Mt. Elbrus: North Side Team Safely Descends The Mountain

Posted by: Jeff Martin, Pete Van Deventer | August 13, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Elbrus Northside

First and foremost, we are safely off of Mt. Elbrus, and back in Kislovodsk!

The last 36 hours have gone by in a rush to be sure. We woke yesterday to very light winds and clear skies all around us for the first time in several days. All indications were that it was a perfect summit day, so we rallied the troops, crammed down breakfast, and readied our summit kits for a big day.  By 8:45, it was time to rope up and start walking.  The first section of the climbing route follows the natural contours of the bowl between summits (Mt Elbrus has two summits,  the west about 40 ft higher than the east) to the saddle that splits them.  We found nice, firm cramponing conditions on the wind buffed snow, and the team moved very well.  After three hours we had gained the saddle and our climbing route merged with that of the South side.  As we climbed a steep pitch out of the saddle we passed many teams already descending. Seven hundred feet brought us to the summit ridge, a broad, flat stretch that leads to the very tippy top.  Here the wind increased, reddening our cheeks and causing us to pull up our buffs and tuck deeper into our hoods. After five hours of steady climbing, our rope teams made the final steps to the top of Europe.  Jeff had 5 summits of Mt. Elbrus under his belt,  and despite the wind, this one was the warmest and nicest by far. After ample time for photographs and enjoying the moment, we bid adieu to the summit and headed for camp. The wind quickly died, but the cumulus clouds that were beginning to rise in all directions caught our attention. It was a short trip to retrace our tracks to camp, and once there, a poll of the group showed unanimous support for packing everything and continuing to Camp 1. Despite tired legs, thirsty throats and hungry bellies, none wanted to endure any incoming weather at Lenz Rocks. So with a bit more suffering. We descended another 3,000 feet to the relative comfort of Camp 1, ate dinner and called it a big day well done.
This morning we packed all of our gear one last time, and descended the trail, with wildflowers and views aplenty to base camp. Just like clockwork (not always the case here in Russia) the WAS vans that carry us to and from base camp rolled in just a few moments after us.  We hurriedly packed our duffles and jumped inside as the drivers became more agitated about the prospect of rain. We made the river crossing and up the steepest, slickest section of road before the rain, quickly turning to hail (a fitting send off from the mountain).
The drive went smoothly, as eyelids took turns closing, and we now find ourselves back in Kislovodsk, showered,  and ready for a big meal.  It was a bit bittersweet to drive away from the mountain,  or biggest objective now complete, but our trip is not over: we have tomorrow to explore this Caucus region town before heading on to St. Petersburg to enjoy the rich history and all that it has to offer.  We’ll continue to update you on our adventures.  Thanks for reading,

RMI Guides Pete Van Deventer, Jeff Martin, and team

Looking toward the West Summit of Mt. Elbrus from Lenz Rocks.  Photo: Pete Van Deventer

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