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Elbrus Climbers Acclimatize in Cheget

We reached the small village of Azau last night as daylight shrank from the mountains, their presence only hinted at by the dark forms obscuring the stars around us. Thankful to put an end to the traveling for a bit we dumped our bags in our rooms, grabbed a quick bite to eat in the restaurant, and collapsed into our beds.

Upon waking this morning we immediately caught glimpses of the mountains, the craggy summits of the Caucasus visible through the skylights of our rooms. With the morning sun quickly burning away the cool mountain morning we set off on a day hike, walking down the valley to the village of Cheget. The rural areas of Russia are a contrast in times, old homes of concrete slabs and rusting corrugated roofs sit along the road, gardens sprouting in the front while livestock grazes on the hillsides behind, while a store next door advertises rentals for the latest ski gear from Western companies. This was even more pointed yesterday as we drove past old Soviet factories used to build tractors and parts for their space program, long since abandoned and now occupied by grazing cows that walk the roads, causing the Mercedes and vans of climbers coming from the airport to weave between the wandering bovine.

Yet overlooking the continually changing landscape stand the stunning summits of the Caucasus. Upon reaching Cheget, we hopped on an old single seat chairlift, each chair painted in bright colors to hide the age, and quickly emerged from treeline. To the south lay the jagged heart of the Caucasus, the knife edge ridgelines cutting through the sky and delineating the Russian/Georgian border, to the north loomed the glacier capped twin summits of Mt. Elbrus, the mountain we traveled so far to climb. At 10,000’ the air was thin and we walked slowly along narrow trails weaving through slopes, exposing our bodies to the new altitudes, which will benefit us tonight when we return to 7,000’ to sleep. With that exposure to higher elevations our bodies will work harder to prepare for the increased effort needed at high altitudes.

Returning to Cheget for lunch we dined on “Shashlik” - chicken kabobs roasted on the open fire burning on the patio, before returning to our lodgings in Azau to sort our gear for tomorrow and get some rest. Tomorrow we leave the valley and ascend to the toe of the glacier on the south side of Elbrus. We plan on spending some time in the afternoon to climb a portion of the glacier before returning to our hut for the evening.

The team is doing well and pleased to be here in the mountains. We are looking forward to pulling out our climbing gear and heading onto Elbrus.


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