Recipe for a Refreshing 5000er: Why Kazbek?

by: Dan Renyi

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Climbing is pretty much like cooking.

First you need a good recipe, then you have to get the necessary ingredients and utensils. And when you have all this the aventure can begin.

It went exactly like this last year when some of our mountain guides suddenly started to yearn for new flavors and challenges.

I bet you know the feeling. What do you do with it?

What they did with it was that they put their heads together, determined what constituted as a great new challenge for them, and they started to surf the internet for good recipes badass mountains.

Their description of “The Refreshing Challenge” was the following:

The mountain should…

  1. …be higher than 5,000m.
  2. …have a pinch of exotic feel.
  3. …not require long acclimatization; thus it could be climbed quickly.
  4. …not be over-crowded.
  5. …involve discovering a new place.
  6. …be cost-efficient.

Based on points 1, 2, and 4, the popular alpine 4000ers were quickly excluded. Points 3 and 6 ruled out far-away giants, simply because they are hard to reach.

Slowly, the ideal recipe adventure was taking shape: the Caucasus!

Only some little details needed specification: which peak? Elbrus? Not ideal (due to points 4 and 6). Dykh-Tau? Still not there (point 6, but even more point 3 rules it out). Let’s forget about Russia. Why not Georgia?

If you say Georgia, I say Kazbek!

  1. It is higher than 5,000m.
  2. It does have a good dose of exotic feel.
  3. It is so close to the village that you can climb it in two days, no kidding!
  4. It is not over-crowded yet.
  5. It does involve discovering a new place, since our guides hadn’t been there before.
  6. It is fairly cost-efficient – have I mentioned the low-cost flight going to Kutaisi?

So, they had a winner: the 5,047m-high Kazbek in this forgotten ex-Soviet state, Georgia.


The recipe was there, the ingredients and utensils were given (here’s their checklist); so the adventure could start.

The guys took a chance and flew out to Kutaisi. Was there risk in exploring Kazbek? Sure there was. That’s part of the adventure. But, as they recall, Kazbek had proven to be a freakishly good choice.

Georgia is ideal for you if you want to get away from the extensively (sometimes even overly) predictable infrastructure of the Alps but you are not (yet?) ready for a 3-month-long expedition in the Himalayas.

A crucial point to keep in mind: Georgia is very easy to navigate. Practically, every car is a taxi in Georgia, so no need for all the awkwardness of running back and forth between stations. You can get to the mountain amazingly quickly and easily.

On Kazbek the daily elevation gains and distances are considerable and the glaciers are wild, compared to what you have gotten used to in the Alps.


If you are hungry for an extraordinary experience, you’ll surely get it in the hut. Let’s just say, you won’t have to deal with strict booking rules, inflexible personnel, or a lot of regulation.

(But of course you shouldn’t expect hut slippers or Wiener schnitzel either…)

Or, are you one of those tough dudes that fancy camping? No problem. It’s not Gouter Hut, nobody will drag you into the hut and charge you or remove the tent from over your head.

Last but not least, note that you can climb this cool 5000er in 3-4 days, comfortably. The peak photo won’t be disappointing.

photo climb kazbek georgia

But watch out!

Don’t take all this for granted. Just like when cooking, your success depends on a lot of things. The good news is, this recipe is tested and in most of the alpine gourmets it left an awesome taste.

Of course, not everybody managed to make the most of it. But it is not the recipe that was the problem. The truth is, peak success usually depends on one simple thing.

Want to know what it is? Read about the simple truth here.