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Backcountry skiing in Gudauri and Kazbegi area

Useful information

Advantages of the region

1. DRY CLIMATE and allow the snow to stay dry for a long time.

2. HIGH ALTITUDE - Gudauri resort is located at the altitude of 2000 meters above the sea level and higher. And most routes start at the same altitude or even higher. This allows getting fast to the beginning of the route in the big mountains, without climbing through the forest zone and going to the snow line (spring).

3. CONVENIENT LOGISTICS. Only 2 hours to get Gudauri from airport of Tbilisi, the distance is 125 km.

4. MOST DEVELOPED resort infrastructure.

5. HUGE POTENTIAL for multi-day backcountry routes in the mountain regions to the north and north-east of Gudauri.

6. THE FAMOUS MOUNTAIN KAZBEK (5054 m. above sea level) is located only in 35 km to the north of Gudauri.

When to go

Even though the winter season in Gudauri resort usually begins on the first weekend of December in case there is snow, snow conditions sufficient for guaranteed high-quality freeride and access to one-day ski-tour routes appear in the second half of January and last until mid-April. Mid-April to the end of May is the best time for ski-tour in northern cirques, located at high altitudes (Chaukhi, Khorisar, Mepiskalo, Sherhota) and glacier travel in the area of Kazbek mountain. The best season for multi-day backcountry camping is March-April.

Maps

Trekking Map # 4: Khevi, Mt. Kazbegi, Gudauri, Truso (1:50 000)

Topographic maps of the region can be bought at Gudauri Travel Bar:  https://www.instagram.com/gudauribar/

GUDAURI SEASONS

EARLY SEASON
(mid-December - mid-January)

For the first time, snow usually falls in Gudauri at the end of November. The first snowfall is usually followed by frosts of up to 20 degrees, unfortunately transforming the subsoil layer of shallow snow cover into a deep horn. This permanent weak layer can persist until the spring thaws. Consider this fact - it significantly impacts the avalanche situation throughout the winter. It is good when the first snowfall forms a snow cover of more than one and a half meters, or frosts in December are insignificant. In this case, the snow cover is more stable. But usually, December and the first half of January are dry. The first possible routes are on grassy slopes not exposed to strong wind effects - Chrdili, Deda Ena, Lomisi, Miketi, and Kobi.

Ski lifts in Gudauri usually start operating in mid-December, less often in the last week of January. Skiing early in the season carries a significant likelihood of injury due to hazards such as rocks that lie just below the surface of the thin snowpack. Glaciers can have significant open fractures; thin snowpacks can hide them during early storms. Good glacier climbing skills are very required at this time of year. Many skip backcountry skiing at this time of year and expect better weather after mid-January. I never accept bookings for my programs before January 20, and if you plan your vacation in Gudauri, consider this in advance.

MIDDLE OF WINTER
(second half of January - March)

As snow accumulates on all slopes and glaciers become better covered, travel on different routes becomes more and more possible. Long (2-3 days) low-pressure periods in February and March provide deep snow cover, but snowfall days are accompanied by thick clouds and limited visibility, often resulting in flat light conditions. Traveling in these conditions requires good navigation skills. On stormy days, a good solution would be to go to forest routes just below the level of Gudauri - Lomisi, Arakhveti, Kvesheti, Mujukhi, and Kurkuta.

Almost always, in the last week of March, a multiple daily temperature transition begins through 0 degrees. Therefore, the time when the risk of avalanches increases is beginning. As a result of changes in daily warming, old, persistent, weak layers are consolidated, and the time of stable spring snow cover begins.

SPRING
(April - May)

In early April, spring begins in the valleys, and in Tbilisi, the daytime temperature rises to 20 degrees Celsius. Most local skiers forget about Gudauri and return to forgotten summer activities. Gudauri becomes empty, even though ski lifts usually run until mid-April (in some years, until the end of April). Despite this trend, April and May remain excellent for ski touring the region. The milder temperatures create pleasant travel conditions, and high-quality snow can still be found, especially in early spring, in the northern high-altitude areas sheltered from sunstroke - routes around Deda Ena, Khorisar, Chaukhi, Kazbek.

