Elbrus Climbers Summit!

Posted by: | August 10, 2010
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Elbrus Southside
Elevation: 18,510'

Our luck with good weather persisted this morning and when we woke up for our summit bid perfectly clear night skies greeted us. After pulling on our boots and gobbling down breakfast we grabbed our packs and climbing gear and headed out.

It was a gorgeous night with the stars speckling the sky. Being in the heart of the main climbing season on Elbrus dozens of other climbers were attempting their summit bid as well and their headlamps danced up and down the route, reflecting the stars above. We climbed strongly, picking our way up the broad snow slopes below the East Summit, and by dawn we were approaching 17,000’. Just before sunrise, in what seems almost cliche in retrospect, a barrage of shooting stars streaked over the mountain’s shoulder, eventually obscured by the rising sun.

It was crisp climbing in the darkness and we kept our breaks short to keep from getting cold. The sun finally found us leaving the saddle between the East and West Summits at close to 18,000’. We warmed up quickly in the morning sun as we climbed the steep slopes to gain the plateau of the Western Summit and we were quickly shedding our coats and thick gloves. Around 9 am we ascended the final snow ridge to Elbrus’ summit and suddenly there was no more left to climb.

Standing atop Europe’s highest point, the views were nothing short of spectacular. To our south stood the chain of the Caucasus, the peaks looking a bit less imposing when viewed from above. Behind them we could peer into Georgia while looking north into Russia the rolling alpine pasture land of the Caucasus foothills stretched to the horizon. A light haze layer - most likely from the wildfires raging far to the east - hung just below us, giving the sky striking layers of different hues of blue. There was hardly a breath of wind on the summit, by far the best weather I have experienced up there.

After celebrating on the summit we turned our sights back to where we had started and began the descent. We made remarkably quick work of the 6,000’ descent and by midday we were back at the Barrels, with tired legs but feeling quite content.

True to its pattern, the clouds built by midafternoon and as we rested in our bunks rain spattered the metal barrels, making the sleeping bags all the more alluring. We are tired but thrilled with the climb this morning, we couldn’t have hoped for a better day. It was a fantastic climb and we feel very fortunate to have gotten so lucky on a mountain notorious for its fickle and uncertain weather.

We are staying here at the Barrels tonight before descending to Azau tomorrow for hot showers and to celebrate our climb.

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