Well prepared is half of the game. The idea of Pogo to discover the caucasian mountains by splitboard, was born in 2010 and the next winter they started to make it happen.
After seeing pictures of the caucasian mountains of georgia for the first time, we went there straight away in the following winter. Unfortunately we could only spend a few days in the remote mounatin area Svaneti. The days spent there lacked good weather, but there was no chance to handle all the untracked powder. At one point the clouds allowed us to see all those surrounding mountains. We knew immediately that we want to come back to explore this area. Two years later we grabbed a bunch of our Pogo Powderboards and went for it. We dediced to spent roughly seven weeks in Ushguli, Europe's highest village. Plenty of time to really explore that region and getting used to the local lifestyle.
As we did not want to spoil time in winter, we decided to do a preparation trip in fall. This article will tell you what happened then.
It takes you four hours by plane to get to Georgia from Germany. Georgia is a little bit bigger that Switzerland, but not as big as a German federal state named Bavaria. In the past Georgia was almost constantly ruled by foreign powers, officially this isn't the case right now, but the well-being of the country is still almost completely related to the current state of the schizophrenic relationship to their big neighbouring country Russia. Just after arriving in the capital Tiflis we also recklessly connect our luck to something Russian, an old russian all-terain vehicle to be exact. This way we are ready to go everywhere any time, moving around independently. At least we think we are, as we soon experience the first break downs. But as georgians are helpful people we are on our way pretty soon.
Reaching the Georgian coast line of the black sea, we do our first voluntary stop in the artificial beach resort Anaklia. Thanks to the recent goverment shifts the creation of the resort is currently put on hold.
We did this stop even so the distance between the capital and Svaneti isn't that big, but the road circumstances make a one day trip quite a torture. Beside that we can see where the river Enguri ends, the river that will lead us all the way up to Ushguli. And on top we enjoyed a great morning, strollin' and skating around in this shiny ghost town, not to forget the mandatory swim in the sea.
Not far away from the sea the road begins curling up the Enguri Valley for more than one hundred kilometers till reaching Svaneti's capital city Mestia. Beside a flat tyre it's a smooth ride for us and we reach this recently uncharming modernized little town pretty soon. Mestia is siutated on an altitude of 1550m and is surrounded by stunning mountains like Mt. Ushba.
We go for a few hikes to exlore the surrounding terrain, we fix our replacement tyre, fill up the tank and leave the paved roads for Ushguli.
From here on the road crosses more rivers and narrow valleys and we are curious to see Ushguli for the first time. As luck would have it, we reach our goal by night and therefore don't see much anymore for this day. The next morning we can't believe our eyes, twenty centimeters of fresh snow had just fallen. We surely didn't expect this and we can't profit from it either, but it looks good and we explore the village and the surrounding terrain in the best mood.
Because of the weather we can't really make out the fivethousanders in the background of the village, but the myriad of nice faces and slopes up to 3500m all around Ushguli really exceed our expectations.
We found what we were looking for. An unawakened potential paradise for snow adventures of all-kind.
It doesn't take long to find a host family for the wintertime and so we drive on pretty quickly.
As we really want to see the Svanetian mountains, we're taking another route straight through the mountains back to the capital Tiflis. First we have to cross the Zagaro Pass not far away from Ushguli. While driving up the snowy road to the pass, we see much more nice terrain for possible lines in the wintertime, but also come across quite some obstacles. Now we know why noboy had done this passage lately, some of the mud and waterholes in the road seem to be insuperable at first.
With the help of rocks, branches and some water draining we finally overcome those obstacles.
As soon as we have the pass in our imaginary rear mirror the sun appears and we already see ourselves on top of one of the gorgeous summits around us. As the next signs of civilization are still quite ahead of us and we know exactly nothing about the conditions of the road ahead of us, we focus on driving on, hoping not to run out of gas to soon.
Thanks to the weather and the scenery it's still easy to enjoy the drive.
We first drive alongside the Schara fivethousander mountain range which serves as the boarder to Russia and then follow a river valley till we reach today's destination Lentekhi. Beside a few harsh river crossings it is a trouble-free but exhausting drive. It takes us fourteen hours to complete the sixty kilometer trip.
From here on, we're back on paved roads and we reach the capital fast and easy. As soon as we're there, we let a mechanic check our vehicle and we're quite suprised about the damage our adventurous mountain excurison has caused. Broken chassis, disengaged car body, a brake disc puzzle, and a disbanded propulsion for the right front wheel are the main things. We're fascinated by the fact that a car in such a condition can still be such a reliable vehicle and how straightforward the Georgians take care of such serious damages.
Convinced that our wintertrip is well prepared and full of anticipation of our return in the winter time we leave Georgia.
The hospitality in Georgia is unique, just take the first step and approach the people. From there on everything is possible. Learning to say "gamardschoba" for hello and "madloba" for thank you helps of course, too.
Beside that you don't need to know much more in advance about the country, just go with the flow of things there and ask for a guesthouse or a homestay if you're looking for a place to sleep and make sure to equipe your mobile phone with a Georgian sim card and you'll end up having a great time.
So far you could only guess how all of this is connected with splitboarding, make sure to check out the next part.
Thanks to our Georgian partner-in-crime Anna, our hosts and mechanics.