Sandwiched between Russia and the Black Sea, Georgia has recently enjoyed a huge upsurge in foreign visitors. This is due to its friendly people, cultural history and world famous wine. Georgia is geographically diverse with unspoiled coastline to the west and the Caucasus mountains bordering Russia in the North.
This 9-day trip (7 days skiing) takes us to the heart of the Caucasus range and will be led by Olly Allen, one of our lead IFMGA mountain guides. Olly will be assisted by a local Georgian guide. This is an advanced level touring week, ideal for strong tourers keen to visit this enchanting country with it's fascinating local cultures and traditions and, of course, great skiing!
Unlike Russia entry visas are not needed for EU citizens and travel in country is relatively simple. Living costs in Georgia are also reasonable…3 Lari (1 British Pound) will buy you a large beer! Tbilisi the capital is easily accessed from Europe but for the purposes of our trip we fly into Kutaisi as its only a few hours transfer from Svaneti. Kutaisi is the home of the Georgian parliament and second largest city. This historical city boasts numerous UNESCO world heritage sites, museums and ancient churches.
Fly to Kutaisi, Georgia's second city.
On arrival at Kutaisi airport we have a 15 minute taxi transfer to a local family guest house. The guest house will provide snacks and hot drinks before we get a good nights sleep.
After a good breakfast the group will load bags onto our four wheel drive taxis ready for the journey to Svaneti. The drive takes approximately 5 hours with a few small breaks on the way. The roads become very circuitous and rough when we reach the mountains but this adds to the excitement! We arrive in the small village of Latali and drop our bags off at the Laleta guest house. This guest house is run by a local family and our Georgian travel partner Keseniya Parjiani. Post bag drop the group will be taxied to Mestia (the main town of Svaneti region) and eat lunch at a local restaurant (roughly £8 / 25 Lari with wine). The afternoon will be spent visiting the Svaneti Museum, climbing a Svan Tower and shopping. Mestia has all types of shops ATM machines and a Money Exchange. In the early evening we return to Latali for dinner and packing for 2 days in Etseri.
An early breakfast and 20 minute taxi ride drops us at the door of Iskari Farm 1600m where we spend the next 2 nights. The family run farm house is rustic but comfortable and gives a great insight into how local Svan people live. The food is great and the local family very jovial especially when the local Cha Cha (fire water) is brought out after dinner. There is a shower and washing facilities with drinking water. For the 2 nights here you need a 2 seasons sleeping bag (just in case it gets cold) and towel. Lunches are provided for on the hill but we will need to purchase any beer, wine, hill snacks and powdered milk in Mestia the day before.
Today we will do a warm up ski tour to the summit of Tsirkiari 2881m (1200m of ascent) or Baki 2557m (900m of ascent).
Today we ascend the spectacular peak of Simzagari 3311m (1800m of ascent). The route follows a majestic ridge line that eventually ends at the summit affording amazing views of the famous North Ushba 4698m. Ushba (Matterhorn of the Caucasus) is one of the most iconic mountains in the Caucasus reserved for experienced mountaineers only. We descend the picturesque south face of Simizaagari and back to the farmhouse for tea and Khachepuri (local cheese toasty). During most of these day ski tours it's unlikely you will see another skier! Dinner is served post shower and hopefully without too much of the local Cha Cha.
We leave the Iskari Farm early by taxi and head to the Becho valley, starting our tour in Bagvdanari village 1600m. The tour heads North East up the Kheldra valley towards Mtavarangelozi Church 2000m. Throughout today Ushba towers above dwarfing its surroundings with its seemingly impenetrable rock walls. From the Church we climb more steeply up to the shoulder 2954m and then onto the steep ridge Kheldra Peak 3312m (1700m of ascent). From here we are treated to unparalleled views of Ushba and Tetnuldi above with the valleys of Mestia and Becho below. Depending on the conditions there are two options, either to ski back down the line of ascent or we can ski over the pass and down to Mestia for a well earned beer and taxi to Latali and the Guest House Laleta.
Today we take a 30 minute taxi ride to Mestia the main town of the region. We drop our bags off at the comfortable Hotel Ushba and then head off for a days skiing. Depending on conditions we can either tour from Mestia up the Mestiachala towards Dolakara 3430m. Other options include lift assisted skiing / touring at either the Hatsvali or Tetnuldi ski areas. Both resorts are very quiet with only a handful of people skiing off piste.
Hatsvali 2348m is a small ski lift 10 minutes drive to the South of Mestia town. Its North facing and has some great tree skiing with options of ascending Mentashi 2437m to get fresh tracks. This is a good place to go in bad weather with fresh snow. A day pass is around £8 / 20 Lari.
Tetnuldi is a brand new ski area still under construction. The new modern chair lifts take you to 3000m opening up a huge amount of off piste and ski touring terrain. Currently the drive from Mestia to Tetnuldi resort takes about 40 minutes initially on good roads then a very rough four wheel drive track. The plan is to improve this for next year, with other lifts also planned. A day pass is around £8 / 20 Lari.
Today we taxi from Mestia to Tetnuldi and catch the chair lifts up to 3000m. From here we skin to the first summit of Sugimleuk 3183m and the descend east towards the Lakchkhilda Range. Tetnuldi's 4858m spectacular glaciers and rock towers are ever present throughout the day. From point 2971m we skin up the narrow ridge to Lakchkhilda Peak 3501m. From the top we have a spectacular descent all the way down to the very remote village of Adishi 1800m. In Adishsi we can take tea with a local family where we meet our taxi drivers. The drive back to Mestia is via an extremely rough but spectacular mountain road which is impassable in heavy snow conditions. After an hour and a half rocking and rolling on mud, rocks and snow we arrive in Mestia ready to buy the taxi drivers a large beer.
