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What happens when you get the chance of a lifetime to ride some beautiful, rarely explored terrain, in the Caucaus Mountains? 160km of wild fun and a whole lot of adventure – don’t just take our word for it, watch Henna and Sabine’s ride from Stepantsminda to Omalo.

“Crossing Tusheti” follows Scott ambassador Henna Palosaari on route through the Tusheti National Park in Northern Georgia linking together 160 kilometers of famous hiking tracks in the Caucasus mountains, starting from Stepantsminda and finishing in Omalo. Their choice of companion was full-suspension mountain bikes, loaded heavily with camping gear and dried food.

The crew included a mountain bike and ski guide Sabine Schipflinger and Henna Palosaari, an all-round adventurer who was used to bikepacking with a gravel bike, as well as filmmaker Fabian and photographer Moritz.

The trip began as they rode out of Stepantsminda, following an easy gravel road till Juta, where they turned into a small track that shot straight up. There was no doubt that this track was made for hikers, not for bikers. “I guess this is a little taste of what’s to come,” Sabine said, and they all glanced at each other. Nervousness about what lay ahead crept in as the team pushed bikes all the way to the first camp spot as the thunder rolled over the mountains. Maybe this should have remained just an idea.

The long and heavy hike-a-bike to the 3,338 meters high Chaukhi pass, the crisp wind over the glacier, a high alpine descent with sketchy loose rocks followed by unrideable switchbacks, heavy rain, missing a turn, bushwhacking to get back on the trail, doing a sketchy river crossing, and Henna crashing on the last bit when her handlebar bag locked her front wheel made us all more than exhausted, but now a day after, this all started to feel like a good idea again. Even though a group of hikers had reached the top way faster than us, it still made us question our choice of equipment.

By the time we started the big push up to Atsunto pass, our bodies had started to get into the rhythm of knowing when to push the bike, when to carry it, and when to have a break.

As we were riding up to Datvisjvari Pass on a gravel road on our third day, we heard a roaring engine behind us, turned around and saw an old Soviet truck. “Would hitching a ride up be okay for our gravel rider?” the rest of the team asked Henna. “Heck yes, this is why we don’t race,” Henna grinned. We quickly lifted our thumbs up, and the truck stopped. A driver with a wide smile and a few golden teeth welcomed us happily on board. The front seat was already taken, so we hopped on the back of the truck together with our bikes and exchanged excited smiles with the two locals taking a ride up to the next village.

As we finally got closer to the camp spot at 3,000 meters, the sun laid the last warm rays on the mountains and colored the sky in pastel colors. Tiredness was replaced by gratitude and disbelief. We had actually managed to get all the way here with our bikes and had only 500 more elevation meters to go tomorrow to get over the last big mountain pass on our route. We had actually made our unsure plan work.

“Curiosity is something that turns questionable ideas into real plans. Trying something new without full certainty if it is truly possible, getting out of your comfort zone to discover new parts of the world and meeting kindhearted people is why we ride our bikes.” – Henna Palosaari

It’s also not every day you get to ride in the Caucasus mountains, but when you do, you will remember it forever.

Imagery: Moritz Ablinger

Fri 16th Feb, 2024 @ 12:30 am

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