Three Georgian entrepreneurs are building a mountain cabin near Stepantsminda, at an altitude of 3014 meters.
„When we started this project, people thought, we were crazy.“ Nikoloz Alavidze is one of three initiators of the project “AltiHut 3.14“. He and his partner David Chichinadze hiked up to an elevation of around 3000 meters this morning. At this location, with a view of the summit of Mount Kazbegi, the two of them and their team want to build a new mountain cabin. Two small shelters and a platform out of metal and concrete have already been completed this summer – the foundation for the new hut.
…and David Chichinadze are two of the initiators of project “AltiHut 3.14“.
At a height of 5047 meters above sea level, Mount Kazbegi is the third highest mountain in Georgia. The mountain is situated in the North of the country, between Russia and the village Stepantsminda which is famous in Georgia for its ancient church, Gergeti Trinity Church.
“It is a very special mountain”, David Chichinadze tells Georgian Journal. “Despite its height, it can be climbed even by beginners provided that they are in a good physical condition, have appropiate equipment and professional guides.” According to the Georgian National Tourism Agency, more than 30’000 people traveled to Kazbegi in 2015. About 5000 of them reached the Bethlehem Hut, at an elevation of 3670 meters above sea level, the only existing infrastructure on the way from the village Stepantsminda to the summit.
The village Stepantsminda is famous for its ancient church, Gergeti Trinity Church.
“Bethlehem Hut is too high for most people to reach in a day”, David Chichinadze points out. “But first and foremost, the existing infrastructure is insufficient to keep up with the ever-increasing number of tourists. The absence of waste management, wastewater and sewerage facilities are a major concern.” The location where the new hut is being constructed used to be a popular camping spot for mountaineers on their way to the summit, leaving a lot of waste behind. “With the new hut we want to establish a sustainable waste management system to decrease the human footprint on this mountain“, Nikoloz Alavidze emphasizes.
The planned mountain cabin for up to 30 people. (Graphic: AltiHut)
The entrepreneurs plan to build a mountain hut at an altitude of 3014 meters. The planned infrastructure includes a kitchen, a shower, bio toilets, a restaurant and a camping site. To ensure the safety of the visitors, the initiators want to accommodate a mountain rescue team next to the hut. They have finished building a helicopter landing platform which allows the evacuation of tourists in case of an emergency. To set up a sustainable waste management system, the team plans to work with local providers. “In most cases, horses transport food for the mountaineers who want to climb the summit. On the way back they could carry the collected waste. Additionally, we will be ready to involve helicopters as the number of visitors is constantly increasing”, David Chichinadze explains.
The team behind the project: Sofia Beridze, David Chichinadze, Martina Ramming, Mamuka Nikoladze and Nikoloz Alavidze. (Photograph: AltiHut)
Behind the project is a team of four people. Nikoloz Alavidze has years of experience in the finance industry and is in charge of the project’s finances. David Chichinadze is responsible for the construction part of the project. As a long-time employee of the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency, he has worked in the field of disaster risk management and has managed several construction projects in Georgia’s mountainous regions. The third team member, Mamuka Nikoladze, is a geologist and mountaineering specialist. The team has recently been joined by a partner from Switzerland, Martina Ramming and is supported by other Swiss and Italian friends sharing their know-how. The estimated cost of the project is 500’000 USD. So far, the three Georgians and their Swiss business partner have invested their own money, supported by a Georgian bank. In parallel, they are still looking for investors. “As this is not a purely business-oriented project, it is not easy to find like-minded investors,” Nikoloz Alavidze says.
The foundation for the new hut was built in summer. (Photograph: AltiHut)
After laying water pipes and the foundation for the cabin in summer 2017, the first phase of construction has been completed. It took the team over 130 helicopter rotations from Stephantsminda to the Altihut point to transport the construction materials. At the moment, the different parts of the hut are being produced in Switzerland. The plan is to transport these wooden elements to Georgia and put them together on the platform in spring. “Working with pre-produced structures makes the construction process a lot easier and quicker”, David Chichinadze explains. This is crucial as the implementation of construction work on an elevation of more than 3000 meters has its difficulties. As for weather conditions, construction is possible only during a short period of time over the whole year. Since there is no road leading from Stepantsminda to AltiHut, all of the construction materials have to be brought up by helicopters.
“No construction works of this kind have been done in Georgia’s mountains since the 1940’s. That’s why some people still think, we are crazy,” Nikoloz Alavidze says. He has no doubts about the success of the project: “We are sure that everything will work out as planned and, we can inaugurate the huts opening in summer 2018.”
Author: Simone Herrmann