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PILGRIM PROGRAM

TVIBERI TRAIL

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ROUTE

The trail follows the Tviberi River valley north from the village of Zhabeshi (at the confluence of the Tviberi and Tsaneri Rivers) up to the Qvitlodi and Tviberi glaciers. The length of the trail is 5.5 km. It varies in elevation by 730 metres. It takes about six hours to walk it.


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DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE ROUTE

The trail begins from the bridge (Picture 1) over the Mulkhara River in Zhibeshi, the last village of the Mulakhi community, which is located 300 meters down from the confluence of the Tviberi and Tsaneri Rivers (Picture 2). After this point, the river is called Mulkhara. Next to the bridge, to the left of the road (elevation 1,580 m), we see our start marker "S" painted in yellow on a rock. To the right of start, on the left bank of the Tviberi River, against the background of the Tsaneri glacier, we see a tower without battlement (Picture 2). We follow the sledge route, pass a residential house covered in long shingles and, following along the Tviberi River's right bank, enter the narrow Karieli valley. At an elevation of 1,620 metres, we come across the marker "D", which marks a gate. This site was once home to a large stone fort.

There are about ten mountain passes (Lekhziri, Bashili, Laskhodari, Tviberi, Qvitlodi and others) along a 12-km stretch of the Greater Caucasus Ridge that lead here from the north. Narrow footpaths that go along them converge in the basin of the Tviberi River to form a single path that joins the Mulakhi through the narrow Karieli valley. Two gates have been constructed in order to oversee and protect these footpaths. We are currently next to one and will pass the second soon. These gates no longer have any function and are in ruins, though they have clearly left their mark. There are many legends and heroic tales connected to these gates in Svanetian oral tradition.

After passing the first gate, the path forks, with one fork going west and up into the mountains while the second, our route, follows along the Tviberi River and heads north. After this, the path crosses a small stream (Picture 3). Nearby, in some bushes, we find drinking water. Here, yellow dots warn us of areas where there is a danger of falling rocks. We follow along the bank of the turbulent Tviberi River (Picture 4), passing raspberry and currant bushes on our way. At an elevation of 1,790 metres, we reach a fallen pine tree with a jagged yellow line painted on it. From this place, in the direction of the road we have already traveled, we can see the village of Zhibeshi (Picture 5), where we started our journey.

After walking for about one hour we approach another, outer gate, indicated by a marker nailed to a tree growing out of the gate's ruins. Behind us is the pine forest of the Karieli valley and in front of us is a mixed forest and a patch of rhododendron bushes.

We then come across two caves formed from the pieces of gigantic boulders (Picture 6), and at 1,860 metres above sea level, we see a bas-relief image attached to the cliff (Picture 7).

At 1,900 metres we come to a meadow that was created by an avalanche. This area may or may not be covered in snow, depending on the season. We then approach a cliff from which a waterfall cascades (Picture 9). The path that goes along the cliff, which locals call Mashelani, goes through a patch of bushes bearing currants and other sour berries, then through a mixed birch and cedar forest. The path takes us out into the Mashelani plain, where there is more drinking water. From this point, there are signs pointing the way on the left side of the path. At an elevation of 1,920 metres above sea level, we come across yet another waterfall with the exotic name of "Tired Woman's Tears" (Picture 10). From here we go out into a meadow and see a building (2,050 m), which once served as shelter for tourists coming from the mountain passes of Tviberi and Qvitlodi (Picture 11). We see here: to the north, Mount Toti, Mount Lukhvili and to the south the Tviberi Ridge with the meadows and rhododendron groves of Zhabeshi. Afterward we cross the Lukaia stream, enter a birch forest and go down toward the river bank. This part of the trail is steep and difficult. To the right of the path is a sign on a large boulder pointing us toward a meadow that formed as a result of an avalanche. From here the main landmark is the Diebachi cliff mass (Picture 12). 100-150 metres before we reach it, we leave the birch forest. After we come up from the meadow (2160 m), we see signs posted on birch trees to the right of the path. Later signs are on the right side, near hunter's caves atop Diebachi (2,290). From here we see: to the east - the Qvitlodi glacier (Picture 13) and Mount Tikhtingeni (4,618); to the right - the Semi pass, which goes into the Tsaneri River Valley; straight ahead - Mount Toti and the Tviberi ice pass; to the left - Toti.

Here we reach a snowy slope (Picture 14) and after approximately 500 metres enter a rocky area, where on the right side of mineral water springs, an "F" painted on a large boulder marks the finish. The elevation here is 2,310 metres above sea level. Directly in front of us is the Tviberi ice pass.

At the beginning of the 20th century this area was home to several glaciers of the northern circus (Seri, Tviberi, Toti, Bashili, Dzinala) and the Qvitlodi glacier from the east. This snow-ice system created the largest glacier zone in Georgia, though throughout the last century the glaciers have undergone notable degradation and are receding up into the mountains. As a result, the Seri glacier has lost active contact with the Tviberi and the place where they once met is filled with detritus. The situation is similar at the meeting point of the Tviberi and Dzinala glacers. Qvitlodi, meanwhile, has moved 700-800 metres away from Tviberi. Unfortunately, the process of dispersion continues and we are witnesses to it.


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