Val’s Transcaucasian Adventure

Val Ismaili, a keen UBESter, and next year’s inaugural Exploratory Expeditions Officer, is currently in the Caucasus making the first attempt of a thru-hike of a new long-distance trail (The Transcaucasian Trail) through Armenia and Georgia of about 2500km.

The Transcaucasian Trail –

Parts of the trail have not actually been scouted or built yet. Val will be doing some field mapping and route finding through the stunning mountain ranges in the region.

We will try to update this page with Val’s progress throughout the expedition.

May 15

Dog? Wolf?

Made a friend today! She’s been following me for the last 15km!!!! She’s been guarding/guiding me up the mountain. She chased off 3 snakes and another dog or wolf, I hope it wasn’t a wolf but didn’t get a good enough look first, and sticks within 10m of me almost aleshs.she was one of the border soldiers who gave me a ride but she ended up licking me and following me up!

May 18

Got some much needed rest after the events of the previous few days. Decided to go for a short day hike to the Bekh Anapat . Pretty chilled hike through the forest, got a bit bored and was getting quite hot during times so took an unmarked trail that led further into the forest and some shade. It ended up taking me to a stream which required some rather slippery scrambling through thornbushes and such. Eventually got to the hermitage, cool place, that’s about it. Back at the ecocamp I heard the sounds of Jackals for the first time; it’s this sort of unsettling squeel of a pack calling out to each other just as the sun sets.

May 19

An actual rest day.

May 20

The original plan was a 40km 3000m ascent circular epic summiting Mount Khustup (3206m) and along the North ridge. It quickly became apparent that the weather wouldn’t hold for the entire day so instead decided on just a summit attempt. From about 2400m the wind started to get really bad and eventually at about 3000m it was genuinely difficult to breathe out of my mouth. Topped out at about 3150m at the beginning of what should have been an easy final scramble but the winds made it pretty sketchy so decided to turn around.

On the way down, I got a lift from some random drunk farmer (he wasn’t driving, it was a taxi) who taught me some Sanskrit song apparently, and stopped at a graveyard which he wanted to stop at to put some flowers on his wife’s grave while I waited in the car.

May 21

Todays goal was a chilled 10km hike to just get out of Kapan and into the countryside in prep for a long walk the following day. It was bloody hot! Passing through a village I encountered my first experience of true Armenian hospitality! A pair of twin farmers and their mother (who had golden teeth) insisted I come in out of the heat for some coffee, this turned into lunch and then of course vodka… After a couple hours, I was on my way for another 3km to the day’s end point. Got caught in a thunderstorm which was miserable.

Had dinner with a local family – of course vodka was present. I’ve never tried anything as strong as this stuff; it’s actively repulsive, when you drink it, you feel like you could light a fire with just your nostrils.

May 22

Monastry entering Tatev

A 40km day was planned to reach Tatev before sunset. I set off with a total of four chocolate bars as my nourishment for the day. If I ever contemplate doing that again, someone shoot me. To summarise the day; it was a continuous ascent for most of the 10 hours of walking, slogged through two daisy fields that were knee high and spent an hour squelching my way through ankle deep mud on a forest track. The final two hours were pure misery on a long descent on a road with no shade. Fortunately it was the most beautiful scenery I’ve walked in which helped to keep going.

This was made up for by the crazy first view of the monastery and the gorge you get when entering Tatev. It’s straight up one of the most beautiful towns I’ve ever seen.

At this point I had built up a disgusting layer of sweat, pollen, dirt and suncream that felt like the inside of an oil barrell, so I took an incredibly long shower. I cannot describe the intense feelings of pleasure of being clean again. And handwashed my clothes, will be nice to put something clean on tomorrow; yes I’ve been walking in the same pair of boxers since the start. And yes that’s revolting.

Last updated 24/05/2017


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