucasus. The expedition was easy to be arranged and 13th of August found me in Tbilisi’s airport. On 15th of August my trainer Satya the two team members T., H. and I, began out trek to Kazbek’s base camp (3650m). The way up was really stunning, since we crossed a beautiful alpine forest, and finally we crossed Gergeti glacier to reach base camp. After almost nine hours of trekking we reached BC, we pinched our tents, enjoyed a rich dinner and went straight ahead for resting into our tents, literature below the starry sky. Next day was an acclimatization day (up to 4200m), as well as a training day on the glacier.
I felt excited since it was my first time to cross 4000m and got trained on a glacier! 17th of August was supposed to be the summit day although weather didn’t look so good. That day, early in the morning, at about 2am we were on our way to the summit. There was light rain which, due to the forecast predictions, was about to stop after half an hour. Unfortunately not only it didn’t stop. Instead it became stronger and transformed into a great storm. Satya decided our descent for safety reasons, although he was desirous of our exposure to harsh weather conditions. He says that bad weather is best for training. Next morning base camp looked like a huge dryer, since all climbers were trying to dry our clothes and equipment below the shinny sun.
Same bad weather during the next day. That meant another patience lesson and more rest for me.
19th of August: 1:30 am. The sky was clear, the bright full moon made mountains look friendly and everything seemed like there was a summit window. All climbers were waking up successively, getting out of their tents; base camp now looked like a valley full of glow worms, since all climbers were having their head lamps on. It's about 2:30am and we were about to begin our hike. If the mountain allows us to summit we will reach the top of Kazbek (5047m) after almost 6 h. The first 20 minutes of hiking found me huffing and puffing due to the luck of oxygen, yet I felt very strong and thirsty for reaching the summit. Thankfully the more we were hiking the better it was becoming. Now my lungs were functioning fully and I could follow Satya’s pace easily.
After some time we reached the Platto (4500m) through the glacier. It’s not a big one comparing to those in Himalayas, but to me it looked impressive, since it was my first time to cross a glacier. From that point and after, we are all roped up. There was danger of falling into a crevice. After almost four hours, the sun started coming up. Sun’s warmth was precious up here. We reached the saddle (4900m) and now the strap slops to the top were yet to be climbed. It got windier and each step needed lots of effort to be done. But we kept on moving steady and slow. From time to time we looked each other, showing through our eyes that we were ok and we were enjoying the climb. To be honest, I thought it would have been much more difficult, since I had heard so many things about climbing in high altitude, but no; it was much easier. Time passed by but yet the summit looked far. But I liked the battle between me and my breath. Snow, wind and clouds were creeping in but we kept climbing higher, just taking it one step at a time. People in front and behind me, looked exhausted. After total six hours, I heard Satya cheering up "Hey Kiki...u did it! That's the summit! "You have successfully crossed 5000m!
It looked odd to me, since there was no sign, no flag, nothing on the top. It was just us and another five Russian climbers who were celebrating their achievement. I could see nothing along the horizon. The fog was too thick. But I felt too much satisfied! We took a couple of pictures, had some water and took the way back to base camp. The feeling was wonderful, but I had to keep focused in my climb down. Climb would finish only after reaching the base camp. Going down required all your attention too. But it lasted less, we felt good and the lower we went the easier it became. Finally we reached base camp. I felt proud of myself but basically I was hungry. The nice lady at base camp’s hut, who used to prepare our lunches, was waiting for us at the dining room with hot soup, tea and fatty food.
Now that the expedition has completed successfully, I am focusing in the details for my next expedition and of course into my training. I’m looking forward to a more technical climb .Basically it’s about sharpening my skills and gaining a bit more experience as a climber. The road to my last destination (Mt. Everest) is going to be long and laborious. But I am willing to fight and enjoy it at the same time.
Stay tuned for more adventures…