The Western Gate of Tusheti-hiker’s paradise-GPS-MAP-TIPS

The breathtaking hike “Tbatana –Alaznistavi-Orwkali” starts in the Akhmeta Municipality, small town Akhmeta. You have a choice, either hire a taxi to the beginning of the mountain road up to Tbatana and then walk, or drive up all the way up to Tbatana and start your hike the next day. The mountain road begins right after village Zdibakhevi in Pankisi gorge, on the left bank of the river Batzara, just go over the bridge and turn left and you are on the very road to Tbatana.
hike “Tbatana –Alaznistavi-Orwkali” is unique not only in the sense of beauty and bewildering scenery, but also it is one of the last remaining wilderness posts in Tusheti.
Here I will try to describe the path as closely as possible with valuable tips , which will help you to be prepared for walking on quite a difficult terrain.
First of all the situation on the path and difficulty level depends on the season and weather greatly. Levels can shift drastically by different weather and during different season. As the path goes on a higher altitude of 2800-2900 danger of violent hailstorm and thunderstorm is created even during occasional and temporary weather moods. So:
1) don’t set up your tent on a higher altitude, find the place lower . As the PLACE is really rare here, contrary to space, one can count common camping places tested by shepherds.
a) Masara-shepherd place. There is enough flat ground not to roll down , but the altitude is though not dangerous (2700 m) , but cold. There is no firewood. So it can be quite cold during the night. The alternative to it is Tsiplovana gorge-right below Massara –Shepherd’s place , where you can spend the night on a handful of sand land right beside the river.on the altitude of 1956 m It is warmer and there is enough firewood to burn your fire through all the night, but the wood is full of bears, though they never attack, and in June the water level rises, which makes it difficult to cross the river and covers the shallow sand islands- the only land there to spend the night.
b) IF you are not a quick walker and can not reach Masara-shepherd place in one day, which is not surprising due to difficult ascents and terrain, also there can be different reasons, late timing, bad weather and so on there are several possibilities. Occasional flat slopes along the IRON path, viewpoint or even the pass-the highest place from where you start descent-and which is the exact half-walk on that part of the path-Tbatana-Tsiplovana gorge.
c) Timing-The Sakorne pass-which begins from Tsiplovana gorge-is the hardest and highest ascent on the piece-Tbatana-Alaznistavi. From 1956 m you go up to 2922 m steep ascent which is relieved by Z shaped curves on the slope. Because of these Z shaped curves one changes direction many times at the beginning of the ascent. Sheer 800 meters of the ascent are stretched to 3 km .After one reaches the middle of the mount paths part,one starts going straight up to the very top of Sakorne mount, the second goes to the right making a circle around the top and going over the Sakorne pass. The ascent here is not so steep. We used the first path, because of the views. Time of ascent from 3 to 5 hours. It can be much prolonged during bad weather and if the visibility is blocked there is danger of misdirection or being lost. So better start the ascent early in the morning and never try it after 2 p.m. because you have to go down the same length before you reach Alaznistavi valley.
2) Water– is a problem because from Sakisto spring to Masara Shepherd’s place you never meet any water. Also from Sakorne to Alaznistavi you should take enough quantity of water.
3) Marking-The path was marked in July-August 2016 from Tbatana to Tsiplovana gorge. I took the GPS coordinates of the whole route. The signs will significantly help on this most puzzling and wild part of the path Tbatana-Tsiplovana. Anyway I would recommend to take GPS on this route strongly.
4) Dogs-along this track there are a lot of Shepherds places which are guarded by dogs. But the situation is manageable if you take into consideration the following information. A shepherd’s dog is a guardian of its owner’s property-that is a shepherd’s hut, or cow herd or sheep flock. It means that you are not allowed to find yourself near the place where all these three stand or graze , so they are not after you, they are just fulfilling their commitments and as long as you are maintaining distance showing that you are not trying to invade their territory they will just bark and watch you and will never attack.
BUT there can be some more complex situations than that, for example if the path runs through grazing area and you can’t keep far enough from the herd, actually you are running into it. Usually cow herds are watched by one or two dogs, you have to show them that you are prepared and dangerous too . Take a stick, a stone and throw and wave them just to keep them away and try to go past the herd quickly into neutral lands.
IF you can’t cope or you are too much afraid call for the shepherd, they are usually there and will help you.
5) Best time –end of July half of August. Good weather, water level low by crossing the Tsiplovana river. Shepherds active on the road, because it is time to bring cheese down to the Kakheti valley and it is also sheep shearing period, busy active time, more people at Binas . early June and late September usually mean respectively high water level by crossing The Tsiplovana river, which sometimes is impossible without special skills and gear and is quite dangerous. Thunderstorm and hail in September, which can cause serious body injury (a horse killed in 2016) and lightning strike which can be fatal.But the first half of September is relatively good and it offers stunning views on misty and cloudy mountain chains which you would never forget. But in worse case you would walk along the path with a meter long visibility only. So it is a risk as everything on this path.
6) Treacherous secondary paths-the actual path is usually crossed by tens of different paths which are mostly better readable than your “highway” because they are more frequently used by shepherds. Those paths lead either to shepherd’s places or to grazing slopes. We put a sign to every such important crossing , but for an unskilled eye there can be more crossing which can cause some doubt, that’s why GPS makes it far more easier by identifying the direction to the next coordinate to tell the right path from the wrong one.

