Overseas birthday ski touring adventure 22nd Feb to 7th March 2020. Before COVID!
Part two to the part one. This is once we made our way across Georgia to the region of Racha, to visit the Snow Vigil Camp run by Adam and Ryan, kept homely by the lovely Ira and the lovely Mariam. The adventure team of Andrea Brewster, Rosa van den Berg and myself remained the same, but in tow to keep us safe were fantastic ski guides Manu Greer and Fede Varengo.

Kutasi - where we gathered the team together, Andrea, Rosa and I from an interesting bus ride, Manu and Fede off international flights, with fresh stories of the COVID management and fresh bottles of wine. Yes it's true Georgia has fantastic wine and gives you a bottle on arrival in the country! We were all meeting up with Ryan and his fantastic beast of a Delica for the ongoing journey to camp.

Kutaisi was pretty

While we were waiting for the guys to land we stopped for a classic Georgian lunch!

In a very beautifully decorated restaurant with a sign on the door that said Welcome to our home, and that's exactly what it felt like!

Afterwards we went to the market as Ryan had to pick up a few odds and ends for camp. Going up and down asking for the right sized shovel for the fire place proved to be an adventure itself!

Pretty much could find everything, except the shovel we needed at the market!

Our dinner at the home stay for the night, just outside Ambrolauri

Good gear clustering the next morning while we prepared to head to camp

mmm Breakfast!

Cat deprived as always, I wanted to take one of these with us to camp.

Little did I know I'd have my own cute ball of fluffy kitten by the time I came to post these photos!

The team just about ready to head off the next morning. Fede, Andrea, me, Rosa, Manu, our lovely homestay hostess and Ryan.

Andrea outside our beautiful homestay - the guy built this himself!

Ryan beast. Required some inventive packing to fit all of us and all our stuff inside/on top!

Wine is very important in Georgia, everyone makes their own and has their own grapes!

See wine!

Oh and the other thing about Georgia is that there are stray dogs everywhere, begging for food. Some of them a pretty cute, like this sweetie. Most have a tag on the ear indicating they've been tested for rabies and don't have it!

After leaving Ambrolauri, we decided to stop off in the foothills for warm up tour and a spectacular view of the region we were to spend the next week in. However, the clouds had already rolled in and the conditions were a bit sticky, so we decided just to head to camp instead.

We started our tour up to the Snow Vigil Camp from the village of Chiora, just as it started to snow.

They have rosehip too!

Snow settling on a young pine tree.

Arriving at Snow Vigil in falling snow

Turns out we made a good choice of forgoing the slush earlier in the day, because we got this great powder run in just before it got dark after we arrived at camp. Check out how I patched my pants after their adventure on Single Cone! Thanks to Fede for the photo.

Andrea enjoying the comforts of fine wine and in tent heating at Snow Vigil

Mariam, who under Ira's excellent chef skills helped to keep us well fed for the duration of our stay.

This is what we like to see on the first morning of a ski touring adventure

Conditions were still a bit stormy with whiteout when we set out the next morning, but there was snow that needed to be skied! We didn't have a definite plan, but figured a day to get our bearing in the terrain and ski some safe lines while the snow settled would be a good idea.

Apparently this plant is poisonous

Rosa showing us how it's done - the snow was a little heavier than we could have hoped in this gully.

Fede gentle testing out his knee after injuring it and having had a few weeks off skiing.

The view from camp the next morning!

Remember this valley, we come back to this valley!

Quick progress up our ski track from yesterday

Stunning views all around!

This is the valley we skied yesterday, we had known about the glide crack, but it certainly opened up a lot more overnight!

Rare photo of me!

Andrea enjoys a snack break while we assess all the options for skiing. I believe the small spec under the cornice is Adam trying to catch up with us via an alternate and ultimately significantly more challenging route.

Girls on Tour! Rosa, Andrea and me!

Fede testing out the line!

Fede's and my tracks having skied the line. There was a small delay here as Rosa had accidentally triggered her airbag, which turned out to be quite a frustrating thing to fit back in it's space!

