Trip to Svaneti or The best hike I’ve ever done. Part II

Shkhara mountain

We got up as the sun filled our room with light, looked through the window and caught a sight of our day’s destination – the Shkhara mountain’s glacier. Shkhara is the highest point in Georgia and one of the highest peaks in the whole Caucasus mountain range. Needless to say, it is a marvelously looking wonder of nature.

The Ushguli village
(Ushguli village)

It is not that easy to find a path leading to the hiking trail in Ushguli. As we were wandering in search we met a German couple. They found themselves in the same situation as we did, so finally, after some more wandering around, we found the right path together. And so our trip began.

Ushguli village
(Leaving Ushguli behind)

It’s wonderful how easy it is to become friends with people you just met while traveling. Even if it is just for a day. Conversation keeps going and going, it’s like you haven’t seen your friend in a long while and you have to catch up. So, as we talked about travels, education, jobs, politics and relationships we hiked further and further into the beautiful and untouched nature of Svaneti.

Hiking in the Caucasus mountains

At first we crossed our paths with some freely roaming horses, then we reached a few herds of cows. They don’t interfere with a beautiful scenery, on the contrary. But they do leave some traces behind, if you know what I mean. And that wouldn’t be a problem if not for one little detail. Not far from the beggining of the trail we had to cross a mountain stream (it was extremely cold but not that deep and strong when we crossed it in the morning and it was waaay worse when we were heading back, so if you find yourself hiking the trail, start as early as you can). We could feel the stings of the freezing water strongly but on the hot summer day it was very refreshing – relaxed our feet and gave us new impulses of energy. The traces the cows left behind weren’t that nice though, considering we were walking barefoot to dry up our legs. 🙂 However, walking barefoot was a good idea, as the second stream we had to cross was not far ahead.

Hiking in the Caucasus mountains

After some more hiking we reached an arrow with a sign “Shkhara” leading us to the other side of the river. So we did cross it through a very broken bridge. It was scary, actually.

Hiking to the Shkhara's glacier
(crossing the river)

But the further we went, the more we felt that something wasn’t right. The trail was dwindling and then disappeared completely. So, we were left with two choices. We could either go back and cross the bridge again, which was definitely not safe, or we could find a place where the river wasn’t very wide and try to cross it. We didn’t really want to go back so we chose the later. To our disappointment, there was no narrow segment, so we decided to just try. The German guy went first and was in the middle of a pretty wide river when us, girls, decided that crossing was not an option anymore as we couldn’t handle the pain caused by the ice cold water and sharp rocks underneath our feet. So the poor guy had to suffer some more and come back to the shore again. And we crossed the bridge which we so much wanted to avoid once more. 🙂

Hiking to the Shkhara mountain's glacier

After quite a stressful adventure we remembered we haven’t eaten anything that day so we sat on the rocks and had a nice picnic. I always love to bring food to beautiful places as it tastes so much better that way! After we got some rest, it was time to continue our journey. As every hiker experiences, it is so much harder to walk after resting for a while but we managed.

Hiking in the Caucasus mountains

You should know that the hiking trail from Ushguli to the Shkhara’s glacier is pretty easy if you just keep walking the original path. But the one unintentional detour I’ve already told you about was not the only one we took, so we made our hike a lot more challenging than it was supposed to be.

Going to the Shkhara's glacier

At one point we saw a path leading up to the mountain and decided that it must be the right one. It wasn’t. 🙂 But we didn’t realize that until we climbed quite high and there was nowhere else to go. And so, climbing down the hill began.

Hiking in the Caucasus mountains
(up to the mountain!)

Finally, we found the right path, which was leading into kind of a small forest. We needed to jump over quite a few narrow streams and swamps so it was very useful we took wooden sticks we found on our way. After some more hiking on the rocks, we found ourselves in the middle of the glacier, climbed up a huge rock and just chilled out for some time admiring the views and feeling happy about the adventure we just had.

Skhrara mountain glacier

The journey back to Ushguli wasn’t that difficult as by then we knew exactly where to go. The only surprise was the condition of the streams we crossed before. It was getting late and the weather wasn’t that hot anymore, so water seemed even colder and the streams were much stronger, deeper and wider. The wooden sticks were of service once again as we were afraid a strong stream could throw us off.

Shkhara mountain glacier

We reached Ushguli tired and with huge smiles on our faces as it was one of the best hikes we have ever done. And for the perfect ending of that day, we had a few pints of well-deserved Georgian beer in a local bar to celebrate our adventure. 🙂

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