|Mount Elbrus from The North|
This was my first time in Russia and the Caucasus. I was guiding four guys from the Midlands who had all previously been out with me on a 4 days winter skills course in The Cairngorms of Scotland last February. Jim, Scott B, Scott S and Mitch hatched their plan way back in November 2012 to climb something big, exciting and in a fascinating part of the world, so Elbrus fitted their criteria well. They had all been training hard, living in a flat part of the UK this isn't easy. Running up and down their wee local park hill with a 20kg pack was one of their regular training programmes!
Our chosen route was from the North side of the mountain. This route has very little in the way of infrastructure and apart from the base camp and a couple of small private huts higher up the mountain there are no other forms of accommodation. This was a camping expedition, carrying all our equipment and food for up to 9 days on the mountain.
|Elbrus from Cheget mountain|
We had employed a local company (Pilgrim Tours) to organise our transport, red tape and usual Russian paperwork for our logistics to the foot of the mountain.
Day 2. 19 Aug we had a five hour drive, the final half hour through the beautiful Basken Valley to the small ski resort of Cheget (2100m) on the South side of Elbrus to complete the formal red tape. The Southern route of Elbrus is where the vast majority of groups ascend. It has a small ski area and at 3750m accommodation in 'barrel' huts not far beyond the top of the chair lift system. Beyond this there is even a skidoo service to over 4000m if that is what you want! We were all pleased not to be climbing via this route.
Day 3. 20 Aug dawned clear, bright and hot. Our first acclimatisation walk was the wee rocky summit of CHEGET (3100m) which is to the south of Elbrus The very easy track and paths up from the village took us to the top in 4 hours and gave fantastic views to Elbrus but even better views to the shapely peak of Dongozorunbashi. The actual summit of Cheget is at over 3400m but due to military operations the top section was closed off.
|Dongozorunbashi. from Cheget|
|Our transport to 'basecamp' at 3500m|
|Food carry up to our high camp|
|On the first steep ridge up to our high camp|
|'Home' at 3700m at the foot of the glacier|
|The guys first taste on the glacier|
|The evening before the storm|
|The guys enjoying it|
|Another clear night|
|Fabulous sunrise at 4600m|
|Alpen glow on the west summit|
|Heading toward the top of Lenz Rocks |
|Half an hour till the summit, the effects of high altitude|
|A quiet mountain, only half a dozen folk around.|
|.......and finally the summit!|
I found Russia a fantastic place, the people helpful, friendly and we came across absolutely no corruption from anyone wanting cash! Before this trip it was hard getting hold of any guide books in English. Good sources of info out on the net though.
Just a few words on kit:
I was clad in my old Scarpa Vegas, a bit heavy and slightly clumsy but my feet were like toast all the way. Which can't be said for some of the boots that the guys were wearing. Another fantastic bit of kit was my Mountain Equipment Randonee gloves. I had these on from the word go to the summit and back. My hands were never cold. Whilst a couple of the guys had some inferior gloves backed up by massive mitts on top! BTW I m not getting sponsored by this gear! :)
Apparently there is a movie in production by Jim and the guy's. Watch this space for Elbrus - The Movie.