Fideltronik Caucasus Expedtition 2015
It was obvious that after Monte Rosa/Dufourspitze Expedition and Triple 3k Ascent in Dolomiti the new target needed to be set-up. And it needed to be something more challenging and more demanding than ever before. The Team discussed: “Should we follow the technical climbing way to one of the famous alpine summits like Eiger, Matterhorn and their neighbourhood or should we rather head for something less explored and more multicomplicated? Well, after all the mountains are the place to touch the reality and its solid conditions”, everyone agreed. “So let us confront ourselves with the wild now. Where do we find the wild and the noticeable?..” There are Albanian Cursed Alps and Caucasus which due to difficulties related to the admission remain far more attractive than the Swiss/French/Italian Alps. “Caucasus – why do not we go there?” someone noticed. Suddenly everyone agreed there can be no better alternative than climbing one of the distant giants of Russia or Georgia. “There is one absolutely towering summit in Georgia surrounded with ancient legends of Prometheus being punished for delivery of fire to the People” – another one added. And in this way four from Fideltronik: Peter of Infrastructure, Robert of Manufacturing, Tomasz of Sales and Miloslaw of Finance decided to conquer Kasbek – one of the highest dormant volcanoes in Europe.
Expedition needed to be organized in a coordinated and accurate way. Everything was according to the schedule until Peter overdone with training. Just few weeks before the set off, during the biking race he experienced terrible accident of collarbone injury and bone breakage which completely eliminated him from the expedition. In this way Mateusz, also from Infrastructure, active mountain rescuer, joined the Team replacing the injured Peter.
We have reached Kazbegi, a small town located at the foot of glazing summit, at the altitude of ca 1700 m a.s.l. on Sunday, September the 6th. And we took the hard way there. Approximately 600m above, spectacular Tsimida Sameba Church can be reached with the help of a horse or marshroutka – Geoergian 4x4 mountain taxi. Normally all climbers carrying 30k rucksacks use such a support to get to the monastery church. We have decided not to use that mostly for financial reasons. And it was a steep ascent I must admit. Also due to high temperature exceeding 30C and high humidity the climb of this first stage costed a lot of energy. The Monks at the monastery share the spring of potable water, but we had to que along with the cows as the spring serves all: cows, sheep, pilgrims and climbers. You literally need to wait for the cow to quench its thirst or chase it away to have the possibility to fill out your own bottles.
After refilling liquids we continued the ascent to the glacier. First 400m up to a small shrine at about 2600m a.s.l went more less without great difficulties. The road led through golden meadows and birch shrubberies. As the sun was slowly going lower and lower we were able to admire unspoilt territories of Southern Caucasus. But after that the track has changed into stony steps of ups and downs. And it terribly affected my capabilities to move on. Around altitude of ca 3000 m a.s.l. the road comes down to a small canyon in the middle of which a rushing stream need to be crossed. There are multiple tactics also in the literature describing how it should be crossed depending on the water level. We have exercised all of them: Tomasz and Robert went higher up and found some comfortable stones to cross it more/less dry way, Mateusz took a long jump from shallow water on one bank to the shallow water on the other, and me having no power to either had to take off the clothes and cross it through the water. And it turned out to be a big mistake. Ice-cold water and sand-stone mix flowing with it drained all the remaining energy I had for the day. After standing on the target bank I felt I am not able to take even one more step towards my friends. It was a pure and complete electricity cut-off we call that. All I could do was to shout out that this is everything about an ascent for the day. The guys did not want to agree that easy: “Meybe we can take some of your baggage?”, “Let’s better sit down, cook sth and rest half an hour and then we go on” – they proposed. “But mates, this is not temporary crisis, this is power cut-off” – I explained. Finally they believed I meant really and agreed to set-up a camp for the night. It was a high time anyway as the night came right after along with the rain and storms.
