Pyramid of Ice
Article and Photographs by Mehmet Gülbiz

 Kazbek Mountain (5,047m) whose peak and slopes are clad in glaciers with ridges like startling snow bridges is one of the most popular peaks in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia.. 

The main massif of the Caucasus, the Great Caucasus, extends like a wall from Sochi to 100km north of Baku. This range, which has few passes, is almost 200km in length and rarely falls below 2,000m in altitude. From the 5,047m peak of Kazbek one can see 5,642m Elbruz to the north and other peaks in its vicinity... The central section of the Great Caucasus' volcanic massif is covered in large glaciers. Elbruz and Kazbek are large volcanoes which erupted in the quaternary period.   

  The valleys and slopes of the Caucasus are covered in emerald pasture, the result of abundant rainfall precipitated by the Black and Caspian Seas. The lack of scree and the fact that these slopes keep their vegetation even in September together make the approach to the mountain relatively easy. From Tsminda Sameba Church on the hill above Gergeti village there is a view of the village, the Terek Gorge where Kazbegi town is located, and Mount Kazbek itself. 

The classic climbing route of Mount Kazbek - and relatively speaking the easiest - runs the north face. The other faces require difficult technical climbs on ice. The long but steady gradient (40-50) of the ice and compact snow wall of the north face extends to just below the peak. To cross the final conical peak, a short but somewhat difficult ice climb (Front-point) is required.   

  The meteorological station is a veritable eagle's nest at an altitude of 3,600m. The east slopes of the Terek Gorge far below can be made out from the station.


Next to Shara (5,068m), Kazbek is Georgia's second highest peak with an altitude of 5,047m and second to Elbruz in popularity among the peaks of the Caucasus. Its magnificent pyramidal shape has earned it its status as the Matterhorn of the Caucasus (the best known pyramid-shaped peak of the Alps)... The climb begins from Gergeti village on the west slope of the Terek Gorge. Near the start of the climbing route on a hill above the village is Holy Trinity church, or Tsminda Sameba as it is known in Georgian. The church, a place of pilgrimage since the Middle Ages, was connected to the village of Gergeti in the Soviet era by a cable lift. At present, this system is in a state of ruin and can no longer be used...

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