Svaneti Region, Georgia

Georgia Ski Tour Team Palmer

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 8-day trip (6 days skiing) takes us to the heart of the Caucasus range and will be led by one of our IFMGA mountain guides. He 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.

Day Itinerary

  • Fly to Kutaisi, Georgia's second city.

    On arrival at Kutaisi airport we have a short 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 a guest house. 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 Iskari 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 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. 

  • Today we take a 30 minute taxi ride to Mestia the main town of the region. We drop our bags off at the comfortable gest house 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. The new modern chair lifts take you to 3000m opening up a huge amount of off piste and ski touring terrain. The drive from Mestia to Tetnuldi resort should not take long as it is around 15km.
    A day pass is around £8 / 20 Lari. 

     

  • On leaving an accomodation 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.

2019

Dates

Price

Sun 24 Feb
- Sun 03 Mar
£1799 Book

The price includes 6 full days guiding fees & expenses, 7 nights HB guest house accommodation.

The price does not include travel to/from Georgia, lunches, uplift costs.

 

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  • When choosing clothing for ski touring you want to think light, warm and versatile. During the trip weather conditions will change and you’re likely to go from warm afternoons where you’ll be carrying most of your gear in your rucksack, to icy-cold mornings when you’re wearing everything to keep warm! Getting hold of the best and lightest kit available is always worth it and most of the major brands will be able to supply suitable kit.
    • Roll neck rather than a scarf. We use and recommend the ‘Buff¹ ¬ a light, stretchable tube. Excellent despite the name! They do both a fleece/cotton version for warmth or just a cotton one (to keep the sun off).
    • Headwear to include warm hat and sun-cap or wide-brim hat for extra protection from the sun. Mountain Tracks fully supports the wearing of helmets for skiing, although not mandatory for any of our trips we do recommend them.
    • An outer shell jacket made of waterproof and breathable material like Gore-Tex or similar with a built-in hood. The lighter the better and so a shell is recommended rather than a insulated jacket.
    • 1-2 thin fleeces - rather than a thick layer between your skin and the outer shell - an approach which gives better heat retention and good flexibility. These tops are known as ‘mid layers’. The principle of ‘layering’ e.g. allowing you to easily add/remove layers depending on the temperature and the activity is recommended to ensure comfort on the mountain.
    • Insulation layer like a down or Primaloft jacket is a good item to have ready to wear in the event of cold weather, it can live in your rucksack as a spare layer and can come in very handy for sudden changes in the weather.
    • For the lower half it’s essential that you have a pair of thermal base layer pants (long johns).
    • These can then be combined with either:
    • (a) a good pair of ‘technical shell’ pants in a waterproof and breathable fabric like Gore-Tex (b) a pair of mountain or alpine pants in a softshell material together with a pair of lightweight, breathable over trousers with long side zips.
    • Top and bottom underwear made of a synthetic, wicking material. Very popular at the moment are the wool based layers from companies such as Icebreaker and Smartwool. They are comfy, breathable and warm when needed and can be worn for days without your friends catching a whiff!
    • Good quality Gore-Tex gloves or mitts and a thin pair of softshell or fleece gloves for when it is hot and for ski touring in. Silk inner gloves can be useful if the weather is cold and you suffer with cold hands.
    • Technical Socks - Investing in good quality ski socks will improve fit, warmth and feel when skiing for long periods. Bring along a few pairs.
  • 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.

    Skis
    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.

    Boots
    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. 

    Scarpa have lead the way in touring boots for many years but they have been joined by other manufactures like Dynafit, Salomon, Scott, Black Diamond, Dalbello and K2; all producing their own versions of a ski touring boot.
    • Scarpa’s Freedom boots are their Hybrid offerings, great ski performance, a walk mode and vibram sole. Their Maestrale (men’s) and Gea (women’s) boots are also highly recommended.
    • The Scott Celeste and Cosmo boots have stood the test of time and are good all round choices.
    • Salomon’s Quest Max series offer boots with a walk mode in various flex’s with good downhill performance.
    • Dynafit offer the Mercury or Vulcan boots plus a range of lightweight options like the TLT6.

    The best of the rest are:
    Fischer - Transalp
    Black Diamond – Quadrant and Factor
    K2 – Pinnacle boot
    Dalbello – Lupo or Sherpa
    Langue – XT series offer a ski boot with a walk mode in various flex options

    Boot Liners
    These days many manufacturers offer ‘thermo-fit¹ liners as standard equipment. You may also want to consider a custom liner as these are heated and molded to your foot and boot for a perfect fit. They can make all the difference especially if you have trouble finding really comfortable ‘off-the-shelf’ boots. Zipfit liners are a great option for anyone seeking total customisation in fit and comfort. They will replace the original liner.

    Custom Footbeds
    Essential kit – to provide additional comfort and ski control. If you want to get footbeds made or a pair of new boots fitted then we suggest you visit somewhere like Profeet for a professional fitting. Don’t forget if you have footbeds in your downhill boots but need to rent touring boots then you can bring the footbeds with you and put them in the hire boots.

    Bindings
    For all ski touring trips ski touring bindings are essential. Fritschi and Marker both make excellent ski touring bindings and you have a few different options to choose from. Many more people are seeing the advantage of the “pin” binding system now offered by a number of manufacturers as these are light and offer ever improving security despite their minimalist looks!

    Ski Poles
    We recommend telescopic poles. They must have wide powder baskets (4-5 inches/100-120mm diameter) otherwise you’ll be up to your armpits on the ascents. Go for an alloy rather than carbon poles which are lighter but have a nasty habit of snapping near the basket due to ski edge nicks.