Fede leading the way

Manu doing what he likes most, digging a good old extended column test. So much avalanche learning went on this week, as the persistent deep weak persisted all over Georgia and was not to be trifled with. Here it was well over a metre deep, a nasty faceted mess. Low likelihood of triggering at that depth, but horrendous consequences if it did. On shallower areas of snow there was definitely some 'whumpfing' going on, keeping us all on our toes!


Fede still leading the way!

Mountains and clouds, my favourite!

This was the glide crack the morning after we skied it, would not have been keen for round two....

... and with good reason, by the time we went home it had avalanched!

We got a fairly early start the next morning - the view was still tantalising.

Check out that surface hoar! - see I am studying for my Avi 1 while doing this, I am, I am!

I really like that mountain. I don't know it's name - I've now been informed, it's Karaugom -, but from the looks of the map it's right on the border with Russia and is 4318m! Maybe I'll go back and climb it some day, post COVID. (We did need special permission to be that close to the border). In the midground on the right of this image is a prominent ridge that others were ski touring up and dropping off the spines on. Not sure I would have been game for that in those avalanche conditions!

Fede's and my tracks. Why make powder 8's when you can have fresh pow all to yourself!

Fede and the moon

Still just a really cool mountain!

Fantastic lighting and excellent terrain in every direction!


All focus


Check out that smile.

Manu finding his own epic powder stash to sink into

Check out our tracks!

Me! Photo credit Rosa

Launching off the others tracks. Photo credit Rosa

Manu again lining up to be on a poster. Photo Credit Rosa

Anyone else come across a good way to cross rivers ski touring?

Things you find in the middle of nowhere.

There were lots of small churches and chapels around the place as we toured past.

This has to be about the best road sign anywhere in the world. Maybe NZTA should copy it?

The only inhabitants we found out and about in Ghebi when we arrived

We did eventually manage to located this shop in a shipping container. Complete with nothing we could actually understand on any of the labels and little fireplace to sit by and enjoy our interesting treats.

Mariam, a women of many talents, and a slightly temperamental snowmobile. The sled has a long story as to how it ended up in Georgia and it's while worth checking out the snow.vigil instagram for full details.

I'm a sucker for a pastel sunset, which is just what we had as we toured back up the hill to camp at the end of a long day.

Yep! Guess where we are off to? That's right Shoda Valley!

Setting out, our daypacks packed to the max with with overnight gear. It was warm down in the valley, but it sure wasn't going to be overnight!

Ryan took on the role of self appointed pack horse, complete with 90L pack and extra sleeping mat for us girls.

Heading up through the forest.

Upon arrival in Shoda Valley we found several such huts as these. Owned by locals, you are welcome to stay for a small fee. Fede was there ahead of us and already had his skins drying on the roof!

Andrea and Rosa settle in

Camp for the night

In the end Fede slept in the hut. Andrea, Rosa and I preferred the tent.

For Fede everything is 'amaazing' but he refused to say it on camera!

Rosa settles in at camp


Adam completely chill-laxed. He deserved it, his pack was every bit as big as Ryans!

Ukrainian dehy... no idea what it was, but it was quite good! -made by friends of friends  friends as it turns out!


Very cosy for a time

So the next day we headed further up the valley and we rewarded with fine powder. Some of us even made it up the headwall and got a look off the back. I can confirm we were skiing on the correct side....

Ryan getting some turns in off the headwall

A last view of the Shoda valley. Had some very interesting tree and heavy snow skiing ahead of us.

Where we had just come from.

But now camp was over and it was time to start going our separate ways. I needed to make it to Tbilisi that night, for a flight the next day that got delayed. So I could have just take the train with Rosa. Oh well we ended up having a last lunch together at Fabrika in Tbilisi. I also finally figured out that many of the cars in Georgia have been converted to run of LPG, which is why the fuel empty lights are always on. Mildly concerning when undertaking a long journey with a driver who speaks no English. 

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