This New Mega-Trail Could Open a Mysterious Region to Trekkers

The Transcaucasian Trail (TCT) is a 932-mile long-distance trekking route stretching from the Black Sea in the west to the Caspian Sea in the east. The trail is planned to pass under gorgeous 16,400-foot peaks capped with snow and through a stunning high-altitude UNESCO World Heritage site. The path will traverse ancient villages where hospitality and wine are the currency, and cross crystal blue mountain streams on handmade bridges and ancient Byzantine trading trails worn deep into the fern-covered floors of old-growth forests.

“You have incredibly steep terrain. You have a lot of rivers, and a lot of dense forests that are really difficult to navigate through.” The very obstacles to building a trail here are what make the region a world-class trekking destination. Though virtually unknown on international lists of top treks, the Caucasus lures a small but growing number of extreme hikers looking for adventure in a mostly uncharted wilderness.

Aside from the trouble posed by the difficult terrain, the Caucasus faces historical, cultural, and political concerns, as well as those in geographical and physical form.

From a hiker’s point of view, one of the biggest problems is that the old Soviet trails in the region are unmaintained, with trail markers faded to nothing in places. “Sometimes we lost our track in the woods,” said Irakli Chakhvashvili, a young Georgian geographer who has helped with some of the scouting and mapping.

He recalled a recent hike up to a well-known glacier above Mestia, a popular tourist town in the mountainous Svaneti province in western Georgia. “The markings are also in bad shape,” he said. “It was marked on the maps, but you shouldn’t trust that.”

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