LANDMARKS :

Tbatanistavi (Sakisto )Lake– it is a small pond from which the path runs to the right uphill. There is also a spring on the left side of the pond. Such mountain lakes –actually ponds of size from 10 meters to 100 m radius are scattered all around the Tbatana territory, but this one is an important landmark for keeping the right direction. The distance from Tbatana to Sakisto Lake is not more than 2 km. One cuts the mountain road with a path which runs into the road shortly before arriving at the lake.
Tbatanistavi (Sakisto) spring- is the last water supply until Masara Shepherd’s Place. It is below the path in the small deep gorge , So you have to go several meters down to find it. It is on the part of the path where after gaining the first range-Sakisto range- the path runs horizontally around the slopes, right on the place where you literally slip between two hills encircling the one from the left side and proceeding to the right slope of the other there you should look for the Sakisto spring-your last water filling destination for at least 8-10 hours.

Sakois (Sakvavia) Crossroad– it is not actually a crossroad in a sense you are used to imagining it, But it is a very important place from where either you go right direction or you can be misled by a treacherous path. This place is very near to Sakisto spring and is also very easy to identify visually. It is a natural viewpoint from where views on different mountain ranges running to the end of horizon are fully open. I called the path treacherous because it really is. This is Sakvavia path which leads to a Shepherd’s place and is in a better shape than the actual one, it is very well readable and you can see it even by fog. Sakvavia path goes to the left and down and the IRON ROAD path-your actual track- goes to the right , first on a horizontal even range to the foot of the next mountain you have to mount and then strictly up. The beginning of the IRON ROAD path is also readable, not so well as Sakvavia but still. Then until the foot of the mountain it runs into numerous paths made by cattle and sheep. So the main thing is direction! Keep parallel the small range you are following until the foot of the mountain. Here also are signs made in July 2016 (hope still intact)
The Gate– after walking on the rocky path of IRON ROAD and gaining some altitude you go through another small flat valley so rare on the path and after some hundred meters of relatively horizontal walk you see the place which I called THE GATE. The impression is formed because of cliffs through which the path winds to the left on the right slope of the following range hill . here also we put signs , an arrow showing the entrance and a sign double checking the direction.
The viewpoint- another small flat bowl on a much higher altitude right along the path. In good weather breathtaking views are at your disposal from there. It can even serve as a camp-site by good weather which would allow you to see the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets in your life.
The Pass– the highest point, the climax from where one start descending and then proceeding towards Masara mount. It is not far from the viewpoint. It is actually very small distance between them. Also flat bowl, possibility for camping, but only by good weather. From this place the path runs to the left following the shape of the range and after passing through some rocky terrain starts almost vertical descent loosing height very quickly and when reaching the lowest point creeping steadily up with small steep ascents casually (three or four of them altogether)
Massara Mount– after going through rocky even fictional scenery especially when it is foggy when you see Masara Mount you feel warmth towards it in the bottom of your heart, because it is as green and as hospitable as ever and as easy as never before. Masara Mount is pyramid shaped green mountain which you encircle following a horizontal well-readable easy path until the Massara Shepherd’s place and your first water filling destination after at least 8-10 hour’s walk.
