Another nice trek from Juta to Roshka, less frequented than the classic Chaukhi route.
Another solid 2-day trek from Juta to Roshka, less frequented than a classic Chaukhi route. It crosses two mountain passes and beautiful Arkhoti valley.
However, recently it has lost much of its appeals since the new road has been built between Roshka and Arkhoti valley, which kinda spoiled its second half.
Duration: 2 days
If you plan to venture deeper into the valley and visit its villages, three days are recommended.
Two days, two mountain passes. More demanding is the climb to Arkhotistavi pass.
You will need a tent. Trek can be finished even if you don't have it, but in this case, you would have to walk all the way to Akhielli village.
Which way to hike:
I will describe Juta - Roshka direction, the trek is less strenuous this way as Juta has the higher elevation. But the direction doesn't matter as much as when you walk via Chaukhi pass.
There is no public transport, so probably the best option for solo hikers and couples is the daily minibus arranged by Mountain Freaks agency. It departs twice a day, at 9:15 (return at 16:30) and 11:15 (return at 18:30) from their office in Stepantsminda. Price of the return ticket is 30 GEL and the bus departs when there are at least three passengers. It can take only 7 people, so during the high season (Jul, Aug), I recommend to book it at least one day in advance - at this ocassion, check also those departure times since they change them from time to time.
Larger groups or people going only there may prefer a private taxi - ask the owner of your guesthouse or people at the main square. Price for the one-way trip is 40-50 GEL and the ride takes 45 minutes. A return tip with 3-4 hours of waiting time included costs about 80-100 GEL.
Finally, if you want to walk by foot, from Kazbegi its almost 4 hours of walking (17 km) and there is also a possibility to hitchhike.
2023 Update: There was a landslide along the route, about 2,5km before the Juta village. As a result, road was damaged and some taxis might not pass (or be willing to risk it), Mountain Freaks cancelled their Juta shuttle for this season as well. Some taxis manage to squeze through - still, if the driver wants to continue, I would cover that risky section on foot and get back into taxi only after it.
How to leave Roshka:
Leaving Roshka is tricky as there is no public transport - you will have to walk around a village and ask for a driver, ideally at guesthouses. These often ask 150 GEL per ride to Barisakho and 350 GEL for a ride to Tbilisi. But if you have more time, I recommend walking, trail to the valley is recorded in a gpx log, but it´s not used too often, so easier might be just to use the dirt road. From the valley bottom to Korsha, it´s just south by the main road.
In Korsha and Barisakho, there is a marshrutka departing to Tbilisi at 9 am - it runs on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday (tho not always all the way to Tbilisi, sometimes you have to switch bus at Zhinvali). If you want to continue north to Shatili, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, there is a marshrutka from Tbilisi passing the village before noon. Only other options are paying for a ride or hitchhiking.
Day 1: Juta - Arkhoti valley distance 16km, 1202m and 835m
Trek starts at the beginning of Juta village near a huge touristic map of the area (courtesy of Polish trekkers). Cross the bridge and follow the main road by the river.
When you leave the village, red touristic marking will appear.
Walk along the river on a newly built dirt road. At the other side of the river you will see a border guards camp (there is also a small bridge, no need to get wet). When you come close enough, you will be approached by border guards and asked for a passport. It takes them 15 or more minutes to write up a permit.
Walk another mile on the path - it will suddenly end in the river, with a red arrow indicating that you have to cross it. There is no bridge and water could be high,
you will have to look around and find a place. where you could safely ford it. Find a path at the other side of the river and continue upstream. Right in front of you rises the impressive massif of Mt. Roshkakhorki (3562m).
Impressive massif of Mt. Roshkakhorki
Finally, the Juta valley splits. One branch goes to the south, but we keep walking in the eastern direction, technically entering Veshattskali river valley. At the elevation of 2700m, you will pass turn-off to Sadzele pass, another route to Roshka marked by yellow.
Stay on the red trail, which will soon turn a bit to left and start noticeably ascending to reach an elevated plateau in the upper part of the valley. Shortly after climbing this plateau you will come close to the end of also this valley - time to cross small a stream on your right again and climb Arkhotistavi pass (3287 m) in the east. Its quite steep and exhausting climb, luckily not too far, no more than 300 altitude meters.
Cross the pass and descent into Arkhoti valley. You will cross several small streams, which will eventually merge into Tsirilovantskali river running in a canyon on your right side.
Walk at the edge of the canyon for a while to the place where its possible to ford a river. Cross the river and climb on small mounds of blueberry bushes.
You should see nice camping flat spot covered with grass approx. 100 meters ahead. Not far below, you can see a newly built road to Akhielli - not going to hide it, it looks really ugly, with serious erosion affecting the mountainside above.
Longer variant: If you want to reach Akhielli village, you need to walk another 2 hours on the road by the river.
You will have to cross the river again at a place where valley sharply bends to the north.
Day 2: Arkhoti valley - Roshka distance 10km, 507m and 1036m
Since a new road has been built, the route is pretty straightforward. First follow it to the southwest to the Roshka pass (2986m, named as Bogovachisghele pass on some maps).
After one hour (you will have to climb 400 meters) you should be up and enjoy the great view. From here, the road continues further southwest and after one hour crosses the river and joins the trail going down from Sadzele pass. Then it turns the southeast and after less than an hour you should reach the Roshka village.
Bogovachisghele (Roshka) pass before the road was built
Where to stay in Juta:
Finding an accommodation in Juta is easy. The village is already quite "guesthousified" and combined with the fact that the majority of people visit it only on a daytrip from Kazbegi means there are always some good places to choose from.
MetiTsa guesthouse - beautiful, modern place in the upper part of the village, on the way to the Chaukhi mountain. Nato is a great host, really attentive and caring - moreover, she is fluent also in English and Russian. Also, the food is plentiful and tasty, overall, this is one of the best places in Juta.
Levan & Megi's guesthouse - pleasant guesthouse located at the beginning of the village, down by the river. Rooms are not modern by any means but the place is very cozy and has welcoming owners who really care about the satisfaction of their guests. Moreover, Megi is an excellent cook and it shows each morning and evening :)
Fifth Season - a modern guesthouse/mountain hut lying above the Juta village. I am not exactly a fan, but this place cannot be overlooked since it has the best location in Juta with best views of the Chaukhi mountain. In my opinion, the place has an incredible potential but there is also lots of room for improvement.
It is not exactly the serene, calm place in the mountains as it looks to be. It has friendly, party atmosphere but staff is not always effective when it comes to enforcing the rules so earplugs are recommended. Also, they could turn down the volume of music they tend to blast into the valley. And the last but not least, they start serving breakfast only at 9 am. which is very inconvenient if you plan some longer trek such as crossing to Roshka.
Zeta camping - traditional camping place located above Juta village, on the way to the Chaukhi mountain. It offers accommodation in cottages as well as in tents - not a place for me since I always carry my own (and there are way nicer camping spots upper in the valley), but if you don´t have it and still want to camp in some beautiful location, this is a great (tho a bit expensive) pick. Also, the staff is very helpful and friendly. Overall, a very pleasant place.