GUIDED SKI & SPLITBOARD EXPEDITION
For centuries, the Upper Svaneti region in northwestern Georgia has existed as one of the most geographically isolated regions in the world. With a turbulent history of kingdoms, annexations and wars, the medieval villages that dot the area are strategically situated on mountain slopes in the shadows of 3,000-5,000m summits. Ancient Svan architecture features castle-like tower houses built to serve in defense against invaders during the 9th-12th centuries. Today, the towers of Upper Svaneti are protected by UNESCO - reminders of the region's rich cultural heritage - and are perfect for scoping the insane mountain backdrops that envelop the valley in every direction.
Almost half of the highest peaks of the Greater Caucasus are located in Svaneti, making it the perfect base for exploring Eurasia's most impressive mountain range. The climate is heavily influenced by its proximity to the Black Sea and is characterized by mild temperatures and heavy snowfall. The timing of our 2017 expedition is intended to take advantage of early season pow conditions, enabling our ski-in/ski-out model from the villages where we'll be based.
AVAILABILITY & REQUIREMENTS
Participants must be advanced to expert level skiers or snowboarders, with at least 1 year off-piste/touring experience. Participation does not require any formal avalanche safety certification or glacier travel or ski mountaineering experience.
Splitboards are required for snowboarders. Participants must additionally be prepared with essential touring and avalanche safety gear. We will distribute a mandatory gear list closer to the expedition start date.
Participants must be in excellent physical condition, and comfortable touring for long distances carrying their own backcountry packs.
Georgia offers a visa-free policy for most nationalities. See here for the full list of countries included in this visa-free policy.
JANUARY 14-24, 2017
Our 11-day guided ski and splitboard expedition begins in the capital city, Tbilisi, where we will stay in Old Town and spend our first day exploring its cobblestone streets, historic neighborhoods and markets. From Tbilisi, it is a ~5-hour drive through the Georgian countryside before we turn north and enter the mountains at the mouth of the Enguri River Valley. From there it is a further 2.5 hours, winding and climbing alongside the river before the valley opens up and we catch our first glimpse of the towering peaks and famous towers of Upper Svaneti.
The itinerary highlights village to village tours, meaning big ups and big descents to each next village where we will be met by our support vehicles and bags. Our very first night in the valley will be spent in a comfortable family-run guesthouse in Latali, where we will gather around the fireplace, pull out the maps, and get psyched on the adventure ahead. The next morning we will transfer to Etseri, where we'll experience an authentic taste of Svan culture while bunking up in a local family's home. We'll spend 3 days exploring the huge variety of terrain above the village while taking in unreal views of Mt. Ushba (4,710m) and the Svaneti Range to the south. From Etseri we will tour over to Becho, where the unexpectedly nice Grand Hotel Ushba (actually a small guesthouse) and a fine dining experience awaits. After a few days riding beneath the towering Mt. Ushba we will tour up and over Guli Pass and descend to the town of Mestia. Mestia is the most developed and "tourist-friendly" towns in the region, making it a good place to land after our time in the smaller villages. From here we'll explore the developing ski resort, Tetnuldi, which offers lift-served access to some amazing touring beneath the 10th highest peak in the Caucasus, Tetnuldi (4,858m). Conditions allowing, we will cap things off with a descent off the backside of the Tetnuldi ski resort to the isolated village of Adishi, which has no road access during the winter months. We will stay a night with one of the handful of families that lives there year-round, before touring back out and returning to Latali for a traditional feast to celebrate our final night in Svaneti.
To get a better taste of the adventure that awaits, be sure to scope our Georgia photo gallery from our inaugural expedition in February 2016!
ACMG Splitboard Guide Ty Mills will Lead Guide with 40 Tribes’ Founder & Director Ryan Koupal as Tail Guide. Ryan tail guided our inaugural Georgia expedition and is stoked to return with Ty to further explore zones that he just scratched the surface of last year. Meet our guide team.
Our Georgia expedition is a collaborative endeavor between 40 Tribes and our good friends at Svaneti Backcountry, headed up by Norwegian Audun Lutnæs. Audun was a 40 Tribes client in Kyrgyzstan in 2012 and was inspired by his experience to create a similarly-themed backcountry ski tourism program in Georgia. We are stoked to join forces on this one of a kind adventure.
7 DAYS RIDING/11 DAYS TOTAL
Participants will need to arrive in Tbilisi (airport code TBS) on or before January 14. We will return to Tbilisi by late afternoon/evening on January 23 for departures on January 24.
40 Tribes Lead and Tail Guides; Airport transfers; 3 nights hotel accommodation in Old Town Tbilisi (most flights arrive TBS during the pre-dawn hours, so we will book accommodation for the nights of Jan 13 and 14, as well as Jan 23); Round-trip ground transport between Tbilisi and Upper Svaneti (approx 7-8 hours each way); Vehicle transport for our overnight gear between villages/towns in Svaneti (or vehicle transport for us and our overnight gear if conditions don't allow for village to village touring); 8 nights homestay/guesthouse accommodation in Svaneti; All meals in Svaneti, including a traditional Svan feast on our final night; Lift tickets for lift-access touring days at Tetnuldi ski resort; 7 days of epic guided skiing/splitboarding!
PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE
Airfare and baggage fees; Medical/evacuation insurance; Meals in Tbilisi; Lunches on transport days to/from Svaneti; Alcohol; Tips for guides.
A 20% deposit is required to secure your spot, with the remainder due 4 months prior to the expedition start date.