To Gergeti Glacier

  • Mt Kazbek, gorge, glacier - © William Mackesy
  • Former volcano and glacier - © William Mackesy
  • Long ridge down to Tsiminda Sameba Church - © William Mackesy
  • Tsiminda Sameba Church early light - © William Mackesy
  • Onto ridge, Mt Kazbek - © William Mackesy
  • Gorge with Mt Kazbek - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Getting high, gorge and Mt Kazbek - © William Mackesy
  • Refuge, glacier and Mt Kazbek - © William Mackesy
  • Waterfall, glacier - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Up slope onto glacier - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Changing light - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Tsiminda Sameba Church - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Across Mestia from church - © William Mackesy

Key information: To Gergeti Glacier

  • A fascinating and thrilling walk up a superb ridge above a dramatic gorge, towards the high glacier below mighty Mt Kazbek.
  • One of the Caucasus’ finest walks.

Walkopedia rating

(Top 100)
  • Walkopedia rating92
  • Beauty34
  • Natural interest17
  • Human interest8
  • Charisma33
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating92

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 6-7hrs
  • Maximum Altitude: 3,200m
  • Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
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Former volcano and glacier - © William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

5,033m Mt Kazbek dominates the high border ridge due north of Stepantsminda (Kazbegi), a huge lone extinct volcano, ice-capped and throwing off spiney ridges between dirty glaciers.

 This is a stunner of a walk, approaching Kasbek along a perfect ridge to its south, then turning to climb to this glacier the its west. There is a steady climb up a more sheltered valley to the left if the weather is tough.

From the C14 Tsminda Sameba church on its perch high above Kazbegi in the Tergi valley, you start straight into a steep slog up a long, grassy slope to join the ridge south of the deep canyon which leads up, eventually, to the Gergeti glacier under Kazbek’s wildly broken western cliffs. The great mountain towers to the north-west, across the canyon.

The ridge is a walker’s dream, a long, grassy climb into the cracked and smashed highlands: steady walking with going so easy you can afford to look around as you trudge. You will wind through low, birch, emerging onto the grasslands, climbing a steeper step to the next steady stretch. You dip behind the upper ridge, to emerge at a col (Saburtse Pass) at just under 3,000m below the unreasonably rocky flank of the mountain ahead. High ahead, a diminutive-looking curl of ice, grubby even from this distance, announces the lurking glacier high above the dramatic upper canyon, which swings 90 degrees to march, straight between sheer walls, up to the world of cliff, crag and ice below Kazbeg. A refuge perches cheerfully on a grassy patch above its western cliffs, with crazily gouged and scraped mountains behind them, presiding over impenetrable piles and drifts of debris – a bleak, dramatic world. Above it all, Kazbek looms in its fierce majesty – or the clouds around it do.

The path traverses the scree and boulder fields above the bowl of the canyon’s turn, dropping to cross a dirty glacial torrent on what is effectively a metal ladder. Climb through a field of campsites near the refuge back to the western canyon rim. Slog up steep rocky slopes, crossing another gritty little stream to admire the head of a waterfall which plunges, all grey froth, into the canyon below, and on up into the bare, grey world of scraped rock littered with boulders below the glacier’s base on the platform above the canyon head, now above 11,000 feet.

This is a dirty glacier: instead of ice cliffs and fallen lumps and a cave with a stream gushing out, this is an at first bathetic, but quickly fascinating, long slope of ice so laden with grit that it is a dark, even grey and easy to walk up: only on close inspection can the pure, dripping ice below this dirty gauze be made out. Some fissures reach back where small streams have caused minor collapses.

Retrace your steps. Don’t let fatigue or routine stop you enjoying the always beautiful views, with the Kazbek to your left and ahead the deep Tergi valley, with the jagged mountains behind looking rough, barren and forbidding, reminiscent of the Karakorum or Hindu Kush. The ancient fortified church, store of the region’s religious treasures in troubled times, reappears, silhouetted against the hillside behind.

This is demanding walking (with around 1,000m of ascent/descent) in remote mountains with uncertain weather. Come fully prepared.

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

September 2019

This is a stunner of a day.

From the C14 Tsminda Sameba church on its perch high above the Tergi valley, we start straight into a steep slog up a long, grassy slope to the ridge south of the deep canyon which leads up, eventually, to the Gergeti glacier under 5,033m Mt Kazbek’s wildly broken western cliffs. The great mountain towers to our right (north-west), across the canyon. It had looked like a fairly straightforward dome from Kasbegi town in yesterday’s evening light, but we can now see that this extinct volcano throws off great rocky.....

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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Tsiminda Sameba Church early light - © William Mackesy

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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Onto ridge, Mt Kazbek - © William Mackesy...
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