During our time in Gomi a few of us talked about a summer climb of Kazbek, one of the most notable peaks in Georgia. Taylor, Eva, Arina and myself committed to the endeavour, they managed to scrounge together the climbing specific gear required, and we loaded up in Taylor's van for the drive over Gudauri to Stepantsminda. Anya stayed in Tbilisi during this time. With us were a box of bagels provided to us by a friendly Australian who started a bagel baking business in Tbilisi. Not sure if it was the bagels, but at some point during the drive we all began to experience flatulence which would set the tone for the trip!
We spent the night in a guest house in Stepantsminta, and in the morning we drove up to the trailhead. The typically busy carpark was now occupied by pack horses being loaded up with hut construction material. The hike out of the valley is mellow and enjoyable, and before we knew it, we had a view of the Gergeti glacier. We opted to walk up the rocks to the left of the white ice toe of the glacier before crossing it to reach Meteostation. Probably next time I would choose to just don crampons and climb the ice, as there were no significant obstacles on the glacier itself, and it's tough work climbing sliding rocks with blue ice hidden underneath.
The Meteostation building is huge, and the number of campsites there is difficult to count, and it was completely empty! We were clearly lucky to have this opportunity to have the mountain to ourselves in Summer. We set up our tents, and the building manager invited us into his room for tea, and we spent the evening watching Lord of the Rings dubbed in Georgian. During the night Taylor's tent was ripped open by a cheeky camp fox in search of bagels.
On day 2 we went for an acclimitazation hike up to 4000m, luckily this also allowed us to plug steps in the now soft snow drifts which lay across the path. On day 3 we woke up very early, sometime around 4am or earlier, and hiked out of camp. Our previous day's steps were very useful in the now icey snow drifts, and we soon reached the point of the glacier at around 4000m where we stepped onto the snow of the glacier and roped up. We walked slowly up to the saddle between Spartak and Kazbek at 4450m. Here it became clear that Arina was not going to be able to continue, she was feeling sick from the altitude, we probably needed to spend more time acclimatizing. I was still full of energy, and I requested 1.5h to make a solo dash to the summit. Ahead of us high up on the mountain a group from the Russian side were almost at the summit, unfortunately there were no tracks from our side to follow. I was plugging through fresh snow and only made it to a large crevasse with a small snow bridge at about 4880m just below the ridge to the summit before having to turn around, I was out of time anyway.
Meanwhile Taylor and Eva conquered Spartak, and we all met again in the saddle with Arina. As we were walking down, the skies opened up with sleet and the wind began to howl. Taylor's tent pole snapped in the wind. We were glad that we had turned around early. The next morning Taylor and Eva decided they wanted to make another summit attempt, Arina and I would walk down together as I needed to return to civilization earlier for work. I was awoken before sunrise by Taylor. They had already returned, Eva overcome with stomach problems early into their attempt. Instead we all took our sleeping bags and cooking stuff to a nearby ridge and cooked breakfast salami while watching the sun rise.
Here's a fun video from the trip: