Remote power aids Mountain Rescue in Georgia

Dramatic Mount Kazbeg in Georgia, which climbs more than five kilometres into the sky has been luring climbers to its steep slopes for a hundred and fifty years.

At 3700 metres there is a disused meteorological station station. The building was always known as Meteo, but it has been repurposed  in recent years and is now operated as a bunk hotel for climbers – changing its name to Bethlemi Hut. It’s proving to be a lifeline.

With mountaineering comes danger and sadly many people have lost their lives on Mount Kazbeg over the years mainly due to its remote location and the difficulties of communication with the outside world. Without timely help a minor incident can turn into a serious accident.

Two actions have been taken to make it safer: firstly, the owner of Bethlemi, with funding assistance from a Czechoslovakian non-governmental organisation, have commissioned MZE Ltd – who have offices in Tbilisi, and are specialists in Solar Energy – to install a remote power system. Formerly they have had to rely on an ageing generator – for which it was not always possible to obtain fuel. With reliable power the local cell net provider, Magti, agreed to install an amplifier, as a result of which Mobile network coverage for the area has been much improved.

Equipment for the installation was delivered by helicopter on three flights – owing to space and weight limitations. Two engineers accompanied the cargo, and their work was assisted by local staff. The installation comprises:

Secondly, because the climb is particularly popular with Polish climbers – their government now funds doctors and climbing instructors to train tourism-climbers in first aid, and climbing techniques. As a result of these initiatives, climbing Mount Kazbeg is much safer.

And it’s more comfortable: It takes a day to walk from the last habitation – the small town of Stepantsminda – to Bethlemi, where climbers can stay overnight, and use the small cafe whilst waiting for clear weather (sometimes for several days) which will allow them to begin their ascent. They will also stay there on the way back using it as a hotel – a lifeline, albeit with limited comfort and services.

During their expedition they will find that a phone signal is available from Stepantsminda (Kazbegi) to Bethlemi; and that intermittent coverage is also available from the Bethlemi along the route to the summit.

The middle section of the climb is reckoned to be the most dangerous and, alas, much of it lies in a signal blackspot – but these days help is much closer-at-hand than it was.

By Justin Tyers