On leaving the Hotel Ushba in Mestia we have a half day skiing at either Tetnuldi or Hatsvali depending on the weather and snow conditions. We return to Mestia for our bags and have a late lunch at the local restaurant £8/20 Lari. We then take the 4x4s back to Kutaisi arriving at the guest house around 9pm. There will be hot drinks and snack food provided for the evening and breakfast.
Our early departure takes 15minutes to the Kutaisi airport where we catch our return flights.
The trip price includes all guide fees and expenses – for local Georgian guide and Mountain Tracks IFMGA Mountain Guide, all accommodation in local guest houses and hotels, all meals including packed lunches, airport transfers and all local travel, traditional Svan feast with folk music.
The trip price does not include flights to Georgia, visa fees (if needed), drinks, personal insurance, optional extras (e.g. heliskiing, lift passes)
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This is an extensive list of the recommended clothing and equipment you will need if you are coming to one of our Ski Tours.
During the tour you will be staying most nights in catered high mountain huts and will need to carry all the equipment and clothing you require for the duration of the tour. The huts are comfortable but basic with limited facilities.
Any clothing or other items not required on the tour can be left in a travel bag at your first hotel ready for your return on the final night.
We recommend keeping the weight of your pack as light as possible. If you are new to alpine multi-day ski touring, try taking your pack out on the slopes before the tour to see how it feels. You quickly realise the benefit of ‘skiing light’.
If you are uncertain or need further information, don't hesitate to contact us.
For all touring trips it is essential you ski with an all-mountain/freeride type skis, ski touring boots and ski touring bindings. If you have your own skis but they do not have ski touring bindings then you will need to rent skis. The same applies if you have downhill ski boots, you will need to rent ski touring boots.
For alpine ski touring we recommend an all-mountain/freeride touring ski that isn’t too heavy, a really lightweight ski comes at a cost to performance on the descents so are only recommended for really good off-piste skiers with a strong interest in ski touring.
There are plenty of great skis to choose from and we highly recommend skis from the following manufactures:
Dynastar Skis: www.dynastar.com
Movement Skis: www.movementskis.com
Black Crows Skis: www.blackcrows-skis.com
Trab Skis: www.skitrab.com/en-us
Scott Skis: http://www.scott-sports.com
Volkl Skis: http://www.voelkl.com
If you are planning on buying skis for ski touring and general skiing and have any questions do not hesitate to call us to discuss the options available to you.
It is essential that you have ski touring boots for all touring trips as walking up hill is much more comfortable in these types of boots with a walk mode and great flex. A dedicated touring boot or a hybrid freeride boot is best.
Avalanche airbag rucksacks can be used for touring but they are heavy, adding somewhere between 5-8kg just for an empty pack plus canister. So unless you are sure you can carry it and fit all you need in, we do not recommend you use one.
Over a long multiday tour every gram of weight is important as you have to carry and move it yourself. Carrying a heavy pack will hinder and tire all but the most experienced and fit ski tourer.
The “Safety Trilogy” - required on all our ski tours and off-piste courses.
Food and Water
We suggest you bring with you or buy in resort snack food that you can take out on the hill with you each day. Things like cereal bars, dried fruit and nuts, chocolate, sugary sweets or your favorite hill snacks. When you’re staying overnight in huts its best to take supplies for the days you are away. Huts do sell food but it’s expensive and sometimes stocks run low.
If you have any food allergies or dietary requirements especially if you are a Coeliac (Gluten free) or have a dairy allergy we strongly recommend you bring some food with you that you can supplement your dinners with. The huts are fairly good at providing for vegetarians but less so for other dietary needs.
You have to buy bottled water in the huts as usually any running water is non-potable. Bottled water is expensive in French and Swiss huts; you can be paying upto 12-16CHF per 1.5L bottle of water. So please ensure you budget for this cost.
It is a condition of booking that you are insured for your chosen activity and the cover must include medical expenses, personal accident, personal liability, third party risks and rescue (including helicopter rescue). You are strongly advised also to take out cover against cancellation and curtailment.
For more details and to purchase a policy online visit http://www.skiclubinsurance.co.uk/
If you need assistance arranging your personal insurance please let us know.
The plan is to fly to Kutaisi, Georgia's second city. From here it is a 3-4 hour transfer by road to Svaneti.
Flights to the area are operated by Ukraine International Airways www.flyuia.com
Baggage allowance is 1 bag weighing up to 23 Kgs plus 1 item of hand luggage weighing up to 7Kgs.
Ski carriage (when booked more than 24 hours in advance) is 76 Euros for all flights.
All our ski tours are led by our team of IFMGA Mountain Guides. The team is led by Olly Allen, Matt Dickinson and Nick Parks.
IFMGA / UIAGM / IVBV
The IFMGA / UIAGM / IVBV symbol is the logo of the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association.
Nick, Olly and Matt are all fully-qualified UIAGM Mountain Guides and members of the British Mountain Guides Association.
The International Ski Instructors Association is the world body for professional ski instructors.
The ISIA was formed in 1971 and there are currently 39 member nations representing the very best in ski instruction around the world.