Entries from Elbrus Northside
August 6, 2014
We jumped straight into it today. After six days of travel, hotels, and sight seeing, we were excited to don packs and point our toes uphill. The roughly sixty pounds of food, fuel, and gear each didn’t dampen the enthusiasm, at least at first.
Our goal was to move a significant bulk of our expedition kit up to 11,200 ft, just a bit shy of Camp 1. With the recent rains, as well as the cattle traffic, the first stretch was muddy and slick. Throw in the steep terrain and it felt a bit like we were climbing on ice skates. But with only a few bovine friends that needed to be shooed out of our way, we made good time and quickly gained the Berlin airfield, a large flat basin, that the Germans supposedly were able to land planes during WWII. Though the skies threatened rain (for much of the day) the clouds seemed to push up with us, keeping us dry for the time being.
Through a series of steep climbs and flat benches we wound our way, perfecting our rest step and footwork, until after 3.5 hours, we arrived at the cache site. While periodically scanning for anyone spying our location, we stealthily sorted our cache gear and hid it in the rocks, then turned tail and headed downhill. The going was fast and easy until the last steep stretch to camp when we again had to contend with the mud churned up by our ruminant cohabitants. We slipped, slid, and squished our way down to camp. Our timing was impeccable, as the skies that had threatened all day finally delivered in the form of a drenching downpour two minutes before we reached camp. We ducked into tents and hung wet shells to dry. As the rain continued the ground saturated, and soon our tents seemed to wart to begin floating. Luckily the water has so far stayed on the right side of the tent fabric. We made a hearty dinner of soup with fresh veggies (a shift from last night’s farm to table feast) and have retired to our abodes. It is still raining, but hopefully it will subside tonight so that we can move up to Camp 1 tomorrow. If not, it may be time for us to consider building an ark. We’ll update you on our progress tomorrow!
August 5, 2014
Greetings from Elbrus Basecamp,
We completed our last leg of travel today and reached Basecamp. The day started with a nice breakfast served in our rooms at the hotel, and then we loaded up the vehicles one last time and headed towards the mountain. In recent years, there has been a lot of road improvements so much of the drive is now paved. The last 8 miles though is still the same with huge mud holes, deep ruts, and very steep drop offs. Since it has been raining the last few days, the road was extra slick and this changed what would have been a 15 minute ride into a very entertaining two hours. We ended up walking down while another vehicle carried our gear. As luck would have it, that vehicle broke an axle so we went back to the vehicle to carry it ourselves. After we arrived at the jeep, we learned that another vehicle had been found so we walked back to basecamp. It was raining the whole time and without our gear it is a little difficult to set up a camp. We were finally reunited with our gear and we moved into a nice camp.
The driver who helped us out today ended up cooking us dinner. We walked back down the same path for the third time today to his shack. He was waiting for us and motioned us into his home. He had obviously been cooking since we last saw him and we were first offered a local milk drink that tasted like yogurt, drank from a communal cup, then steaming hot bread, and finally a whole pot of lamb and potatoes. It was a delicious meal and an experience we will not soon forget.
Now it is off it bed so we are ready for our carry day tomorrow.
RMI Guides Jeff, Pete & Team
Great picture! Off to a challenging start!
Posted by: Kris on 8/6/2014 at 7:01 am
I hope the weather clears and it looks like it should on Thursday. We are all rooting for you - from our recliners of course. :) Wishing you great climbing!
Posted by: Joyce Pully on 8/6/2014 at 3:54 am
August 4, 2014
Hello from Kislovodsk,
As planned, we had an early start this morning, leaving our hotel at 5:45 to drive to the domestic airport. With all our bags checked we boarded the plane and flew south to Mineralyne Vody, the main airport in the Caucasus region. Then it was an hour drive to the resort town of Kislovodsk. Best known for its spas, many Russians come here to take a break from the big city life in Moscow. But we did not come here for the spas. We are here because it is the last town before we drive into the mountains. We spent the afternoon going through all of our gear, making sure we had everything needed for the climb and this team is ready.
