/ Caucasus/Bezengi area season
Looking for some general beta about weather patterns in the area and climbing conditions on the big north faces of the Bezengi wall.
In particular, things like the Tomashek Rib on Shkhara, north face of Koshtan Tau, west(ish) face of Dykh Tau.
What is September/October like as a time to go? Or is peak summer better?
I recall from earlier enquiries that it is recommended to go early summer due to better conditions on the glaciers.
Thanks Tim, good point.
Also interested in hearing from someone with experience of the region - information about it seems remarkably sparse online!
Judging by weather archives for previous years (e.g. https://www.meteoblue.com/en/weather/forecast/archive/shkhara_georgia_494027?fcstlength=1m&year=2018&month=7), the climate doesn't appear to differ too greatly from the Alps (a few degrees colder of course) - i.e. Jul/Aug most stable months, Jun less stable and Sept more cold. Accuracy of these archives is ofc debatable. I've read in one or two places that the glaciers around the Bezengi Wall can be quite complicated, so October might not be the best time to go due to more open glaciers. Could be wrong, though.
If it's of any use, I found a copy of Friedrich Bender's 1992 guide on Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/sg-en/listing/526864684/classic-climbs-in-the-caucasus-1992) for a slightly more reasonable price than elsewhere online (seems to be £60+ everywhere else..). I also found this book (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Edge-Europe-Mountaineering-Caucasus/dp/0340585471) - pretty cheap, no idea how much use it'll be for you though. "Forbidden Mountains: Most Beautiful Mountains in Russia and Central Asia" is supposedly also good, if you can somehow get your hands on it.
I assume you've already checked summitpost articles on the Caucasus, but in case you haven't, these have some decent info on the region:
Hope this info is of some use, and let me know if you find any other good resources for the region! (also, hello from r/alpinism )
I climbed there in July '96 and the ice faces were in condition. Of course, things might have changed over the last 20 years as has happened in the Alps. Friends climbed north faces in July/August a few years before that. We had plenty of good weather, but what was most notable was the ferocity of the thunderstorms which could blow up over from Georgia with frightening speed!
A brilliant area with a scale which certainly feels bigger than the Alps but smaller than the Himalayas.
We used the Bender guide which was fine.
Try asking some of the local guides. Googling Caucasus mountain guide and Elbrus mountain guide brings up a few websites.
climbing.ru is the Russian version of UKC but it’s all in Russian so not sure you could put a post in English on the forums.
Make sure you read up on all the necessary permits. I don’t know about Georgia but Russia is a bureaucratic nightmare or at least it used to be. Visa, invitation from a local hotel or similar and, depending on where you’re going, a border zone permit. Don’t know about peak permit fees. Assume the local authorities (police, border guards, etc) are corrupt and will use any flaws in the paperwork to extort you!
And keep away from areas with an unstable security situation... Chechnya, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh are the obvious ones. Abkhazia, North Ossetia, Ingushetia and Dagestan probably not great either. Fortunately Elbrus and Dykh Tau are further west.
I climbed there at the end of September a couple of years ago (from Georgia, and remaining on the Gorgian side or on the border since the border crossing was illegal, visa or otherwise). We had 10 days of beautiful, stable weather bookended by huge storms that we were lucky to avoid. Winds were high at times up close to 5000 m and temperatures there were probably down to around -15 to -20, but still very mild down in the valleys and on the glaciers. We didn't see a soul or evidence thereof for the whole time, which might not be the case in peak summer time.
I can't comment on conditions on the specific routes you mention, but snow and ice conditions were fantastic on neighbouring peaks. Glaciers were dry below about 3200m, with a fair amount of snow on them from thereon up.
I lost a glove, which is probably on the upper slopes of the north face of Gistola, in case you need an extra incentive to go.
I've never been but made plans to go several years ago. My friend ended up climbing Dykh Tau in, I think September, and another friend guided it in late August, maybe 2012 or so. This was the Cockin route from the southwest(?). I had planned the south face couloir and was thinking late May or June would be best. The north face looks dire.
The permit situation was also tough, with a border zone permit required, in addition to the visa and invite etc etc and it was going to take a couple of months to organise and receive.
Another friend has climbed Shkara from the south, from Georgia, and it's much easier both in the climbing and the red tape and access.
Awesome! Thanks for the info! And hey!
I'd check out the summitpost material before and it is pretty helpful. I already own the Salkeld/Bermudez book but the Bender one also looks good -- will try and get hold of it (not sure that seller offers UK postage).
Cheers Misha. I've been in touch with Alexey Trubachev, who does a lot of the guiding in that area. He's been pretty helpful, actually. He suggested September was a good time to go, so will probably aim for that.
Our visa experience in 2013 was relatively straightforward but with Anglo/American-Russian relations deteriorating significantly in the past six years I wouldn't be surprised if it's trickier this time.
And yes, will definitely be bearing in mind the security situation in South Ossetia, Dagestan etc. in mind.
Spot on, that's all the incentive I need. Fear not, your gloves will be reunited once more!
Cheers Damo. Agree that Dykh-Tau NF looks like one of the circles of hell... Maybe the icy one (9th?)
I appreciate that climbing Shkhara from the Georgian side would be easier in many senses, but where's the fun in that? ;)
Great, thanks! I agree that the Caucasus is a lovely range. Funny that it seems to have fallen out of fashion with British climbers.
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