One of the most beautiful steep skiing lines in the Caucasus



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This is one of the most beautiful steep skiing lines in the Caucasus.

When seen from Stepantsminda, the line forms the left skyline of Mkinvartsveri/Kazbek (5054 m), one of the most iconic peaks of the Caucasus.

Myth and legends surround the peak, and alpinists from all around the world flock to the peak each year.

The regular route is well-documented and frequented.

The most coveted line is the south-east face, however, often referred to as "3B" after its Russian grade.

It rises above the former meteorological station (3560 m), which now serves as a shelter for climbers.

It is the most direct route to the top, topping out just a few vertical meters below the summit. To reach the route, follow the summer trail via Sabertse cross pass.

You can stay at the new AltiHut (3014 m) on your first night.

Continue then to the meteo station (3560 m), a former meteorological station that serves now as mountain hut.

Sadly, it is pretty sad and unhygienic state - many will prefer to stay in a tent.

Sleeping bags are required for both huts. From the meteorological station head up to the little chapel above the station, and straight towards the right of the two prominent funnels.

Climb through the funnel and then go wherever conditions seem best - ice and snow cover conditions differ from year to year. There is a prominent gendarme at 4700 - 4800 m.

On its right-hand side (looking up) is a small, flatter spot where you can rest if needed. The actual face starts at about 4100 m where it starts with a short, gently inclined narrow funnel, and then broadens again, reaching 40-45° and then finally steepening to 50° for the last 200 m.

At 4750 m there is a prominent rock gendarme.

The SE face direct stays left of that, a less-steep option goes around it to the right, traversing into the East ramp route (3A, 45°).

Pick your descent line accordingly, and watch for ice on your way up - the SE aspect is prone to ice.

At the bottom you can also ski to the right or the same way you came...either way, the steep skiing lays behind you at that point. In April you are most likely to find a good, settled snow cover with little ice contact.

However, April weather can still be cold and bring strong storms, leaving May (expect ice contact) as the better option, despite the higher average precipitation.

The route was skied at least twice: a) First partial descent (upper part, right var., 55°, 5000-4750m): Peter Schön & Deon Louw (2006) b) First full descent of SE Face via variation around rock gendarm (3A): Simon Schels (snowboard), Dominik Bartenschlager, Michi Stacheder (ski) (2007). c) First full descent of SE Face direct (3B): Peter Schön & Andi Riesner (2008) .