Entries from Elbrus Ski
Today the team explored the city of St. Petersburg, including a beautiful evening canal tour complete with dramatic sunset and hilarious narration from our tour guide. Tomorrow the team disbands, departing in the direction of our various homes or next destinations. A big thanks to everyone for coming together and bringing your A-game to this Mt. Elbrus Ski Expedition. Till next time…
Yesterday we had a relaxing down day at the base of the mountain with on and off thunderstorms, walking exploration of the surrounding area, and coffee drinking. The day culminated in our celebration bbq dinner with our Russian guide Yuriy, master of ceremonies, pouring one vodka toast after another.
Today we’ve just arrived in St. Petersburg after a somewhat tedious journey through Russian domestic air travel. In my experience it’s usually pretty smooth sailing, but today that was not the case. I’ll spare you the details - it’s the same story as you’ve probably experienced in America. We made our flight and the whole team is psyched to be here.
This morning we awoke to stars above, starting our climb in beautiful weather. On the long traverse to the saddle between the mountain’s east and west summits we had a spectacular sunrise, and views deep into the Caucasus. This evolved quickly though into whiteness, as we climbed into a chilly cloud cap.
Despite the weather we were able to ski right off the top and while visibility was marginal, the snow was excellent by high altitude ski mountaineering standards. In my experience, any 6000’ spring descent usually starts a little scratchy up high, has a magic perfectly sun softened middle section, and finishes a little too soft. That’s exactly how today was, but the magic middle section also included the magic of bursting through the clouds to a world of color, light and contrast beneath. Worth the price of admission as someone said in the moment.
Now our team is back in the lowlands safe and sound, soaking up oxygen as thunderstorms roll through the valley. Life is good here in Russia.
On The Map
Greetings again from the Caucasus! Here’s a quick recap of our last couple days on the mountain:
Yesterday we ascended to the top of Pastukhova Rocks at over 15,000’ and enjoyed a nice 3,000’ descent. The best snow conditions were up high where the colder temperatures have kept things preserved - smooth and flowy. Everyone got a sense of the reality of high altitude skiing: ski a few turns, stop to pressure breathe, ski a few turns, stop to pressure breathe… on down the mountain.
For a little extra acclimatization this morning, our group hopped on a snow cat and enjoyed a free ride up to our high point yesterday, this time arriving in about 25 minutes. With pleasant weather, we took the opportunity for some mountaineering skills training and review. We then skinned up to 16,000’, a new altitude record for a few members of our group.
It’s a been a productive couple days of acclimatization and rest here on Mt. Elbrus. If the weather looks good in the morning, we’ll see if we can sneak our way to the top.
On The Map
Thursday, June 20, 2019 - 5:42 PM PT
Yesterday we had a nice hike at the Cheget ski area, reaching 10,000’ and getting some beautiful views of the Caucasus.
Today we woke up at 6,800’ and by early afternoon had ski toured up to 14,000’. This was with the help of three gondolas that we shuffled all our gear on and off, en route to our camp here on the mountain. One of my favorite days on these trips is the first day we get to ski - a reminder of why we’ve come all this way with all these heavy bags. Everyone was psyched to ski today. I think we’ll do it again tomorrow…
It’s good to finally be in position here on Mt. Elbrus. Acclimatization and rest is the plan for the next couple days.
On The Map
Today our senses were greeted with cool, fresh, clean mountain air as we stepped out of the van. It was a successful journey today from the big city to the Caucasus Mountains. This morning we had an alpine start followed by numerous airport cappuccinos, a tranquil flight to Mineralnye Vody, and three hours of driving through the Russian countryside. After four days of travel it’s great to finally be here at the base of the mountain.
Monday, June 17, 2019 - 4:22 AM PT
Greetings from Moscow. Most of us awoke at 4am this morning for no reason. The sun rises early here, which doesn’t help with the jetlag. Today we embarked on a city tour of Moscow that included St Basils Cathedral, the Kremlin, and Red Square’s otherworldly shopping mall. We’re working on rounding up some delayed ski bags and delayed teammates, which hopefully will all be in one place by this evening. So far so good here in Russia…
Ryan, guess it’s going to be difficult for you to NOT stand out in a crowd in Moscow. This is such an exciting adventure and you are the perfect one to do it! Have a great experience and take it all in.“Time of your life kid.”
Posted by: John & Leslie Cooper on 6/18/2019 at 7:05 pm
Today we toured the beautiful city of St. Petersburg including St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. In the evening we had a nice canal tour, although the rivers being close to flood stage meant our boat couldn’t pass under certain bridges. We had a nice final dinner as a team at our favorite restaurant - this trip has just flown by, which is always a sign of a great trip. Till next time…
Just a quick one to say we made it to St. Petersburg safe and sound this afternoon despite a few thunderstorms on arrival. A little bit of culture shock being back in the city after our time in the mountains but we’re looking forward to a city dining experience this evening…
Everyone slept great last night after a big day yesterday. Today’s activities included a beautiful morning walk from the village of Cheget to Azau, where we enjoyed a leisurely lunch at the Freeride Cafe. Afternoon horseback riding included an exciting river ford and a visit to the valley’s mineral springs. This evening we celebrated our successful climb with Yuriy, our local Russian guide who’s climbed Mt. Elbrus “maybe 200 times…maybe 300. I’ve stopped counting many years ago.” BBQ lamb, potato pancakes, Russian salads, and of course, vodka… tomorrow it’s another alpine start as we head for St. Petersburg. All is great in Russia.