Elbrus Northside Team descends to Base Camp
It was a beautiful night at Camp 1 last night, without a light for miles the stars were simply stunning, covering the dark sky so thoroughly the whole expanse seemed to glow. Beneath it all, we slept soundly - tired from the day of climbing. When we awoke we had a leisurely breakfast, enjoying the morning sun and watching the clouds form, dissolve, and reform on the summit far above. Despite the pleasant weather at Camp 1, the weather up high looked unsettled again with clouds racing over the summit. We commented again on how fortunate we were to sneak in a successful summit.
Packing up all of our gear, we shouldered hefty packs and began our descent to Base Camp. It took a few minutes to get the legs loosened up but once we navigated back down through the scree and boulder fields we were again moving well. Taking a slightly more easterly trail on the descent from that which we came up, we visited a series of rock formations known as the Mushroom Rocks - towers of eroded rocks sporting broad flat tops, very reminiscent of landscapes found in the American West. Continuing on, we rejoined our original trail and descended back into a carpet of green and yellow as the alpine grasses and small shrubs are turning colors with the approach of fall.
At last, with tired feet we arrived at Base Camp, happy to drop the packs. Several of the Russian soldiers, temporarily stationed here since the helicopter crash up on the mountain, came over to congratulate us and convinced a few of the more courageous team members to take a dunk with them in the springs next to camp, which they informed us bubbles up at a scalding 2 degrees Celsius (~36F).
We are planning to return to Kislovodsk tomorrow, a day earlier than anticipated, to seek out some hot showers, clean clothes, and fresh food. Although the climb of Elbrus is behind us, a long journey still awaits us as we make our way back out of the Caucasus and to St. Petersburg on the shores of the Gulf of Finland. We are eager to set off on the next leg of our adventure.
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