Elbrus Northside Team arrives in the Caucasus
The rain continued to spit down on Moscow last night, although not enough to deter a few Muscovites from singing in the street outside our hotel on their way back from the bars. We left the hotel before dawn, watching daylight break over a damp and sleepy city on our way to the airport. Soon, without much trouble despite our loaded bags that far exceeded the 20 kg./passenger limit, we were checked in and boarding the aircraft. Perhaps it was due to the dreary weather but the boarding process was smooth and orderly - a far cry from the normal mad jostling of bodies that typically occurs as every Russian vies for the right to be first on the plane.
Departing Moscow we quickly broke free of the grey cloud cover and the blue skies above stayed with us all the way to Mineralnye Vody - our gateway to the Caucasus. As we approached the runway Elbrus’ twin summits were shining clearly in the distance, breaking the horizon and dwarfing the hills around.
Again, all of our bags successfully navigated the Russian baggage check system and arrived with us so we were soon on the road, driving through rolling hills of wheat fields and recently harvested sunflowers to the city of Kislovodsk. A small city by most standards, Kislovodsk is a famous destination known for its natural mineral springs and it remains a popular retreat for many of Russia’s well-to-do. Its main streets have recently been repaved and sidewalks widened, we are told partly in the regional preparations for the 2014 Winter Games, although Sochi remains several hours drive from here. We checked into our small hotel located across the street from the town’s busy farmer’s market that runs from sun up to sun down every day of the week. Taking the rest of the afternoon to explore our immediate neighborhood, pick up some groceries from the nearby store, and resort our gear again, we are at last ready to depart for the mountain tomorrow. There are still several hours of navigating the twisting dirt roads deep into the Caucasus Steppe to reach Elbrus. Assuming the good weather holds and the road are in passable condition we should reach Base Camp by early tomorrow afternoon.
The team is eager to complete our last leg of the long journey to Elbrus and we are looking forward to beginning the climb. Everyone is in good spirits and passes on their best to folks at home. We will check in tomorrow after setting up our Base Camp on the north side of Elbrus!
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