Svaneti – a region in the Caucasus in between mountains 5000 m high, which we thought to be the best for ski touring. Very motivated we arrived in Mestia and were ready to do one peak after another.
Changing every few days our place, looking for virgin powder and ride it in the sunshine. That's how we imagined it to be and it was rather different. As Mestia is only on 1400 m altitude, we always had to walk through the forest first, the forest line is on around 2300 m altitude. And reaching the peaks was not that easy, as we felt what we haven't been doing during the last months.
But we didn't loose our motivation and just after the day we arrived, we made our first tour. We tried to take a shortcut, but the maps are not so good (there are only maps with max. 1:50'000 available and only 1/3 of forests, roads and trails are marked), so we were walking through a steep forest. But the nature was amazing and the first part of our ride was good too, deep powder in the forest.
On that evening we got to know Sabine and Bernd and decided to go the following day together to the ski resort of Tetnuldi. It was perfect, as the taxi was quite expensive, so we could dived the costs. As there is no hurry in Georgia, we din't have to get up too early, the lifts just started at 10 am. And there were only a few other skiers around.
The resort is huge and there are plenty of slopes for one day. We even found some fresh powder next to the slopes. We enjoyed the day, Johannes was practising his Telemark technique and Theres her powder technique. The evening we spent all together in a cafe, with interesting discussions about traveling.
The next two days we used for finding the right way towards Hatsvali and in the other hand to make a longer tour. As we didn't want to ride down the slopes, we decided to stop before them and ride through the forest, for good skiers it must have been a dream, we took it a bit easier. But the snow was good and after 4 days, we decided to have a relaxing day and change our sleeping place.
We actually just drove 4 km on the other side of the village, where we slept on opposite of the airport. Here we started as well very easy. The first day we just walked uphill through the forest. We found a nice road, which was perfect for the ascent. The next day we started early – if 9.30 am is early – but here in Georgia it was super early. The first part was easy to walk, in the second one we had to walk through one meter of fresh snow, which was very exhausting. But the panorama and the perfect weather made our day. After 1300 m uphill we decided to turn back, the peak in front of us didn't have nice snow because of the wind. We had a small snack and then started our ride. On the way back, we met a guided group from Estonia, which had a nice track uphill and a guide for downhill. At the bottom we met them again and it seemed, that they found a better way downwards. So we decided to do the same the following day. The next day we really had a better slope, but it was steeper too and in some parts again through the forest. Fun for good skiers like Theres, but not that much for riders like Johannes. But as there is always a way downwards – we arrived well and happy back at our truck. Johannes with a bit more snow in his luggage.
We decided to go back to Mestia, buying fresh food and spent the afternoon in our favourite cafe Laila, next to a wooden oven.
The following day we drove to Etseri, a small village, from where nice slopes can be reached, without walking too much through the forest. The same day we made a small tour and the snow was just incredible.
We met another group, which has been on the most obvious peak on 3311 m altitude, which we wanted to do as well the following day. So we enjoyed a good dinner and went early to bed. The next day we wanted to start early, on 8.30 am we were already on our skis. Walking through the village, it felt like waking up all the dogs living there. And the weather was not too good either that day, cold, windy and poor visibility. After a while, we decided to turn back, still had some nice turns and then back in our warm Emma. We decided to try it again the following day and having been eating local food, we felt strong enough. We started even earlier and it was still very cold, but as soon as the sun came out, the temperature was perfect for walking uphill. After 5 hours of ascent, we decided 150 m below the peak to turn back, as it was very steep and the wind has been blowing hard the last day. Now we had all the powder waiting for us, the slopes were wide and the sun shining; what a day!!
Every few days we changed our location and found nice powder. The weather wasn't always the best and sometimes the forests were quite tight. But we had some really nice, unforgettable rides. The kilos we gained, when we were staying in Tbilisi, we lost fast and now we are ready for the next round. It is planned to go to Bakuriani and in March we will go back to Svaneti together with some friends – we are already looking forward to it...