The Tsiplovana River-From Masara Shepherd’s place the path literally falls into the gorge. It is the steepest descent on that road. By reaching the small creek the path goes round the slope and enters the forest. The rest of the path until the river runs through the forest. It took us more than two hours to go down, so it is not as easy as it seems. we left an arrow sign on the place where one should cross the river and start the path, but one can easily find the place also without the arrow. first, the path ends right at the small estuary which flows from the right side and joins the Tsiplovana river. when crossing the river several meters downwards along the river there begins the path. at first the slope seems too steep to climb it, but the Z shaped path makes it quite possible.
Sakorne mount– as I said before shepherds prefer spending night down at the riverside than up at Masara shepherd’s place. It is also easier because in the morning you start ascent right away and don’t have to walk two and a half hours before the hardest steepest Sakorne mountain ascent. After Z shapes you find yourself in the middle of the mountain from the right slope and start either straight ascent to the top or follow the path which goes up and round leading to the pass-the lowest place on the top of the ridge from where the next path to Alaznistavi begins.
The ridge –the main challenge when reaching the top of the mountain ridge is DIRECTION when the visibility is bad-mainly fog and clouds which is very common state of matters up there.
finding the lowest place-the pass-from where the path to Alaznistavi begins can be quite difficult and misdirection is as simple as that especially taking into consideration many different neighboring ridges in one place and accordingly many paths leading down to those different gorges. So in one word Sakorne pass is the most important and real CROSSROAD where one should take care of where one is going to.
The Alaznistavi path-the path begins right down the pass, several meters of steep descent will bring you to the path which goes round the slope . on the place where it enters the Alazanistavi gorge-you can already see the beginning of it –the path goes down following the grass covered undulating gigantic hill all the way down to the river, where you already find yourself legally in Alaznistavi valley.

The last bina-the bridge-following the path on the left side of the river Alazani one comes to the last Bina in Alaznistavi gorge where the bridge brings you to the right side of the river and from there begins the ascent – the path to Gometsari valley. 16 km is a long path. There are two difficult ascent right at the beginning of the path and near the end. The place where the second ascent begins is called Sachinchvle and is easy to identify. It is a drastic fall , a big bowl , maybe a meteor hitting place once. On Sachichvle ascent there is a Shepherd’s place and from there you will reach the first village of Gometsari gorge Vedziskhevi in less than 3 hours. Totally one needs 8 to 10 hours of walk . So here timing is also very important. From Vedziskhevi the less used but shortest path to Alisgori goes straight down to the small creek

from Alisgori one follows the car road until Iliurta. The car road parts –one direction down to main road the second up to Iliurta. On that place it is easy to choose the right route, just follow the one which goes up. The path from Iliurta to Vestomta is marked . at the end of the path one goes on the pass from which you can still not see the village Vestomta, you need several steps ahead to see it right below the pass. From Vestomta also the path is very easy to follow. The only problem are dogs, but we have already given tips about that topic. So read twice  the real ascent begins from Ortskali Bina. It is practically impossible to lose the track because you go up the one narrow gorge surrounded by impassable cliffs from left and right and is covered with all kinds of paths-Z lake for driving cattle easily, straight steep ones for horsemen . anyway all paths lead to Ortskali pass. The ascent can be divided into two phases the main ascent until the bowl with lakes and the last ascent from lakes to the top. The place where you begin to ask questions is the top. The only correct answer is GO LEFT and where the path becomes undecipherable go right and down because the road is somewhere very near and one can reach it very easily, just when you start moving down try to take the course to the right and you will find either the path or the road. This is the case when the clouds cover the top and you can see nothing, when the sun is shining you see everything and everything becomes CLEAR as day!
Once on the road you decide how to proceed your way, by car or on foot! You are not alone anymore. Welcome to Civilization! 

