Monday, 5 March 2018

2018: The Caucasus

I'm currently planning an ambitious hike across the entire Greater Caucasus Mountains in Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

The Caucasus Mountains are bigger and wilder than anywhere I've walked in before, and they'd take me to the edge of the only continent I've ever seen. It definitely feels like a natural progression from my previous trips.

The plan is to link the Black Sea with the Caspian Sea in one long walk. This has been a dream of mine for ages, but I didn't know how to approach planning it until I'd gone through the experience of my 2017 hiking trip in Eastern Europe.

Now, I know a bit more about creating my own route. I know what it feels like to hike somewhere where there aren't always well-equipped huts, and highly maintained trails. The process at the moment mostly involves reading lots of translated Russian web pages, pouring over maps, and then sending emails to kindly ask people for information.

Planning a hike in this way takes a lot more effort, but it feels creative and exciting. It's fun studying the maps, and imagining what the terrain will be like, then planning things like potential campsites, food resupplies or bad weather alternative routes.

It's also a bit more exciting when you don't always know whether a path on the map will actually exist when you get there, or if a high pass is really something that you can cross safely.

The challenges of this trip are unique in that I'm going to be hiking along the restricted border zones of southern Russia, and will need to have specialised permits. I'll be routinely checked for these by soldiers and police, so it's all a bit nerve-wracking.