Next morning, September 7th welcomed us with a dazzling sun-rise making its way through a sieve somewhere between eastern ridges and yesterday clouds. Fast Chinese breakfast and off we go. New day and new strengths among the Team. Previous, long day did not leave any signs of tiresome. We could quickly gain the altitude. After next 300 m rocky terrain disappeared and the track lead us onto ragged glacier. As the way was no evident starting from there we took one very simple decision: “Let’s follow the horse-shit”. Each spot solid enough to sustain travelling horses must be good enough to sustain us. A bit stinky but safe – this was kind of way which led us through last 300m of altitude until reaching last spot of civilization in this barren mountains – old meteo station. We have reached that early afternoon which still left us couple of hours o daylight. “Should we camp here or seek a place somewhere higher, closer to the summit?” – discussion started. There were quite many tents around, nice platforms and potable water in the vicinity. And then we met couple of other climbers – some going down, some preparing to settle a summit camp as high as possible. All of them very open and willing to share experiences. In this way word by word more less everyone decided to stay at the meteo station. It has been a very nice afternoon and evening having an opportunity to sit among other climbers and talk all those old mountain stories. Everybody needed a rest before the coming, final day, so staying at the meteo turned out to be a perfect idea.
The day stared very early – or actually it was just a continuation of the previous one. The alarm was set to 2 a.m. in the night but as nobody slept well we all have been awaken even earlier. Fast tea, some sweets and Chinese food and “That’s all about the easy part guys. Time to face the real thing.” It was not an easy start. For the begening the path goes along a moraine under monstrous overhanging, ferrum and magnesium massive which shadows all the valley. It is not on the glacier and because of that the right way is not easy to find. Especially in the dark night. We have lost it couple of times and sometimes had to navigate back and forth and sometimes go down to start again from the known spot. The problem is that the way changes every year as the moraine melts different way. But finally at the altitude of some 4 000 m a.s.l. we saw the white part. And it helped to move on. The path on the glacier was very clear to see and follow. This led us to the tremendous plateau above Gergeti glacier. The view was so beautiful that we decided to catch some rest. And then it happened. Robert who wanted to make two, literally TWO! Steps of the path suddenly disappeared under the flat snow. The rope has tightened and we were totally disoriented what is going on. “Kasbek does not like sigles. Rope up!” was the warning on the door of meteo station. And we could learn it our own eyes and ropes that it was real. Robert fell into a bottomless slot, well hidden under a fresh, flat snow. And good that we have all been joined by the rope because dragging him out of the trouble was an easy thing. But starting from there the trip became more and more complicated. The altitude started to play its game. There was not enough oxygen in the air to feed the muscles and so the brakes between ascents occurred more and more often and for longer and longer time. I have invented a symbolical Thirty which will come into classics of mountain troubles. Thirty symbolizes 30 steps of an ascent between the rest but for strong leading guys it was not more than 18 they say and for the rest including me it was even 40, sometimes 45 of exhaustive effort. “What Thirty??!! – Leading guys shouted from above. “Why do we have to struggle Fifty, again??..” – a reply. Anyway weaker and weaker Thirty led us slowly on the top – 5 047 m a.s.l. - which we have reached around 9:30 after 6,5 h ascent from the meteo station.
The weather was perfect, a dream one. Meybe it was the only such day during a whole year. And maybe it was only a few climbers who could enjoy such a moment on the summit that day – but yes – it was our day. We did not have to hurry to go down. Despite a tough frost during the ascent in the shade, on the summit we got a gift from heaven which was a pure warmth of morning sun, without even a sign a cold breeze. Together with that all Caucasus north and south, east and west opened all horizons smiling happily with its white and orange walls to the climbers. No rush or ticking clock anywhere. Only the deficiency of oxygen has spoken after some time changing the color of our lips and beginning to knock in our heads.
The way down was not that spectacular, however our team have found another climber, also from Poland, who had an accident on the way and tried to contact some rescue service, preferably helicopter to transport him to hospital. We have explained him the we are not in the Alps where it is possible and he need to cooperate with us to resolve the problem. Fideltronik rescue team organized a transportation down to the meteo station where the guy could find a horse to take him down to the village. So finally no victims through a whole trip.
It took one more day to get down on foot and head back home in the direction of the airport and Black Sea.