We’re at 15,580 feet altitude, and the rope is tightening behind me: I have to stop. Stef and our guide Tato are up ahead of me. They look down quizzically. Then I look down, and Jid makes a sign I don’t want to process. “Come on Jid! We’re almost there!” Head bowed, he leans heavily on his poles: I know that position, I’ve been there. It’s the moment when you know you have to stop, when you know it’s the end, that you won’t go any higher today, that you must turn back, so near to your goal, so near the summit. The 980 feet that separates me from that point, the little black dot on the map, and its number: “5,047 meters” (16,558ft). For the past few weeks I’ve been looking at it, imagining it, picturing myself up there, our final goal, the culmination of our trip. We’ll only see it from a way off.
Two weeks earlier, we had landed at Batumi airport to hook up with Jérôme, aka Jid, who had already spent two days locally, finalizing the three weeks ahead. The idea of the trip was to discover the Caucasus Mountains, setting off from the Black Sea and reaching the shores of the Caspian Sea. Staying in bivvies, refuges or people’s homes, we wanted to immerse ourselves in the country’s culture, meet Georgians, and enjoy the beautiful snowy slopes of the mountains.