Khada Valley and Fire Cross Tower
Key information: Khada Valley and Fire Cross Tower
- Classic grassy, tower-bristling Caucasus valley south of Gudauri
- A fascinating and thrilling walk up to an ancient beacon tower on a steep, grassy ridge with superb views of plunging slopes, crags, woodlands and hamlets.
- Walkopedia rating90
- Natural interest14
- Human interest14
- Negative points0
- Total rating90
- Length: 3-4hrs
- Maximum Altitude: 2,070
- Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
The upper Khada valley (called a gorge), east off the Georgian Military Highway and south of Gudauri, is a green-skinned hedgehog bristling with slender little towers, each hillside bearing at least one of them, sitting incongruously alone in its meadow. They are often extraordinarily old, dating from the C10 onwards, and it amazes, given how tall and thin they are, that so many are still standing. Excellent walking on its steep, flowery meadows from hamlet to hamlet, revelling in a unique and crazily pretty landscape.
The ridge between the Khada Valley and Gudauri to the north is crowned by the slender C12 Fire Cross beacon tower, a climb of around 600m.
After crossing the stream, you slog straight up a steep, grassy hill, a beautiful baptism of fire and an apt introduction to the steep-steep-sided valleys of the Greater Caucasus. On the sharp, plunging ridge to the right, there are at least three ruined towers: how could these meadows ever have supported such a population? A gentler trail leads into a shallow valley and on up the far hillside to a cluster of old buildings on the ridge-top: a ruined tower, a recently re-roofed chapel, a broken nest of old farm buildings, once fortified by the looks.
On up the green hillside, you soon turning left to traverse diagonally up meadows hundreds of feet high, so steep that you really don't want to try failing, towards the now-visible Fire Cross Tower. Walking bliss, followed by visual delight sitting on the ruins at the tower's foot. The high Caucasus are immanent behind the next ridges upward; west, across the deep gorge with the Georgian Military Highway, is another high ridge which is the border with breakaway South Ossetia.
The joy continues: head on northwards, across more perfect steep grassy slopes and around another falling ridge, to a final col, where a bathetic view awaits of the ski-scarred Gudauri bowl.
For more information and photos, including detailed practical information and some warnings, see our Greater Caucasus Mountains walk page.
WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk
(Fire Cross Tower - Sept 2019)
We're off! After a day and a half of city and driving, boots are on, packs shouldered and we're marching up a dirt road up a very pretty valley east of the Georgian Military Highway, that exotically named route.
This valley is a green-skinned hedgehog bristling with slender little towers, each hillside bearing at least one of them, sitting incongruously alone in its meadow: you wonder at the point of them, and their cost-to-resources ratio. There must have been one per extended family, and you would have thought it would have been.....READ MORE
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