Ski guiding can take you to some pretty wild places. G3 gear tester and ACMGA/IFMGA guide Marc Piché dropped us this trip report and photos from a recent work trip to Gudauri, Georgia. (All images by Marc Piché. All rights reserved).
In 2011 the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides took on an initiative to help the Russian Mountain Guides Association meet the requirements of the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations. As the Technical Director of the ACMG I have been deeply involved with this project from the beginning, which has involved trips to Ukraine, Austria, several regions of the North Caucasus and just recently to Gudauri, Georgia. A stone's throw south of the Russian border that runs along the spine of the Caucasus and about 20km from the 5047m Mount Kazbek, Gudauri was our home for nearly three weeks this February.
The terrain around Gudauri. Marc Piché photo.
The purpose of this particular trip was to deliver, for the third time, a combination of a Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1 course and a Guide Training course for ski touring to our Russian students.
Shallow and rotten snowpack. Just like home this year! Marc Piché photo.
Gudauri is a small mountain resort set in an area steeped in the sort of history that is so foreign to us in North America. Ruins of stone buildings that had already been abandoned before the first Europeans set foot in Canada are scattered throughout the landscape.
Not unlike January in Western Canada, Gudauri is experiencing a drought of epic proportions this winter. An average of 80cm covered the mostly grassy slopes of the region when we arrived and by the time we left, most south aspects had melted dry!
The skill hill (still open) after two weeks of warm sunny days. Marc Piché photo.
Despite these marginal conditions, we managed to find enough good ski tours to make the course worthwhile but not without significant damage to our bases.
The highlight of the trip was a ski tour that took us to the Lomisi Monastery located on a ridge at 2300m. The monks welcomed us with tea, warm bread and cha-cha (homemade vodka) before giving us a tour of the seventh century stone monastery. It seems amazing to me that there are six monks living in a tiny hut surrounded by avalanche terrain all winter long. And to think that what they are doing seems way more normal to them than what I was doing!
The monks offering some mountain hospitality. Marc Piché photo.
One of these things brought me a lot more joy than the other! We started making our own lunches shortly after this. Marc Piché photo.
The Saint Bernard guiding us to the Lomisi Monastery. Marc Piché photo.