Page 38 - SA Mountain Issue 64
P. 38

‘Don’t ever mention German ef ciency to me again,’ snapped Mandy, as we sat on a delayed Lufthansa  ight, contemplating missing our connection. When we  nally reached Munich airport, the air-bridge jammed and the shuttle broke down
– and we were only spared a night on the terminal  oor because our connecting  ight was also late.
 by matthew holt
Mandy Ramsden and I were travelling to Georgia, a small, rugged land in the Caucasus, which has given the world wine cultivation and Joseph Stalin. We were taking advantage of a rare moment in its tempestuous history when it was deemed safe to visit – barring a Foreign Of ce warning to avoid two large tracts of land which had broken away in revolt.
Kazbek is steeped in legend. According to Greek mythology, it’s where Prometheus was chained by Zeus, for gifting  re to mankind, with an eagle visiting each day to tear out his liver. In Georgian folklore, the hubristic Amirani was also imprisoned here for likewise angering the gods. And to add some religious appeal, it’s said Christ’s manger somehow found its way into a cave on the peak and Abraham’s tent is actually pitched on the summit – though only the worthy can see it. Less alluringly, the local name for Kazbek translates as ‘freezing cold mountain’.
by three young gentlemen from the Alpine Club plus their Chamonix guide who – putting our itinerary to shame – also narrowly failed on Ararat and made the  rst undisputed ascent of Elbrus’s east peak (unaware it was 21 metres lower than the west one.)
Our plan was to climb Mount Kazbek (5047 metres), which isn’t the country’s highest peak, but seemed far easier to access and pronounce than Shkhara (5193 metres), with less risk of being kidnapped. Besides,
Kazbek was  rst climbed in July 1868,
We arrived in Tbilisi in the soft light of dawn, miraculously accompanied by our baggage. Set in the meanders of the Mtkvari River, the city’s charm has survived being formerly part of the Soviet Union, with its architecture an eclectic blend of ancient churches, old fortresses, modern steel towers and futuristic glass domes.

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