A jagged rock and ice wall 4,000 meters high: this is how the austere north face of Mt. Shkhelda (Cranberry) appears from the valley that radiates from the Adil-Su river and from the steep path that winds up the glacier moraine. From the top of the wall there rise up many tall grey towers, the most striking of which are the Eastern peak (4,293 m), the Central peak (4,300 m) and the Third Western peak (4,229 m). The starting point for climbing up the peaks of this famous mountain is the Shkhelda alpine camp at the beginning of the valley. The route winds its way along the Ulybka Shkheldy (Smiles of Shkhelda) glacier moraine up to where the valley turns east; here there is a view of Mt. Shchurovskogo, which has one of the loveliest routes in the entire region. You then come to the famous Aristov (Nochevki Aristova) bivouac, and from here start off for the routes up Mt. Profsoyuzov, on the first, second and third Western peaks. The base camp for the Central and Eastern peaks as well as for Mt. Ushba, Mt. Shchurovskogo and the mountains of Svanetia, is the "Bivouac of the Germans" (Nemietskie Nochevki).
This splendid combination of rock and snow -where the difficulties are aggravated by the frequent snow and ice slides and bad weather can be quite dangerous because of the lightning that often strikes the mountainsides - has extremely interesting routes, such as the one that traverses the entire mountain. But the northern face has the most classic routes, all of them highly difficult, which require one or even two bivouacs and the use of rope ladders. The most famous and frequented of these is the one on the Eastern peak first taken by B. Garf 1949. It goes up a system of three gullies that become increasingly narrowed. After going over the first of these, which is about 400 meters long, and having made a crossing by circling round the large tower, the second gully of about 200 meters length winds up to the east; the third, very narrow one, which is about 100 meters long, leads to the Petukh (Rooster) gendarme. Here there is a ledge about five meters long from which there branches out a series of small dihedrals that lead to the top (5 A).
B. Subortovich's route up the Central peak of Shkhelda is a sort of direct ascent that goes up along the northern face, which is smooth and vertical. This is the most difficult route in the entire mountain (6A). By proceeding west, you will find the route that winds along the steep wall of snow and ice situated between the Central and Third Western peak, which is called "Snow Shovel" (Snezhnaya Lopata). On the Third Western peak there arc two classic routes: Ribka (Little Fish, 5B) along the north arete, and the Rototaev along the large rock triangle at the base of the tower C)B). The descent route from the Eastern peak follows the ascent route as far as the col and then comes to the large sloping ledge (the "Georgian") lying behind the jagged Piga (Saw) crest that leads to the Ushba plateau. From here you return to the Shkhelda valley via the Ushba icefall. The descent from the Central peak and the Third West is usually made along the Snow Shovel, by rappelling with pitons and ice screws.
Shkhelda group. North face.
Is one of the most popular place for climbing and trekking around. The North face of Shkhelda group is the perfect place for rock and ice climbing with difficulties 5-6 degree. In general, it takes 2-3 days for climbing up. The best way to choose from are: Shkhelda West (4229 m) - by snow colour (Garf's way, 5A), Shkhelda Central (4295 m) - by the north face (Subortovich's way, 6A), by the "snow shovel" (Martinov's way, 5B).
It takes 4 hours of trekking with pleasure mountains view around to get to "German bivouac" from Shkhelda camp. During this trekking Mt. Shkhelda (4320 m) north face looks from the same name valley below like rising up fingers formed of snow and rocks 4000 meters high. And pointed rising up to the heaven pyramid of Shchurovskiy peak (4259 m), on the contrary, is missing from non expert fleeting glance, makes you trekking 2-3 hours up the valley slowly turn over the valley bent, showing you itself.
(In the foto to the right) Schurovskiy peak, seen from German bivouac.
Schurovskiy peak is situated in the end of Shkhelda valley with North and North-West faces rising up, presenting good rocks bastions for free climbing, mixed with big icy pedestal. It situated in the middle of three extraordinary mountains - the Shkhelda "wall", Mt. Chatin and Mt. Ushba - Mt. Shchurovskogo has some of the loveliest routes in the region. The one opened by M. Kherghiani winds along a 400-meter slope of the northern face, with a 45° incline and covered with ice and snow, up to the smooth rocky pillar (75° incline) that you climb over directly. Then you come to a sloping wall, and once over this you reach the top via the easily negotiable crest. This climb, rated 5B, can be done in one day provided you have a well prepared rope team; the descent is made via the south-eastern ridge towards the Ushba plateau and then along the Ushba ice-fall down to the base camp.
(In the foto to the left) Schurovskiy peak in the Mistery of the Night.
The classical and easiest route on Schurovskiy peak South-East crest (2A)
comes from Ushba plateau. The most and the only difficult part of this route is ascent on Ushba plateau. This small plateau 4,000 m above sea level is the highest one in the Caucasus, surrounded by the impressive walls of the most beautiful mountains in the region: Ushba Malaya and Mt. Shchurovskogo to the north, Chatin and Ushba to the east, and the jagged crest of Shkhelda East to the south-west. In June and first part of July Ushba ice fall, upon which the route is coming usually covered with snow, and it is rather easy climb it up, still rope, crampons and ice screws are necessary for protection against fallen to crevasses. The way in Ushba ice fall comes as usual in the central part, but very changeable, according to snow melting (the picture of icefall can be changed in one week immensely, that it is impossible to realise, you have been here just a few days ago, and absolutely new way is made). Once you have reached the plateau, the south-eastern ridge of Mt. Shchurovskogo is an easy snow climb that takes you to the summit in two or three hours. The view of Mts. Chatin, Shkhelda and Elbrus is one of the most beautiful in the entire region.
Mt. Chatin (4368 m) group. North face.
(In the foto to the right) The Northern face of Mt. Chatin with "Rhombus".
This famous and mysterious group is situated far away from camps and has difficult access. The high altitude and objective climbing difficulty, the "Rhombus" of Mt. Chatin (4368 m) is one of the most difficult rock face in Caucasus. It is an immense terrible black slab that rises up for 500 meters from the Chalat glacier on the north slope of massif, with average incline of 82 degrees. It was climbed first time after many unsuccessful attempts in 1959 by Lev Mishliaev, who tragically died on this mount some years later.
To be continued...