All You Need To Know
Before travelling to Georgia on my own to climb Mount Kazbek, one of the second volcanic seven summits, I had hundreds of questions but couldn’t find a lot of sources online to answer them. Fortunately my wonderful guide was able to reply to all of them in advance.
Here’s a collection of the most relevant questions I had before my trip and first hand answers 🙂
I hope you’ll find them useful when planning your trip!
How long does it take to climb Mount Kazbek?
Usually, it takes around 3 to 4 days to climb Mount Kazbek, depending on your fitness level. You can reach the summit in 3 days and then decide whether or not to spend another day at Betlemi Hut or directly go back to Stepantsminda, which would require you to cover 3300 vertical meters on the way back. It even would be possible to do it in as quick as 2 days, if you’re already acclimatized and in a strong physical condition.
How difficult is the climb?
While Mount Kazbek is considered an easy 5000m peak, you should take the climb seriously. Even though there’s no technical sections, you need to be in good shape and well acclimatized. Especially the summit day covers around 1500m altitude gain. You should be able to walk for at least 10h on different terrains and high altitude.
Any beginner can climb Mount Kazbek with enough preparation and a reliable guide.
Is it dangerous to climb Mount Kazbek?
Climbing Mount Kazbek, or climbing any mountain, is dangerous. But you can minimize risks easily through good preparation and experience. If you don’t have enough knowledge about mountain climbing yet, hire a guide.
- Never go on your own or without being roped up on the glacier! Never! It’s a huge glacier with an extreme density of crevasses. They are literally everywhere, most of the time even covered by snow and cause a big threat to all those who decide to go on their own or without a rope!
- The hike from Altihut to Betlemi Hut already covers some rough areas, where you’d need to cross big rivers.
- Between Betlemi Hut and the glacier, you will have to cross a big couloir where rock fall is common.
- The next big threat is altitude. You’ll be climbing to 5000m elevation, therefore you need to be aware of early symptoms of AMS.
- Weather is unpredictable, white outs and snow storms are common. You need to have someone with you who knows the area well.
- There’s medical volunteers are Betlemi Hut. They have an own tent and equipment. If people experience symponts from AMS or have other conditions, they can get checked there.
- Helicopter rescue is possible but it’s private helicopters which need to be called by the mountain guides.
How should I train for Mount Kazbek and how fit should I be?
Mount Kazbek is not a technical climb. The most important skill you need to have for a successful climb is a good base fitness. Do long runs or hikes regularly starting from a few months in advance. Aim to work out a few times per week, running or hiking for at least a few hours.
How will I feel at high altitude?
This can’t really be answered, it depends on your fitness level, acclimatization, genetics. Most people have a minor to strong headache, feel nauseous and won’t be able to sleep. Also having a cough is common. Those feelings are normal. It’s best not to focus on them too much. If they don’t go away or get stronger, you should leave high altitude immediately.
What’s the best tips for good acclimatization on Kazbek?
- Drink as much as you can.
- Add minerals like magnesium and calcium to the water because the melted glacier water they use doesn’t contain any minerals.
- Don’t skip acclimatization hikes and try to have a long break when you reach altitude. The more time you spend at higher elevation before hiking back, the better.
- Walk slower than normal, always.
- Don’t focus too much on regular, minor symptoms of AMS. Try to distract yourself by doing some slow walks.
- Talk to other climbers about how they feel, you will see that everyone has issues with acclimatization.
- Don’t eat late, it takes much longer on altitude to digest food.
- Try to eat small portions throughout the day.
- Don’t push too hard.
- An increased heart rate is normal, even when not moving.
- Eat lots of carbs, like crackers and chocolate. That always makes me feel better 🙂
What is the best time to climb Kazbek?
The best time to climb Kazbek is during the summer months from June to September. The weather is quite stable, warm and more predictable during that time.
How high can I hike without crampons?
It is easily possible to hike to Altihut at around 3000m. From there, you can continue on rocks until the glacier starts, which is around halfway to Betlemi Hut. The structure of the glacier in that spot is similar to Europe’s glaciers, therefore it’s most of the times not required to use crampons. Once you reach Betlemi Hut, you can continue on the summit trail for a couple of hours until you reach 4000m and the edge of the upper glacier. Please be careful, that passage has lots of rockfall and slippery terrain. There’s no exposed sections, but it’s steep and there’s a few snowfields you might have to cross on the way.
