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HORSEBACK TRAIL
ZHABESHI - USHGULI
 
PILGRIM PROGRAM
PILGRIM PROGRAM

HORSEBACK TRAIL ZHABESHI-USHGULI

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ROUTE

The horseback riding trail begins in the Mulakhi community village of Zhabeshi and heads south, crossing the mountain system that separates the basins of the Mulkhara and Adishistsqali Rivers and descending into the village of Adishi. From here it goes into the Inguri River valley via the villages of Khalde and Iprali and finishes in Ushguli. The trail takes three days and includes night stays in Adishi and Iprali. Its total length is 38 kilometres. The route goes through two mountain passes and is therefore characterized by a highly variable hypsometry. The elevation of the route varies from 1,690 to 2,700 metres above sea level.


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1. ZHABESHI-ADISHI TRAIL

The first portion of the trail begins 1,690 metres above sea level near a mineral water spring atop the village of Zhibeshi, where we see the following signs painted on a rock: "START - 1690" and "MW" (mineral water). We head southwest and follow the farmers' road. About 500 metres from the start we come across a sign painted on shale. To our right is the Laghvi Church of Saint George.

At 2,050 metres we see a rhododendron grove and marker No 2, which indicates that drinking water is available nearby. We enter a forest of birch trees and rhododendron bushes. From here to the north we look down on the village of Zhabeshi and the Tviberi valley (Picture 1), to the northwest we see the Mulakhi community villages of Lakhiri and Cholashi in the Mulkhara valley at the base of Mount Banguriani (Picture 2). To the east is Tetnuldi, a snow-capped cone-shaped rock formation (4,860 m). We continue down the sledge route and pass coniferous and mixed forests. After one hour, at an elevation of 2,120 metres, the road forks. Here, an arrow marked on a birch tree in a rhododendron patch points to the east. To the north we see the south face of Banguriani Mountain, Komsomolskaya Peak and to the left - Mount Ushba, to the northeast - the Tsaneri-Tviberi Ridge.

The route heads east through along the ridge. Our elevation steadily increases until we reach a plateau at 2,700 metres. From here we look out upon the Inguri River valley; far to the west we see the village of Tsvirmi, the Ughviri mountain pass and the Zuruldi ridge (Picture 3); to the east is the aforementioned Tetnuldi (4860m). The road forks here, with the east path remaining on the plateau, and the right descending southward. A marker indicates that the latter is our route. We descend quickly and after two kilometres we reach an elevation of 2,350 metres, where we come across another fork in the road. We take the right fork, which leads to cattle farms a few hundred metres down the road. On the right are grazing pastures (Picture 4). Soon the village of Adishi comes into view (Picture 5). We cross a stream bed and enter Adishi, where we rest our horses and spend the night.

At a leisurely pace, this portion of the trail takes 5-6 hours.

2. ADISHI-IPRALI

The route begins atop the village of Adishi, by a foot-bridge over the right tributary of the Adishistsqali River (2,030 metres). To the left of the bridge our start marker "SII" is painted on an old tower, as is an arrow pointing our way (Picture 1). To the left of the foot-bridge is an old water mill. The route follows along the right bank of the Adishistsqali.

Two kilometres from the start, at an elevation of 2,200 metres, we cross a stream and 50 metres to the left of the path we see the Chaneshi Church of Saint George and the ruins of a tower. About 200 metres from here, the path leads into a meadow that was once levelled by an avalanche, where signs are marked on several rocks. We continue along the right bank and, after about one hour from the start, we see the Lardaadi glacier, which locals also refer to as the Adishi glacier (Picture 2). This glacier takes shape on the south slopes of the Tetnuldi-Adishi mountain range and descends to 2,400 metres. It is the source of the Adishischala River. Near this place (2,390 m) we cross the river and follow steep slopes covered in mixed forest. The path takes us towards the Chkhutnieri pass (2,720 m) (Picture 3). This mountain pass crosses the ridge that separates the Adishischala and Khaldeschala river basins. This stretch is difficult, so we will need to dismount from our horses often. At 2,420 metres a small stream flows onto a 150-200 metre stretch of the path, which creates additional difficulties. From the Chkhutnieri we get a good view of the road we have travelled since Adishi. From the mountain pass we descend along the ridge to the basin of the Khaldeschala River. At 2,400 metres the road forks. One path leads to the east and the other to the south. A marker here indicates that we take the latter, southward path on our right. Below we see farmers' summer cabins. After descending to 2,200 metres, we approach the Khaleschala and follow along its right bank up to the village of Khalde (1,900 m). On the way we see a tall waterfall (Picture 4).

Khalde has somewhat of a tragic history. It is famous as the site of rebellions against Tsarist Russia, as village residents refused to obey their conquerors. They fought to the end, as a result of which Russian forces completely destroyed the village with all its towers (Picture 5). Since then the village has never recovered, and now is populated by only a few families in the summertime. To this day, Svans recall the heroes of Khalde with great respect. Svans often dance to a song composed in their honour entitled "Gau-gavkhe" (Picture 6)

From Khalde we again descend down the right bank of the river to the village of Iprali (Picture 7), where the second section of our trail ends.

We are now in the community of Kala, in the Inguri River valley. This community includes six villages, two of which - Lalkhori and Davberi - we will pass on the third part of our journey. From Iprali to the south we can see the Svaneti Ridge, which separates the Inguri and Tskhenistsqali River basins (Picture 8). From this point it is possible to cross into the Tskhenistsqali valley via the Mushuri mountain pass. This is Kvemo-Svaneti (Lower Svaneti), the Lentekhi District. We cover the distance from Adishi to Iprali in 4-5 hours.

Directly ahead of us, across the Inguri at a distance of about 1.5 km to the west, we can see one of Svaneti's most important churches - that of Saint Kvirike (Picture 9). If you have enough energy, you can visit this site as well.

3. IPRALI-USHGULI

The third part of the trail begins in the village of Iprali at an elevation of 1,890 metres above sea level. The "START" marker is painted on the house of Ucha Margvliani. From here we descend to the village of Lalkhori (Picture 1). We follow the automobile road along the Inguri River in the direction opposite its flow (Picture 2) and soon we enter the village of Davberi. From here we follow the sledge road (Picture 3). At an elevation of 2,000 metres, we come across a fork in the road, the right fork connects with the automobile road and the left one follows along side the slants. A marker tells us to take the left fork. We follow the twisted slants (Picture 4), which ranges in elevation from 2,000 to 2,200 metres. After about three kilometres, at an elevation of 2,000 metres we come across a spring. Another 200 metres from the spring the trail forks again. The left fork leads upwards to the mountains, while a marker tells us to take the right fork, which leads eastward, to the slant. Later the path crosses a stream and enters a "corridor" of birch trees. We must be careful here not to run into branches as we sit atop our horses.

After another 200-300 metres we come to an intersection, where we turn right. To our right we notice a pine tree that has been split by lightning. We then go down to the bank of the Inguri River. Here, at an elevation of 2,050 metres, a sign "FU-1km" painted on a large boulder indicates that we are nearing the finish. After one kilometre we come to the community of Ushguli, which brings together four villages (Murqmeli, Chazhashi, Chvibini and Zhibiani).

Three to four hours after leaving Iprali, a beautiful panorama unfurls before us - we surrounded by the middle-age towers of Ushguli (Pictures 5,6,7)



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