Adventure in the Mountains of
In 1992, I seized the opportunity
presented by the recent demise of the
This brief illustrated narrative describes some of our encounters and impressions.
After a two-day train journey from
We emerged in the setting sun to a
moonscape of rock debris. The road wound its way down a steep sided valley to
We continued through most of the night along unmade roads with diversions and many hairpins to the junction of the Andiyskoe Koysu (river) and the Gakko river. Here too we were in a deep-cut, barren valley of crumbling rock. Some people walked past us, their only luggage a petrol can filled with contraband Georgian Vodka which, naturally, we were pursuaded to sample.
We made our way up the track to
we continued on foot through green pastures to the base of Diklos
(4285m), one of the mountains we hoped to climb. A shepherd and his rather reluctant donkey
helped us carry our heavy packs. Further up another, minding a huge flock of sheep,
approached us with an interest the imagined comforts of our mountaineering
boots. We climbed Diklos
by what turned out to be a long, nerve-shattering series of crumbling shale
pinnacles. From the top
we were careful, in the mist, to descent to Dagestan rather than to
On returning from our high camp, we were shocked to find our supplies in Gakko had been raided. With hindsight, we probably had not made the right connections in the village and our chocolate and other luxuries had proven too great a temptation. Tension was high as we guarded our remaining possessions while the probable perpetrators prowled round playing with their hunting guns. Lacking transport, we escaped by making a desperate six-mile tramp with our still-heavy luggage.
The next day we caught the bus up
After much persuasion, and at what
seemed a high price, we hired donkeys to take our overweight gear within reach
of the mountains. Most of the donkeys (and the women) were
fully occupied with collecting hay.
Here one of the villagers, Magamet, is loading
a donkey helped by Mikhail from
After a few miles
we stopped at a farm to ask the way. We were invited in for food and found it hard to refuse the
hospitality. The woman spoke
Russian even more poorly than me; it is often the second language in
After climbing two more mountains,
camping by a remote farm and staying at a high weather station, it was time for
us to start the week-long journey home. By donkey and truck
we made our way down to the small town of
Travelling through the night again, and crossing a half-dismantled wooden bridge, we returned through the Gimri tunnel, back to a more familiar world. Our adventures had been exhausting but had given us an unforgettable experience of this wild, untamed region and of the character and hospitality of its people.
In this brief narrative
I have left many stories untold and many photos unshown,
but I hope to have given a flavour of this remote
A full account of our climbing activity can be found in The Alpine Journal 1993.
Merzbacher’s visit is described in his 1901 book, Aus den Hochregion des Kaukasus.
Updated March 2006