    Rucksack
    For most ski tours especially multi-day hut-to-hut tours you will need a 35 - 40 litre rucksack. You might get away with a big 30 liter pack if you are an experienced ski tourer and know what to pack. Most people will find a 35-40 liter pack is a good size for touring.

    Key features of a good ski touring pack:
    • a method of attaching your skis in either a A-frame (one either side) or both together on a diagonal ski carriage
    • easy access into the main compartment without having to empty the sack to get something at the bottom
    • separate pocket for avalanche shovel, handle and probe
    • small top pocket for items like wallet, sunglassed/goggles etc; an ice axe loop
    • a built-in rain cover an a secure method of attaching/stowing a ski helmet 
    • good hip/waist belt and adjustable shoulder straps

    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.

     

    • Ski Skins – these are skins which, now made of artificial fabric, stick to the bottom of your skis and allow you to walk up hill. They must be cut to fit your skis exactly, so if you are bringing your own skis you must provide your own skins.
    • Ski Crampons (aka couteaux) - most ski touring bindings have ski crampons specifically designed for the binding. We always carry these just in case. Again if you are bringing your skis and touring bindings you must provide your own ski crampons. 
    • Ice Axe - general lightweight mountaineering / alpine pick. Ideally this needs to be short enough to fit in your pack.
    • Boot Crampons - ideally lightweight aluminum ones although steel crampons are required for more demanding tours
    • Climbing Harness - a simple lightweight harness. The key feature is that it should have fully adjustable leg loops for putting on over ski boots, crampons, etc.

    On some tours in non-glaciated terrain an ice-axe, boot crampons and climbing harness may not always be required. However as conditions and itineraries can change we do generally recommend that you bring these items with you. If you do not own these items they can be rented to you by our guides or via one of the local sports shops.
  • The “Safety Trilogy” - required on all our ski tours and off-piste courses.

    • Avalanche Transceiver/Beacon
    • Snow shovel
    • Avalanche probe
    Remember it is not enough just to carry this equipment; you have to know how to use it.
    How about joining one of our specialist avalanche courses – check out www.mountaintracks.co.uk/activity/avalanche-training
    • Good pair of ski goggles with a lens for low light is essential in the event of snow and poor visibility
    • Good quality sunglasses with 100% UV protection
    • 35 – 40 liter rucksack
    • 1 – 1.5 Liter water bottle – we don’t recommend hydration systems (e.g. camelbak) in winter as they can freeze.
    • Food – bring some of your favorite hill nibbles (chocolate, energy bars)*
    • Suncream and lip salve
    • Camera with a large capacity memory card!
    • Money – most hotels, shops and restaurants accept credit cards, but not all the alpine huts do. You should allow about 30-40 Swiss Francs or 20-30 Euros per day for lunch and drinks (amount approximate and depends on consumption)
    Please note that your guide will have a few “spares” and other safety items that he or she will ask the group to carry between them; so leave a small space in your sack for an item e.g. spare skin, spare ski pole, emergency shelter.

    For a hut night:
    • Lightweight sleeping bag liner – now compulsory in most huts.
    • Wash kit with small personal first aid items – should include:
    • Toothbrush and paste - a mini one is ideal
    • Soap
    • Anti-bacterial hand cleaner
    • Wet wipes – essential to try to maintain hygiene
    • Tissues and toilet roll
    • Plasters – of various sizes and possibly some adhesive wound dressings.
    • Pain Killers – aspirin or Paracetamol/Nurofen
    • Antiseptic cream or wipes
    • Blister kit – compeed and elastic tape to hold it in place (essential)!
    • (Note: Guides will have comprehensive first aid kits and are qualified in mountain first aid)
    • Small light quick dry towel e.g. a Lifeventure Soft fiber towel
    • Most huts have limited washing facilities
    • Earplugs – it can get quite noisy!
    • Headtorch - lightweight and carry spare batteries.
    • Book, pack of cards and or Ipod/MP3 player – It’s nice to have something to read or listen to when you are in the huts or to challenge your fellow travelers to a game of card. These items are not essential but if you have space you might appreciate them.
    What to wear in the hut
    We are often asked by people what they should wear in the hut. It's a good question as you don't want to carry many or any extra clothes with you if they are not required. In the winter you will probably end up wearing your base layer thermals (top & bottom) or you can carry a lightweight pair of loose trousers to wear around the hut in the afternoons/evenings. Your base layer top is what you will probably wear on your top half or you can carry a t-shirt to wear in the hut that can double to sleep in. 

    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.

Georgia.jpg

Svaneti Region

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Georgia, a country at the intersection of Europe and Asia, is a former Soviet republic.  Its capital Tbilisi is know for the diverse architecture and mazelike cobblestone streets of its old town.

Its population is around 3.75million (2015) and its official language is Georgian.  Its situated in the Southern Caucasus and it is a very mountainous country with peaks rising to over 5,000m.

Georgia has recently enjoyed a huge upsurge in foreign visitors. This is due in part to the country's famed hospitality, friendly people, cultural history and world famous wine.

The Svaneti Region is in the mountainous Northwestern Georgia. Closest airport is Kutaisi. The entire region is a UNESCO world heritage site and is the home to the Svan people. 

  • Insurance

    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 UK residents Ski Club Travel Insurance may be a suitable option.

    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.
     

  • Guide Information
    The training will be provided by our team of fully-qualified IFMGA Mountain Guides.
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