Known locally as Mqinvartsveri or glacier peak, Mount Kazbek rises 5.047 meters above sea level, making it the tallest mountain in eastern Georgia and the third tallest mountain in the country. It sits right on the border with Russia, but is most easily ascended from the Georgian side.
Due to the relative ease with which this dormant stratovolcano is climbed and the spectacular views from the top, Mount Kazbek is one of the most popular destinations for mountaineers in the Caucasus Range. Most tourists flock to climb it during June and July, but local guides offer trips to climb or ski mountaineer the peak year round.
Mount Kazbek was first climbed in 1868 by an expedition of English and French mountaineers in the Alpine Club, but has long held cultural and historical significance to the local people. According to legend, the Georgian version of Prometheus was chained to this mountain as punishment for having stolen fire from the gods and then given it to mortals.
The site of his imprisonment was in a cave called Betlemi, which later became an Orthodox hermitage. It is also rumored that the hermitage housed sacred relics including Abraham’s tent and the manger of baby Jesus.
The Betlemi mountain hut is now situated nearby and is a common stop during any ascent of the mountain.
The most common route to the summit is not very technically difficult and rated at a PD. The climb mostly involves glacier walking until you reach the crux then about 100 meters of easy ice climbing (no steeper than 40 degrees) to the summit.
If you want to take a more challenging route up, some guides will adjust their itinerary accordingly.
Starting point, distance and duration of the ascent
Most guides will meet you at the Tbilisi International Airport in the Georgian capital. From there, your guide will take you to the Stepantsminda, where you will begin to acclimatize.
When it is time for your adventure to begin, guides will drive you to the Sameba Church and you will start the ascent from there.
Expeditions to the summit of Mount Kazbek generally take three to four days with an extra day built into the itinerary in case of inclement weather. While the ascent itself takes about two or three days, most guides will have shorter side hikes planned at the beginning of the climb in order for you to acclimatize properly.
Please note, that from arrival to departure you should allot about a week and a half for this trip.
Most expeditions to Mount Kazbek will involve staying in the Betlemi Hut on the way up. This hut is a converted meteorological station and offers electricity and running water. You are also able to purchase food, drinking water and beer at its cantene.
Physical requirements and technical difficulty
It is important to be in proper physical condition before booking this trip. You should be capable of carrying a fairly heavy backpack while climbing for sustained periods of time at a high altitude. Most guides recommend some endurance and core training prior to your arrival.
The climb itself is not technically very difficult. Some previous mountaineering experience is recommended, but guides will generally go over all the mountaineering techniques and skills you need on the slopes.
The summer is the best time of year to climb Mount Kazbek with most guides offering trips from June through September. However, it is possible to climb the peak all times of year.
During the summer, the weather is warmest and most predictable. This is the time of year when you will likely have the clearest and sunniest days. Average temperatures at the foot of the mountain range from 14 degrees Celcius to the mid-20s and steadily decrease the higher up you get.
Storms are less frequent, but not uncommon during the summer. When a front comes through, temperatures can drop rapidly to several degrees Celsius, even on the warmest days.
The following equipment is highly recommended for this climb. Most guides will provide you with the technical climbing gear such as crampons, a harness, two carabiners, one sling (120cm), a helmet, ice screws and an ice axe.
Before leaving for this trip, you should also make sure you have warm and waterproof layers of clothing; any appropriate camping gear if you will not be staying in mountain huts the whole time; water purification tablets as potable water is scarce along the route; mountaineering boots; sun cream and sunglasses; a hat; a flashlight and extra batteries; and your camera.
The average price for a single person travelling with a certified mountain guide runs between €1000 and €1500. Small parties will pay slightly less, €750 to €1000 per person. A group of five or six people may pay about €500 to €600 per person.
Prices usually include the guiding fee, transportation during the trip, accommodation during the trip as well as meals (some guides provide all meals other just half-board meals), some equipment and luggage transfers during the trip.
However, it is always best to ask your guide what his or her price does and does not include because every guide is different.
Other activities in the area
Other popular mountaineering destinations in the Caucusus Range include Mount Ushba and Mount Elbrus. During the winter, ski touring is also immensely popular in the region.