Overseas birthday ski touring adventure 22nd of Feb to 7th of March 2020. Before COVID!
So this is part one of two of a ski touring adventure through Georgia earlier this year. Featured are travel and skiing in Tbilisi and around Gudauri, before we moved onto Racha, see part two.
Travel buddies are Andrea Brewster and Rosa van den Berg.

Arrived in Tbilisi, jet-lagged and having been harassed by some very unplesant guys on my final flight. I was near carsick in the Bolt (Georgian Uber) getting to the Hostel. But rallied and enjoyed an afternoon wandering around Tbilisi in full tourist mode, complete with very random tourist photos. This is where we had lunch!

Also where we had lunch, there's a lot interesting things going on inside buildings in Tbilisi. Very cool city!

Ok technically this is right from the end of the trip - my flight got COVID-delayed leaving me with an extra day to explore Tbilisi and of course make it to the Royals baths - natural hot springs. Where you rent out your own exceptionally fancy room - see roof at a very reasonable price. I even got a massage - deserved it after all the skiing!

Of course bright and early the next morning we found ourselves at Gudauri, one of Georgia's four ski resorts. We picked this because it was close and we wanted to maximise ski time and also a very unstable snowpack and questionable avalanche control work, made us want to err on the slight safer side - in bounds. Although it's still pick your own avalanche adventure!

Andrea and I who had met once for coffee before this trip, soon linked up with Rosa (resident splitboarder) who we were put in touch with by people we were yet to meet on the second half of this adventure. Day two found the resort closed for wind in the afternoon, not that they really told us that, just all the lifts stopped running. So after doing some rudimentary avalanche pits and finding the very worrying layer of facets (a first for me in a snowpack) we stuck to some mellow terrain and still had a great time!

Our slightly eccentric hostel. Cheap, very similar to Awakino, in fact a terrifyingly accurate example of what Awakino lodge would be like if it was multi-level. But it had ski on ski off access. The year previous it had housed ski instructors, who thought it was hilarious that we were staying there. But the people were lovely, although communication very interesting and we had no idea who worked there and who was just visiting! (there was also some fantastically innovative boot drying going on, that Awakino should definitely copy!)

Andrea being fit and healthy, while I just be drunk!

View from our hostel. Buoyed by of success of the day before, some new snow, and having got decent info, maps and guidebooks from Travel Bar in Gudauri (best place for all info about back country) we decided to check out the ski tour across valley to Lomisa Monastery. This is a very popular route, so you definitely won't have it to yourselves - if you do it probably means the avi danger is way too high! So be prepared to start early and it to be tracked out, unless there is fresh snow.

Map for Lomisa Tour​​​​​​​
First attempt to find an accurate way to record ski touring...

We got a taxi to the start of the route easily enough, despite no common language. Return ride was too hard to negotiate though, so we figured we'd just sort that out later!

View from Lomisa, back across to Gudauri, never planned as a ski village it's sprawled across the mountain and still undergoing ceaseless construction. - brand new apartments are cheap though!

Off the back of the monastery is South Ossetia, currently Russian occupied and we were warned to stay well away. But of course I had to go pee in Russian occupied territory. There are other ski tours near here, which do really risk getting you into trouble though!

Lomisa monastery

Several rebuilds

There were several guided parties up the hill with us and the local guides were lovely and spoke excellent english and more than happy to include us in the tea ceremony that the monks put on. (And then gave us tips on where to ski after)

The story of this monastery is of a man who wanted a child, but had none. The story is he carried this heavy chain up the hill and the subsequent year was blessed with a child. It's one of the traditions of the monastery to carry this chain three times around inside and then your wish will be granted. Yes it is heavier than it looks, no I'm not telling you what I wished for. This is one of the guided clients from Switzerland up the hill that day, was great getting to speak swiss german again! - There were people from all over skiing in Georgia.

Rosa leads the way

Andrea is off. We stuck to mellow terrain, knowing full well a deep persistent slab lurked beneath, others were not so cautious (although all the guides were) but they got luck. We took a few laps in the nice snow up top and then scrapped through some crust and oddly enough tussock like grass back to the church at the bottom.

Lomisa church - apparently it's also the done thing to take some wood up for the monks. But we lacked the language skills to figure out how to sort this. We were wondering how to get back to Gudauri, but lucked out when a large Polish group turned out to have some spare seats in their van, and also happened to be staying the same place as us!

Back at Gudauri, finally got to try all the lifts. Up the top of this one there were basically in bound avalanches on all slopes! Was a bit scary. Photo Credit Andrea Brewster.

This is looking off the back on the ski field near Bidara, we toured up here to check out the conditions, not sure whether we would ski back down on the side of the field or down to the road an attempt to hitch-hike.  

I don't have a map for this one as I was still experimenting with the best way to record and this attempt was decidedly unsuccessful! 

Clearly off the back was a fairly popular option. I cut things a little higher than these split boarders in my traverse wanting that extra turn, and got a short sharp lesson when a small storm slab released instead. Lesson learned, keep it mellow!

It was absolutely stunning though! Beautiful low angle powder, everyone had been having an amazing time!

We had intended to try and hitch back, but there was strangely no traffic on the road. We found it all backed up when we got back to Gudauri, not sure why. Hopefully not for avalanche danger!

Giving up on a futile hitch-hiking mission we cut a corner and found a good track back around to town. Arriving back just as the sunset and skiing to the door of the hostel!

Possibly more than Rosa was expecting from an afternoon of touring, but she was pretty stoked in the end!

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