Afternoon travel becomes less enjoyable as the snow heats up and becomes heavy. At this time of year, usually in mid-April, the ski lifts at the resort open earlier, at 09:00. It is also a great time to spend the night in tents.

DANGERS OF GUDAURI and KAZBEGI

Gudauri and Kazbegi backcountry tours are fraught with grave dangers. Avalanches, steep slopes, glaciers, poor visibility, cornices, the possibility of sunburn. Please consistently rate yourself and hire a local guide.

Camping in the wild

Some backcountry areas are located in the territories of unguarded national parks. No special permission is required to visit them, except for visiting long-distance routes in the Truso gorge (not presented in this edition of the guide). When visiting the area of ​​the Chaukhi gorge, you may need a passport to submit to the Georgian border guards - the place is located close to the Russian border (runs along with a mountain range).

Even though visits to national parks are not regulated, please never leave trash in the mountains.

Navigation

Determining your location anytime while traveling in the mountains is a critical skill. The map, compass, and altimeter have traditionally been the standard tools for determining latitude and longitude. The situation has changed dramatically with the ubiquity of GPS-enabled smartphones. Apps like Fatmap, Gaia, and Caltopo make navigation much easier, but smartphone batteries can be damaged. I recommend carrying a paper map with you (you can always buy it at my Travel Bar in the New Gudauri area), and a clock that shows altitude is handy for determining your location on the fly. A GPS watch provides this information and the ability to track your route.

Light clock

An important aspect when planning a backcountry tour is keeping in mind the number of light hours and ensuring that you plan your itinerary with enough time to accommodate unexpected delays and return to base during daylight hours. Sunrise and sunset times are shown below. Always plan to return to a safe area, so you have time to deal with emergencies should they arise.

Sunrise and sunset times in the Gudauri and Kazbegi area

Date / Sunrise / Sunset / Daylength

1 January / 08:31 AM / 05:39 PM / 9h 8m
15 January / 08:28 AM / 05:54 PM / 9h 25m
1 February / 08:15 AM / 06:15 PM / 9h 59m
15 February / 07:58 AM / 06:33 PM / 10h 34m
1 March / 07:37 AM / 06:51 PM / 11h 13m
15 March / 07:14 AM / 07:08 PM / 11h 54m
1 April / 06:44 AM / 07:27 PM / 12h 43m
15 April / 06:20 AM / 07:43 PM / 13h 22m

Rescue

There is an official rescue service at the Gudauri resort. Local guys constantly take halfway courses and do their job perfectly, donating their time and energy. Their base is near the top station of the Good Aura gondola. You can call rescuers by calling a single rescue phone number 112.

There is no rescue service fee within the resort. However, if for evacuation from routes located far from the resort, they turn to the helicopter services of one of the currently operating heliski companies, and they will have to pay for this service. Therefore, it’s good if your insurance covers these costs. To understand the prices, the cost of a helicopter to rescue one person in the neighboring “Khada Valley” cost 1200 Euros in previous seasons.

Essential information to be provided when initiating a rescue operation includes:
- Actions.
- Your name and number of people involved.
- Your contact information.
- Location (latitude and longitude in decimal degrees).
- Nature and time of the incident.
- Any medical requirements.

Call the emergency services as soon as possible if you have an emergency. The sooner you contact them, the more opportunities there will be. They will review your request and take appropriate action to resolve the situation successfully and safely. Understand that “rescue” does not necessarily mean evacuation and that weather, nightfall, and other safety concerns often prevent immediate evacuation. Ensure you and your group have enough equipment to spend the night in an emergency. Remember that rescue volunteers put tremendous time and energy into training and rescue. They deserve a high level of respect and support for their work.

Cell phones work on most routes in the region (these details are listed in the parameters of each route).

Resort opening hours

In winter, cable cars start operating at 10 am and close at 5 pm. In winter, ski lifts open one hour earlier. Check gudauri.com for updated information.

 

SOURCE: Backcountry Skiing in Gudauri and Kazbegi GUIDEBOOK...

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