Sometimes, a second is enough to catch the moment in a wonderful photograph; other times it takes time and tenacity. To remake the masterly Vittorio Sella’s image of Lardaadi Adishi, one of the most spectacular Svanetia’s glaciers, we were forced to make a tough 3-days expedition, with porters and horses.
During the wonderful mid-august day we moved from Mestia to the fascinating semi-abandoned village of Adishi. From here we walked towards a small grassy hill located in front of the impressive icefall. The night, illuminated by a spectacular full moon, made us hope for good weather condition for the following day. Unfortunately, that was not the case: since the morning alarm clock, 3:30 am, the sky was getting darker, and numerous storms stayed with us until early afternoon. The close thunders were confused with the incredible sound generated by the frequent fall of the ice.
Locked in our little tents we couldn’t wait for the weather to get better, and we were trying to preserve our energies and concentration during the stressful waiting. In the afternoon the weather markedly cleared up and with Fabiano, Kenneth and our translator-guide Merab we descend in the valley in order to reach the glacier. There we want to measure the numerous front-lateral moraines which testimony the dynamic and reactivity of the climatic changes of this glacier.
The regress of the glacier terminus, compared to its maximum historical expansion, which likely took place way before the middle of ‘800, is slightly more than one kilometer. Much more evident is instead the lost of thickness of the valley part of the glacier. The “virtuous” behavior of this impressive glacier compared to its colleagues, is likely due to the extreme elevation (more than 4000 meters) of the two accumulation basins, which feed the icefall that dumps ice from a very steep step directly in the valley, at 2400-2500 meters. Such high basins like these allow a basically continuous accumulation of snow throughout the year, and they likely have not been still massively attacked from the high temperature that are instead affecting the valley part of the glacier.
While me and Kenneth are discussing about described observations, Fabiano is already looking for two photographic spots, utilized by Sella and Dechy, in the bottom of the valley that now is much more woody then 100 years ago.
At 5 pm the weather turned bad again and forced us to a rapid return directly through the lateral moraine of the glacier, and again through the harsh caucasic wood. We are back into the tents just when the first hailstone began to fall…
Storms continue until late evening, and we can do nothing but a dinner under the rain. Around 2:30 am finally stops raining; in an hour we are ready to leave for the ridge running around3000 m, looking for the spot utilized by Sella to take his famous picture.
The sky rapidly cleared up from clouds and we climb as fast as we can with horses carrying our heaviest equipment. The moon helps us orientating, and after some troubles Fabiano ménage to find the exact spot of the mythical shot. The sun is about to rise, and Marco and Luca start shooting the wonderful lights at north-east. The first pick to be illuminated at west is the Elbrus (5621 m), the highest Caucasian and European mountain. After shooting some images Fabiano takes the comparison shot with his big format Linhof, while Ken and Merab are coming along. The day is going to be splendid, in front of us stand out the most important Caucasian picks, headed by the elegant and close Tetnuldi (4858 m). In the afternoon we go back to the bottom of the valley, and after horse riding the creek, we go back toward Adishi and then Mestia.
Definitely three challenging days, especially because of the massive storms and the trails thorugh the woods; three days which nevertheless have been very fruitful for the expedition, with the exploration of a wonderful valley.