Ascent to Gora Kazbek-Maili Plateau on 2013-10-09

Climber: Johann Schelesnak

Others in Party:Alex
Date:Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Point Reached:Gora Kazbek - Maili Plateau
    Elevation:14820 ft / 4517 m
    Remaining Elevation:1696 ft / 517 m (17% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

October 7, 2013
We luckily got a driver from 1740m (Stepantsminda) to 2170m which is as far as the road goes and there is a beautiful little church up there. The road was crazy up to the church and took 30 mins. I was fully packed, way too heavy, thankfully the guide took the rope which was a big chunk of the weight.
Here is the list: 30 meter rope, crampons, ice axe, harness and carbines, food for three days, some clothes, sleeping bag, mat, 4 liters of water, winter clothes and all kinds of little things. Let's just say it wasn't easy hiking 13 kms over almost 1500 meters elevation gain. I was thankful for the guide, there was some fresh snowfall, so there was no way we would have found the trail on our own. Luckily there was almost no wind most of the way up and temperatures were around zero, so the sweater was off. I was still sweating by the time I got up to the meteo station/base camp. We had this stray dog follow us all the way to the base camp. Crazy! Gave him a snack of course. The harder part was crossing the glacier from 3200m to 3600m when the wind picked up & the snow got deep. But the peak showed up and kept our motivation high to keep pushing. 5 hours later we arrived - first part done. The station seemed like a five star hotel. Chacha the local vodka welcomed us with multiple shots right away. Tomorrow we will acclimatize and do a hike to 3900m.

October 8, 2013
Didn't really sleep much at all. Way too cold, my feet just won't warm up and the cold doesn't help. I got up around 6.30am to watch the sun come up, it was so beautiful and it's a perfect day today with great views and no wind. Wish we went up today. The water in the camelback froze... We did our acclimatization today. Hiked to the highest church in the world at 3900m. It was steep but easy with no gear. Took it easy, stopped lots. It took us like 2-3 hrs only over 3 kms. Got back and packed a bit for the early ascent.

October 9, 2013
Up early at 1 am. Geared up with layers of clothes, harness and everything I had. Clear night and the first hour went good. Steep climb over scree and lose rock. We passed a wall that constantly threw rocks and boulders down. It was a dangerous stretch so we had to push hard. We all had headlamps. The stars were amazing. The rocks coming down luckily always seemed to stop right before the trail, but still too close especially in the dark. Once we passed this tough part we got on to a huge glacier. The ascent was 35 degrees and steeper. To the left it went almost straight down into the dark. Better not fall down! The climb was very hard and we kept pushing. Once we got over the glacier we entered Russia illegally. Saw some towns in Russia and we could even see Tbilisi - the capital of Georgia. At this point we were way past 4000m and the steep ascent and air started to get to me. We had to put on crampons and use the ice axe. It was very hard pushing on, but I had the odd energy boost. Putting on the crampons was hard and taking my gloves off was a terrible idea! My hands froze instantly. It was -30 degrees celsius and 40 km/h winds on the plateau didn't help. It was insanely windy and my fingers and toes went numb. We were about 4300m and the altitude got to me quickly. I started to feel real sick and my stomach did not handle it, got a bit disoriented. The guide told me to try a bit more, but when we got to about 4500m he made the call to turn around due to the very strong winds and freezing cold temperatures. I felt better after an hour and my fingers slowly got better. We got back to base camp for 6 am and slept for 2 hours. I think this was the first time I slept here. After getting up, we packed and started the descent to town, another 14 kms down. The views today were amazing, clear sky, no wind going down and it cheered me up for not making it to the top. A great experience, that inspired me to climb mountains :)
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:8442 ft / 2573 m
    Total Elevation Loss:9852 ft / 3002 m
    Round-Trip Distance:25 mi / 40.2 km
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Guide, Hut Camp
    Nights Spent:2 nights away from roads
    Weather:Frigid, Very Windy, Clear
Freezing Wind Chill -27
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:8442 ft / 2573 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 7701 ft / 2348 m; Extra: 741 ft / 225m
    Loss on way in:741 ft / 225 m
    Distance:13.2 mi / 21.3 km
    Start Trailhead:Gergeti Trinity Church  7119 ft / 2169 m
    Time:11 Hours 5 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:9111 ft / 2777 m
    Distance:11.7 mi / 18.9 km
    End Trailhead:Stepantsminda  5709 ft / 1740 m
    Time:6 Hours 20 Minutes

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