Gt Caucasus, Svaneti, Georgia
William Mackesy’s account of this walk
We were going to explore the upper Mestia valley towards the high border ridge, but a lost bridge means we have to improvise, walking to the Koruldi Lakes on the mountain north of Mestia.
We drive up a long zig-zag rough dirt road uphill directly north above Mestia. 1hr or so, appalling ruts. Attractive mixed scrubby forest, alpine fields, passing a little church on a knoll and a variety of huts. We emerge suddenly above the treeline, into a world of rough grasslands climbing relentlessly towards dark peaks patched with snow.
We disembark I guess some 3,000 ft higher, where the track gets steeper. It is a cool, grey, cloudy day – although most of the peaks around us are clear.
We head on up the track, climbing steadily with some steep sections, to the first lake in 1hr or so. 450m climb.
The early views are westward, across a bowl towards the high ridge which separates Mestia from the Becho valley. They are good, but it is the views which gradually open up to the north which really amaze, though: along the upper Mestia valley to the fantastically sharp peaks – veritable aiguilles – and glaciers around the high Russian border ridge.
The lakes are tarns, really, but pretty nonetheless, nestled on a comfortable shoulder where our ridge joins a more substantial peak. There are wide patches of snow up here: but for the lack of early flowers, it looks nearer Spring than late September. Those who’ve been there see a kinship with the Drakolimni lakelet high in Greece’s Pindos mountains. It is monochrome and dank up here today, but still manages to exert great charm; it must be gorgeous on a good Spring day.
Even more snow wreathes the mountain above us, and there was clearly a fall last night on the Svaneti range south across the Mestia valley. We could walk on up the track currently under construction, which switchbacks up the mountain to get round to a glacier, but we decide to walk on to an outcrop perhaps 200ft above us, where we gaze across the lakes to the high border spires.
It snows on the way back – on 25 September!
A steady walk back down the track to reach our vehicles at 12.20, and continue on downward, into the treeline, until picked up at 1.15. I get driven down rest of the track (law of diminishing returns, and I want to get some writing done); I don’t miss the 2,000 ft + of downward plod and messy suburbs around the airport.