Supported by the 2016 RGS-IBG Land Rover Bursary and working in partnership with regional organisations and experts, the Transcaucasian Expedition team are attempting to map out a long-distance hiking trail the length of the Lesser Caucasus mountain range, from Batumi on the Black Sea coast of Georgia to Meghri on the southern border of Armenia, thus forming the north-south route of the Transcaucasian Trail.

Beginning in April 2016, we will drive a specially modified Land Rover Defender from the UK across Europe to the Caucasus. From temporary headquarters in the regional capitals of Yerevan and Tbilisi, we will take advantage of the full seasonal weather window from May to October, exploring and mapping the region’s extensive network of informal off-road routes.

The main aim of doing so will be to allow us to design a prototype long-distance hiking trail of approximately 1,500km in length along the Lesser Caucasus range. Our intention is to help foster a broader movement towards improved access to the outdoors in the Caucasus region, both for local hikers and outdoor professionals and the international community of adventurous travellers and geographers.

As we have seen and experienced for ourselves over the last few years of living and working in the region, the main obstacle to accessibility in the Georgian and Armenian backcountry is a lack of recent, detailed and accurate mapping. In an attempt to offer a tangible solution to this problem, the GIS data gathered during the expedition will be processed and made available to the public via OpenStreetMap, the world’s leading open-source mapping platform.

Raising international awareness of this geographically significant region is at the core of the project. We feel that the story of the expedition has the potential to create a powerful and engaging narrative, and our communications from the field will share the challenges of this journey and tell the story of uncovering the hidden landscapes and cultures of the Caucasus in our pursuit of this international hiking trail.

Our ambitions do not end with our arrival back in the UK at the end of 2016. The expedition’s outcomes will contribute to a broad long-term vision of a ‘Transcaucasian Trail’ (TCT), which we share with a number of other regional stakeholders. The TCT aims to become a world-class, long-distance trail network across the Caucasus to make hiking safer and more accessible to everyone, and to contribute to the protection of the region’s rich and diverse natural and cultural heritage.