Distances roughly calculated:
Tbatana-Sakisto mount-4.47 km
Sakisto mount-the Pass- 6 km
The pass –Tsiplovana-5 km
Tsiplovana-Alaznistavi- 5 km
Alaznistavi-Vedziskhevi-16 km
Vedziskhevi-Vestomta- 8 km
Vestomta- Ortskali Bina-7 km
Ortskali Bina-Ortskali pass -6 km

Altogether roughly-58 km

with the help and support of The Administration of The Protected Landscape of Tusheti

project by Teo Kisilashvili . special thanks to Vano Mozaidze, Davit Pataridze and Gia Gulikashvili.

GPS coordinates:
N 42°13’05.2″ 739 m. The beginning of Tbatana car road
E 045°18’48.6″
N 42°13’06.3″ 754 m.
E 045°18’47.7″
N 42°16’15.5″ 1919 m. The first mark leaving the village
E 045°15’24.6″
N 42°16’15.2″ 1941 m.
E 045°15’24.9″

N 42°16’17.0″ 1949 m. The arrow showing how to cut the road
E 045°15’29.3″
N 42°16’20.1″ 1945 m. mark
E 045°15’25.0″
N 42° 16’32.5″ 1976 m.  Sakisto Lake
E 045° 15’10.1″
N 42° 16’55.2″ 1990 m. arrow
E 045° 14’49.9″
N 42° 17’12.4″ 2054 m.
E 045° 14’34.0″
N 42° 17’15.5″ 2064 m.
E 045° 14’34.4″
N 42°17’15.5″
E 045°14’34.5″
N 42° 17’22.6″ 2081 m.
E 045°14’34.9″
N 42°17’27.1″ 2152 m.
E 045°14’32.2″
N 42° 17’28.2″ 2169 m.  mark
E 045°14’30.3″
N 42°17’30.9″ 2316 m.
E 045°14’15.4″
N 42°17’30.9″ 2316 m.
E 045°14’15.5″
N 42°17’28.9″ 2238 m.  arrow
E 045°14’26.6″
N 42°17’31.0″ 2316 m
E 045°14’15.4″
N 42°17’31.0″ 2316 m.
E 045°14’15.2″
N 42°17’50.3″ 2420 m.
E 045°13’59.0″

N 42°17’50.4″ 2422 m.
E 045°13’59.1″
N 42°18’01.6″ 2465 m.
E 045°13’55.1″
N 42°18’47.5″ 2493 m.
E 045°13’15.0″
N 42°18’16.6″ 2486 m
E 045°13’37.5″
N 42°18’16.4″ 2507 m.
E 045°13’37.5″
N 42°18’30.9″ 2535 m.  Sakisto Srping
E 045°13’21.4″
N 42°18’47.5″ 2493  m. viewpoint
E 045°13’15.0″
N 42°19’00.2″ 2475 m. Sakvavia crossroad
E 045°13’18.2″
N 42°19’00.3″ 2509 m.
E 045°13’18.3″
N 42°19’15.4″ 2529  m. Double mark at the foot of the mountain
E 045°13’09.6″
N 42°19’19.5″ 2559 m.  mark
E 045°13’10.4″
N 42°19’29.5″ 2613 m.  mark
E 045°13’14.8″
N 42°19’34.3″ 2615 m. mark
E 045°13’27.0″
N 42°19’40.8″ 2655 m. Ascent
E 045°13’44.4″
N 42°19’43.9″ 2676 m. Flat bowl before THE GATE
E 045°13’53.2″
N 42°19’43.6″ 2684 m. mark
E 045°13’56.6″
N 42°19’44.4″ 2688 m. Arrow THE GATE
E 045°14’13.3″
N 42°19’44.5″ 2720 m.  Mark THE GATE
E 045°14’14.2″
N 42°20’06.8″ 2864 m.  Mark
E 045°14’44.4″
N 42°20’14.9″ 2869 m. Arrow (direction up)
E 045°14’45.4″