It’s probably a two day hike from Stepantsminda, you’d gain around 2100m of altitude until reaching the upper glacier.
Are there porters to carry my gear?
There’s no porters at Kazbek, however, you can rent a horse to get your gear carried to Betlemi Hut. It costs around 100 Euros one way per horse, usually two people can share one. The people of Kazbegi take good care of the horses, they treat them well.
Do I have to stay at Betlemi Hut?
There’s also a possibility to stay at Altihut instead of Betlemi Hut. Please consider that Altihut is located at an altitude of only 3000m. While you can reach the summit in one push from Betlemi Hut, you probably wouldn’t be able to do the same from Altihut, because staying there would add at least 2h more to the itinerary. There’s also some dangerous passages between Altihut and Betlemi Hut where the trails are blocked by rivers.
What’s the condition of Betlemi Hut?
It’s quite a rough hut. You can’t really compare it to the Alps. Especially the restrooms are not maintained. Make sure to wear a mask and proper shoes when entering, due to the smell and dirt there. The rooms are extremely old and cold. There’s a possibility to camp right in front of the hut, but still you’d be required to use the same restrooms which cause the main issue there. The left side of the hut therefore is really nice. It offers a lovely restaurant with good food, coffee and a stove to warm up. That entire part is taken care of by Climbing Georgia Mountain Guides. You can tell immediately that they know how to handle business. It’s warm, it’s clean and well maintained.
How much does it cost to climb Mount Kazbek?
A guided climb of Mount Kazbeks costs between 500€ and 750€, depending on the group size and whether or not you choose to have your gear carried by a horse to Betlemi Hut.
Which guiding company should I choose?
There’s a big variety of companies organizing trips to Mount Kazbek. I can highly recommend Climbing Georgia. All guides are certified, have plenty of experience and know the area well. Just as an example, their guides have climbed mountains like Khan Tengri, Everest, Ushba, Shkhara and several 8000m peaks. Also they are the only company who are able to get you evacuated by helicopter if necessary. Because they also take care of the well maintained part of the hut, you’ll have a much better experience at Betlemi. I went there on my own and felt so safe climbing with them.
Is it worth to climb Mount Kazbek?
Mount Kazbek is one of the volcanic second seven summits, located at the border region between Russia and Georgia. It’s a beautiful peak. From it’s summit you get incredible views of the Caucasus, as well as Ushba and Elbrus.
Is Kazbek safe for female solo travelers?
Kazbek is very safe for women going on their own, as long as you take general mountaineering precautions, like never to climb on your own. If you travel to Kazbegi alone, please hire a guide for the climb. I had a private guide booked.
Do I have phone service on Kazbek?
There’s slow phone service at Betlemi Hut, but no coverage further up as well as the summit. Magti is the only provider which works in that area.
Do people speak English at Kazbek?
You can expect people to speak a bit of English, on my opinion a lot more than in Russia. Polish is very commonly spoken, as well as Russian. Also some people speak German. Most guides speak English.
It’s always a good idea to use Yandex Translate App and get the offline translator loaded before your trip.
Which one is better to climb, Mount Kazbek or Mount Elbrus? How can they be compared?
Mount Kazbek and Mount Elbrus are not technical climbs. Gear and preparation for both mountains are similar. Hence, there’s also some big differences. While the infrastructure on Elbrus is very well developed, Kazbek has the characteristics of a mini expedition.
There’s only a couple of huts at Kazbek, while Elbrus offers a big variety of stays. Also it’s common to use a gondola to get to the higher huts at Elbrus, from there you can also take a Ratrack to almost 5000m. There’s no such infrastructure on Kazbek. You need to walk all the way to the summit. However, horses can be used to carry gear to Betlemi Hut at 3600m.
From a climbing perspective, I’d consider Kazbek slightly more difficult. It’s final section is steeper, there’s more crevasses on the glacier and also rockfall in the couloir is common. Summit day covers almost 12h and 3300m elevation gain.
The views from top of Kazbek are better than on Elbrus, on my opinion. But Elbrus is an amazing climb as well!
What gear is required to climb Mount Kazbek?
Here’s the gear I used for the climb 🙂