Friday, April 20th 2018

Hike to Chalaadi glacier, Svaneti, Georgia

After settling down and exploring a bit of Mestia the previous evening we decided to wake up early and hike to Chalaadi glacier, the closest one to the village. With a map of hiking trails from the information office we made our way through the jungle of construction site and dust veil in the center of Mestia. To reach the start of this trail you need to cross the river and walk towards the airport and keep left at road forks. chaaladi glacier svaneti georgia 02 Then walk along the Mestiachala river into the valley till you reach the merger of two rivers. We faced the green valley and snowy peaks in the distant. The road to the airport and further to the merging of the rivers is dusty and full of traffic. Huge trucks were passing every 10-15mins. This was quite annoying as they raised clouds of dust and we had to keep off the road for a while. Unfortunately this is about half of the hike to the glacier, but nothing we could do. At the confluence of the rivers we crossed a suspension bridge in the direction of Chalaadi valley. chaaladi glacier svaneti georgia 07 The trails goes through the woods along the Chalaadi river which was coming straight from glacier. Being in the shade after 1,5h in the heat, feeling the cold breath from the river was really refreshing. I dipped my hand into the water and it was ice cold. I had an urge to get into the water to refresh myself but the river was too fast, and probably too cold. chaaladi glacier svaneti georgia The rest of the hike goes along a path in the woods and soon comes to the open valley. From here it is another 700-1000meter till the glacier drift which is the source of the river. And we could already see the mount Chatini partly covered in snow. We stopped to have a bit of rest on boulder before the final dash to the glacier. chaaladi glacier svaneti georgia 04 This last stretch follows the marked trail and comes to a field of rocks with a couple of streams which we had to walk-climb-slip-jump-crawl… The lower part of the glacier (which is right above the glacier’s mouth) is almost completely covered with small rocks and stones. And I could not see that it was part of the glacier from distance. chaaladi glacier svaneti georgia 09 Considering that glaciers are moving very slowly but constantly no surprise all these boulders and stones roll down the sides of the mountains unto the glacier itself. chaaladi glacier svaneti georgia 10 When we came closer small stones were constantly sliding here and there down into the water. The ice was melting and water was running and dripping everywhere. The outside temperature was about 30*C. Still surprising how this mass of ice keeps low temperature inside.

chaaladi glacier svaneti georgia 05We ran out of water by the time we were crossing the suspension bridge about an hour ago. I hoped to find a spring or a stream with clean water but the only source of water was the glacier and the river. Not sure whether the water was good for drinking, i was jumping from a boulder to boulder when I saw a Georgia guy filling a bottle with water. I asked him, and he confirmed that I will not die if I drink that. I followed his example and the water tasted great – cold, refreshing, but as melted snow. I am sure you know the taste. Every kid tried to eat snow when thirsty.

After having some rest and taking a couple of memorable I-am-in-front-of-the-glacier pictures we tried to climb up the glacier.
chaaladi glacier svaneti georgia 08

The attempt was not very successful. Stones were sliding shaking us off and down the hill. We decided not to persist in order to avoid breaking our legs, hands and necks.

Sitting on big rocks we contemplated the life of the glacier for a bit longer. I am still amazed that this mass of ice formed somewhere at the top of the mountain is constantly moving down. We don’t see this but the motion never stops.

The way back was the reverse of the morning walk: nice walk through the woods, crossing the bridge and long walk along the dusty road with huge trucks passing by. When we reached Mestia we were pretty tired. According to the Svaneti Trekking website create by the Union “Mountain-Tourism Center in Upper Svaneti” (SMTC) this hike takes about 6 hours. We made it within 8 hours as we had to walk for an extra  hour to the start of the trail.

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