N 42°20’27.7″ 2910 m. mark double check
E 045°14’54.9″
N 42°20’58.0″ 2902 m. Arrow the pass
E 045°14’36.1″
N 42°21’18.9″ 2941 m. mark
E 045°14’42.2″
N 42°21’22.5″ 2916 m.
E 045°14’46.5″
N 42°21’26.8″ 2847 m.The lowest point
E 045°14’48.0″
N 42°21’28.1″ 2829 m. mark
E 045°14’45.5″
N 42°21’37.1″ 2836 m.
E 045°14’46.1″
N 42°21’42.5″ 2885 m. mark
E 045°14’51.1″
N 42°21’58.2″ 2862 m.
E 045°14’39.7″
N 42°22’08.8″ 2796 m. mark
E 045°14’44.2″
N 42°22’39.0″ arrow on Massara
E 045°15’07.1″
N 42°23’02.2″ 2290 m.
E 045°14’56.5″
N 42°23’02.5″ 1956 m. arrow
E 045°14’56.6″
N 42°23’40.1″ 2419 m.
E 045°15’33.3″
N 42°23’45.5″ 2464 m
E 045°15’31.8″
N 42°23’45.0″ 2481 m. Sakorne middle
E 045°15’31.8″
N 42°23’50.3″ 2623 m.
E 045°15’30.2″
N 42°23’56.7″ 2680 m
E 045°15’32.3″
N 42°23’57.8″ 2679 m.
E 045°15’32.7″
N 42°24’00.1″ 2719 m.
E 045°15’32.7″
N 42°24’01.2″ 2728 m.
E 045°15’33.2″
N 42°24’02.3″ 2776 m.
E 045°15’34.4″
N 42°24’02.7″
E 045°15’33.2″
N 42°24’06.0″
E 045°15’35.0″
N 42°24’08.9″ 2811 m.
E 045°15’37.0″
N 42°24’11.9″ 2845 m.
E 045°15’38.9″
N 42°24’14.5″ 2872 m.
E 045°15’44.7″
N 42°24’17.1″
E 045°16’13.1″
N 42°24’18.6″
E 045°16’16.0″
N 42°24’20.9″ 2922 m.  Sakorne top
E 045°15’51.4″
N 42°24’17.1″ 2856 m. Sakorne pass
E 045°16’13.1″
N 42°24’18.6″ 2814 m.
E 045°16’16.0″
N 42°24’25.5″ 2460 m.
E 045°16’52.3″
N 42°24’26.6″ 2643 m.
E 045°17’06.2″
N 42°24’39.7″ 2423 m.
E 045°17’24.6″
N 42°24’47.2″ 2206 მ
E 045°17’56.9″
N 42°24’44.9″ 2131 m.
E 045°18’43.9″
N 42°24’38.6″ 2182 m.
E 045°18’50.6″
N 42°24’38.6″ 2182 m
E 045°18’50.6″
N 42°24’38.2″ 2182 m
E 045°18’51.1″
N 42°24’38.1″ 2182 m
E 045°18’51.3″
N 42°24’08.5″ 2160 m.
E 045°19’40.7″
N 42°23’59.5″ 2166 m.
E 045°20’23.1″
N 42°23’53.9″ 2143 m.
E 045°20’55.6″
N 42°23’46.5″ 2117 m.
E 045°21’07.7″
N 42°23’44.0″ 2112 m.
E 045°21’17.1″
N 42°23’41.4″ 2110 m.
E 045°21’29.0″
N 42°23’31.1″ 2100 m.
E 045°22’01.1″
N 42°22’49.9″
E 045°23’24.2″
N 42°22’49.3″ 2046 m. bridge
E 045°23’57.9″
N 42°22’45.7″ 2240 m. path
E 045°24’31.6″
N 42°22’49.5″ 2348 m.
E 045°24’40.1″
N 42°23’24.2″ 2398 m.
E 045°25’33.4″
N 42°24’14.7″ 2166 m.
E 045°27’03.6″
N 42°25’06.7″ 2092 m. Vedziskhevi
E 045°29’02.6″
N 42°25’10.0″
E 045°29’15.7″
N 42°25’11.3″ 1962 m. Vedziskhevi path
E 045°29’26.7″
N 42°25’12.4″ Alisgori path
E 045°29’31.2″
N 42°25’10.3″ 1882 m. Alisgori bridge
E 045°29’34.9″
