Monday, 13 April 2009

Geography and weather of Tusheti

Georgia is a country the size of Switzerland but proud of some of the highest mountains in Europe and Tusheti represents the very best of those mountains. OK there are others in Georgia but these are hard to beat.

It's situated beyond the main Ridge of Caucasioni, on its Northern slope, between the latitudes 42°32´-42°22´ North and longitudes 63°17´-63°22´ East. Have a look at Google maps .

The region is about 1650 -4493 meters above sea level and covers around 896 square kilometers of territory. Really quite small but don't be fooled it's size. This is high country and at times quite difficult to get from A to B without a mountain in the way.

The climate in Tusheti is considerd to be continental and according to the web the average temperature in July- August is around 14-15°C although on a daily basis it can be a great deal hotter. The average tempreature in January and February is 3-8C although the tempreature can go as low as -13 to -15 C. Snow can last for around 5 to 6 months during the winter and fall to a depth of approx 2 meters (I've seen in far deeper) but I understand this can be as little as 0.3 metres although I would like to know when?

The annual rainfall ,hail and snow combined is approximately 450-900 mm and around 69% falls between April and September.

You can expect cloud on 5,5 days in the summer months but for most of the summer the sky is clear once the morning mist has cleared.

Hail is uncommon while sleet is quite usual. This is not to say it never happens, when it does make sure you are safe.

Tusheti is not windy and there is often a soft breeze throughout the day.

The Average speed of wind is 7-14 MPS and wind blows only 10% of time in year.

So Tusheti is exceptionally cold in the winter and pleasantly warm in the summer with potentially chilly nights.(making it easy to sleep in high summer unlike other parts of Georgia)

As climates go Tusheti has it's dramtic moments with violent rain or hail in the summer but these are short lived leaving behind a magical climate in the summer months . Be very careful about the sun and use sunblock,especially lip balm.On a long hike the sun will take its casualties.

Remember don't be fooled by many of the statistics you might find on the web.Weather conditions in the mountains can change swiftly and extremes can occur with little or no notice. Always be prepared for wet weather in the summer and expect on occasions exceptionally cold nights in the summer. A good example was a trip we took to Oreti lake . In the space of 10 mins we came across a hail storm with hail the size of peas and within 30 mins we were ankle deep in ice. This was after a magnificent climb in T shirts and no sign of the appalling weather to come.

Back to the facts .

Tusheti sits on the boarder of Dagestan in the east, Pshav-Khevsureti in the west, Chechnya-Ingushetia in the north and Eastern Kaheti in the south. The region is bordered with high ridges at around 3000-4500 meters. Among them, the most gorgeous is the northern ridge with its magnificent high peaks: Tebulo Mount (4492 m), Komito (4261 m), Dano Mount (4174 m) and Diklosmta (4285 m). These peaks make up the Tusheti Alps, dividing it from Chechnya-Ingushetia. You will need a good map to get to grips with these facts.

Inner Tusheti is made up from deep valleys ( gorges),mainly the Pirikiti Gorge in the north and Gometseri Gorgia in the south. Chagma or Chanchakhovani is considerd the third but I always thought it lead into Pirikiti. Any ideas??

There are footpaths from the Pirikiti Gorge to Gometseri Gorge connecting the two valley's. These are the paths of Larovani (3317 m) and Nakle-Kholi (2903 m) both of which can be ridden on horseback with the most amazing Tusheti horse's. There is a road that takes you between Pirikiti and Gometseri but I have no idea what it's called, however it's the road taken by all the 4WD Lada's.

This mountainous region is a blend of turbulant rivers and ravines fed by cascading streams and waterfalls ,all flowing into the two main rivers of Tusheti – the Gometseri Alazani and Pirikiti Alazani. The Gometseri Alazani is born from the mountain called Borbalo (3134 m) flowing swiftly to the east. Between the hamlets of Gogurlta and Dochu the Ortskali river flows into the Gometsari Alazani while the Chanchakhovani Tskali flows into Gometsari Alazani at the village of Khakhabo.

The Pirikita Alazani flows from the Amugo Mountain (3839 m) and below the village of Hegho, the Larovani Tskali it joins the Pirikita as it flows north-east, in parallel to the Gometsari Alazani. As this river flows it met by the running waters from the Tusheti Alps. These are: Hashaki Tskali, Katsi Tskali, Dano Tskali, Kvavlo Tskali and others.

As I've mentioned earlier the two Alazanis meet each other at the village of Shenako creating one torrent flowing towards Dagestan, where I've discoverd the river becomes known as the ‘Andis Koisu’flowing onto the Caspian Sea as the ‘ Sulaki’. In short there's loads of water and fording these rivers and streams is a daily occurance as you travel around the region .

The following pictures are an illustration of the peaks , passes and boarders we encountered while traveling in Tusheti . A sort of family selection of great views demonstrating the terrain with a couple of river shots, well it paints a picture.,

This shot is taken from Oreti Lake. A Glacial lake looking down on the Chagma Valley.

And here is Oreti lake to put the previous shot into context. Don't be fooled this is a vast landscape.

The two valleys at the centre of this shot are Pirikiti on the right and Gometseri on the left .

It's difficult to appreciate this picture but it illustrates where the Abano pass is looking down from Oreti lake. I believe the pass is to the left on the horizon but what do I know?

This is a shot taken first thing in the morning looking out across Tusheti . You can see Chechnya on the horizon.

This picture illustrates the early stages of the Nakle Khole pass and the Pirikit valley below.

This is Melissa taking a rest at the top of the Nakle Khole pass after riding up from Parsma.It offers a good idea of the mountain range beyond Tusheti and of course a picture of my wife. You can expect to climb up onto the pass in the space of a morning. Coming down is a great deal easier but expect such a trip to take a day.

Here are my two daughters after climbing up onto the Nakle Khole pass. Well worth the climb ,providing Golden Eagles and Swifts in abundance - absolutely magical . Yes the horse's are very tired indeed. In the summer of 2007 I slipped off my horse and twisted my wrist just as we got to the top. Very stupid and made harder by the fact it rained while walking our horse's down off the pass to Verkhovani. My advice is be prepared for the worse and remember the mountains are to be respected at all times.

This is a view roughly from around Gogrulta looking across the Gometseri Gorge. Notice the foal, this was her first trip with her mother.

An odd shot but it illustrates the boarder between Tusheti and Dagestan. And of course the Georgian flag. Don't imagine you can cross into Dagestan with ease. The boarder guards are keeping a beedy eye out for anyone attempting to make a crossing.

This shot is taken of the Pirikiti Alazani flowing down from Hegho and Parsma

The girls fording one of the may tributaries feeding the Pirikiti A

More images to follow


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