A beautiful, but very demanding day-hike pass offering superb views of Ushba mountain and Svaneti ridge. The highest point of the hike is 2947m high Guli pass.
Duration: 9-10 hours
Most of the people do this hike in a day, but it is also possible to split this into two sections if you have camping gear. The most popular place for this is Koruldi lakes above Mestia - they don´t lie directly on the trail, but offer great morning views of the surrounding mountains.
During the day, you will have to overcome considerable distance and elevation (distance 20km, 1500 vertical meters up and down).
If you want to do it in a day, start early!
This one is tricky. There is no specific date when Guli pass suddenly becomes “open” and “accessible” as the situation differs every year. It also depends on the hikers - one group may be able to cross in the middle of June while the other will struggle even a few weeks later.
But overall, the best period for this hike is from the beginning of July until the end of September. The trail is usually passable from mid-June (or even earlier), but at this period it could be difficult because of the leftover snow.
If you are lucky with the weather, you can have a nice hike even in first weeks of October. Later usually come first severe snowfalls which block the pass till the next season.
How to get to Mazeri:
There is no public transportation to Mazeri. The closest road served by marshrutkas lies 7 kilometers away, at the mouth of Becho valley.
Take the morning marshrutka from Zugdidi to Svaneti, tell a driver that you want to go to Becho community and he will let you out at the right place.
If you prefer walking, there are two scenic day walks connecting Mazeri with neighboring villages - Mestia and Etseri.
How to leave Mestia:
Marshrutkas to Zugdidi depart every day in the morning. There are usually a few more during the day, depending on the demand.
In a high season there should also be daily marshrutkas to Tbilisi and Batumi, departing in the morning). For actual timetables and booking of tickets,
please visit Bus Office near the new gate leading to Seti Square.
Description of the route
From Mazeri start walking northeast, into the valley of the Gulichala river. After more than one hour, you will come to the ruins of the Guli village. Continue walking up the valley by the river towards the Ushba mountain.
After another hour, you will reach shepherd's huts. Here stands a hiking marker pointing uphill, to the right. However, if you need more water, look for the white "2500" sign and arrow showing forward, towards a narrow path in the vegetation. After some 100-200m you will find a small spring.
OK, now it's the time to climb to the actual pass. The path is basically the endless serpentine climbing to the small depression above. Otherwise, it's well-trodden, obvious and there are also small stone mounds so you shouldn´t get lost.
Finally, in the Guli pass (2974m). If you have time and energy, you can climb further north to gain an even better view of Ushba.
Ushba is one of the most prominent peaks of whole Caucasus, its name in Georgian means “Mountain without path” (also called "The Witch" due to its horned peak).
From the Guli pass, start walking south on the ridge, path slowly descends. Then, after 1 kilometer, the trail turns left into the valley. However, if you have a good tempo, you can keep walking south on the ridge and climb Mt. Guli (2925m). It takes only 30 minutes, views are great and there are no people around (so it's even better place for a lunch break than the actual Guli pass)
The descent into the valley is pretty steep. The path then turns northeast and crosses both branches of Pushkueri river about 600 meters above their confluence.
The terrain is a bit confusing, but the whole route is well marked by painted marks as well as signposts.
Here you have also an option to shorten your trek. When you come to Pushkueri river, you can walk by it until the road appears.
Then just follow it and after an hour you will come to the main road 2 km west of Mestia.
If you are interested in the longer, more scenic route, cross both branches of Pushkueri river and continue east.
Slowly descend to the east, towards Lamaaja ridge. You will be traversing a meadow intersected by numerous streams, which offers astounding views of Svaneti ridge to the south.
Eventually, you reach the ridge and find a big trail heading north towards Koruldi lakes.
But you probably won´t have time to see them (unless you plan to camp there) so just turn right and continue south.
After another hour, you will come to the cross on a hill over Mestia. Here you need to turn left and follow the main tourist trail to the town.
You could also descend directly to Mestia by the trail to the south, but the path here is very steep and taking it is not something the ordinary hiker would do at the end of this kind of trek.
Photos were taken by Russian hiker and photographer Anna Belova, Czech hiker Josef Formanek, my compatriots Jozef Strezenec and Radovan Bieleny,
Polish photographer Marcin Chalupka and Irish walker Fergal Hingerty.
Thanks to all of you!