N 42°25’24.3″ 1889 m. guesthouse
N 045°29’38.5″
N 42°24’32.9″ 1861 m. Iliurta road
E 045°31’13.1″
N 42°24’01.8″ 2087 m. Iliurta
E 045°31’43.1″
N 42°23’29.3″ 2136 m. To Vestomta
E 045°31’15.1″
N 42°23’19.9″ 2187 m.
E 045°30’43.1″
N 42°23’04.5″ 2328 m.
E 045°31’22.8″
N 42°22’53.4″ 2337 m. Vestomta pass
E 045°31’28.2″
N 42°22’43.5″ 2175 m. Vestomta
E 045°31’24.2″
N 42°22’48.2″ 2209 m. Vestmo path
E 045°31’25.2″
N 42°22’33.8″ 1946 m. Path from Vestmo
E 045°30’44.4″
N 42°22’13.0″ 2122 m.
E 045°31’08.7″
N 42°22’07.5″ 2194 m.
E 045°31’08.6″
N 42°22’09.6″
E 045°31’09.8″
N 42°22’07.5″
E 045°31’08.0″
N 42°21’51.3″ 2210 m.
E 045°31’16.9″
N 42°21’28.9″ 2268 m.
E 045°31’18.3″
N 42°21’09.6″ 2265 m. Didbosela Bina
E 045°30’59.8″
N 42°20’45.8″ 2284 m. pass
E 045°30’44.4″
N 42°20’40.9″
E 045°30’29.0″
N 42°20’32.0″
E 045°30’06.8″
N 42°20’29.3″ 2151 m. Direstion down
E 045°30’07.0″
N 42°20’26.3″ downwards
E 045°30’08.1″
N 42°20’18.2″ Ortskali estuary
E 045°30’07.0″
N 42°20’14.7″ path
E 045°30’07.1″
N 42°20’00.9″ path 412
E 045°29’52.9″
N 42°19’34.3″ bridge
E 045°29’30.8″
N 42°19’34.8″ Ortskali Bina
E 045°29’28.5″
N 42°19’28.7″
E 045°29’27.2″
N 42°19’28.7″ 2097 m. to Ortskali pass
E 045°29’27.0″
N 42°18’58.8″
E 045°29’24.6″
N 42°19’01.9″ 2249 m.
E 045°29’20.2″
N 42°18’49.5″
E 045°29’18.5″
N 42°18’48.4″
E 045°29’15.2″
N 42°18’46.4″
E 045°29’15.5″
N 42°18’42.9″
E 045°29’14.2″
N 42°18’32.8″
E 045°29’07.0
N 42°18’22.0″
E 045°29’03.4″
N 42°18’20.1″
E 045°29’01.9″
N 42°18’17.6″
E 045°28’55.7″
N 42°18’13.6″
E 045°28’55.6″
N 42°18’10.8″
E 045°28’55.4″
N 42°18’09.0″
E 045°28’54.2″
N 42°18’07.6″
E 045°28’54.8″
N 42°18’04.5″
E 045°28’57.8″
N 42°18’03.6″
E 045°28’56.6″
N 42°17’58.9″
E 045°28’56.7″
N 42°17’45.6″
E 045°29’03.4″
N 42°17’43.2″
E 045°29’06.9″
N 42°17’38.9″
E 045°29’07.0″
N 42°17’39.9″
E 045°29’09.8″
N 42°17’38.2″
E 045°29’11.9″
N 42°17’36.0″
E 045°29’11.2″
N 42°17’33.5″
E 045°29’06.6″
N 42°17’24.6″
E 045°28’59.9″
N 42°17’23.6″
E 045°28’56.9″
N 42°17’20.4″
E 045°28’50.1″
N 42°17’30.7″
E 045°28’42.6″
N 42°17’30.7″
E 045°28’42.6″
N 42°17’33.7″
E 045°28’38.3″
N 42°17’19.8″
E 045°28’40.6″
N 42°17’24.3″
E 045°29’04.0″
N 42°17’15.8″
E 045°29’29.2″
N 42°17’16.6″
E 045°29’33.1″
N 42°17’12.3″
E 045°29’33.4″
N 42°17’10.9″
E 045°29’40.6″

 

 

 

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