Tomorrow we will finally see Elbrus for the first time as we approach Basecamp. We are all excited to be ending our travels and beginning the climb.
All the best,
RMI Guide Jeff Martin
Have a wonderful climb everyone! I hope you enjoy your 40th Birthday on this climb, John!
Posted by: Becky on 8/5/2014 at 7:56 am
Jess and team, have a great climb. Love you wiffie!! we are all doing well here.
Posted by: Hector on 8/5/2014 at 3:27 am
August 3, 2014
We had a great first day in Moscow. It started with a short walk to the heart of Russia - Red Square and the Kremlin. First up was Lenin’s Tomb. It is sort of an eerie experience seeing an embalmed man who has been dead for so many years, but definitely worth it. The trick is to move just slow enough through the viewing room that you do not get the guards’ attention and be told to move ahead. After exiting the tomb, we met up with our tour guide who lead us on a grand tour through Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the GUM, Red Square, and finally the Kremlin. The day was certainly a mini history lesson of the czars and rulers of Russia, and of wars and power struggles, and Moscow has been around for almost a 1000 years so it gets a little complicated.
After the tour of the Kremlin and feeling like we were close to information overload, we started our walk back to the hotel for a little down time. We are back from dinner now and heading to bed so that we can leave early in the morning for our flight to our next town - Kislovodsk. We’ll check in once we get settled there.
RMI Guides Jeff Martin and Pete Van Deventer
August 2, 2014
Greetings from Moscow,
The team arrived in Moscow today and our Russian adventure has officially begun!
There are no more trips to the store to buy that last minute item that you think you might need to bring just in case, no more chances to clear off your desk of the last few remaining to-do items. It is go time. We are headed for Mt. Elbrus.
But before we fly south, we are going to explore Moscow tomorrow and all it’s amazing sights. And we will get a big dose of Russian culture, food and history along the way. The perfect introduction to this country.
September 6, 2013
This is the last day of the trip for us. We’ve had a really nice day here in St. Petersburg. We kicked off the morning by beating the crowd to the Hermitage Museum. Once we got in we disbanded and everyone took in the seemingly endless art works at their own pace. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the experience there.
Now we’ve all met up again for a boat tour on the canals. The weather is really nice here with plenty of sun and just a little crispness in the air.
Tomorrow we’ll all head to the airport for our flights home. It’s too bad the weather kept us from getting to the top of Mt. Elbrus but this group has really made the most of the situation. Pete and I feel really lucky that everyone had such a positive attitude throughout the trip.
September 5, 2013
Greetings from St. Petersburg, Russia. This has been one of the two days without rain on the trip and we are psyched! We really had a great tour of the city with our local guide Tatiana. We visited St. Issac’s cathedral, Peter and Paul’s cathedral and fortress, and the Church of our Savior on Spilled Blood.
Tomorrow we’ll be touring the Hermitage museum and then taking an evening canal tour for the last day of the trip.
Here’s a photo from St Issac’s.
James and Pete…Different kind of summit…Did prez ask to meet the famous mountaineers - you and crew ?...Enjoy the sights…Best Waltero
Posted by: Walter on 9/6/2013 at 5:27 am
Janet & Peter, Random says 4 hooves up for the summit tomorrow! Resting and relaxing at home, Gretchen says “I could have done the 1st 17 miles with you!” We are hoping the weather will be perfect and that you have a great climb to the top. Cheers!!!
Pat & Jeanne
Posted by: Pat & Jeanne on 9/5/2013 at 9:23 pm
Seth here. We’re all checked in for our flights to St. Petersburg. Today is our transfer day so there’s not much to report. Everyone met up for coffee in the morning and the group had a down day while Pete and I cleaned and dried the tents and other gear. We’ll be taking a red-eye to St. Pete’s tonight and then we’ll start touring the city tomorrow afternoon.
September 3, 2013
Checking in from Kisklovodsk! We managed to get out of Mt. Elbrus Base Camp today even though the roads were a bit slippery. The weather had a bit more in store for us as we all awoke to thunder and rain early this morning. After breakfast we waited out the soggy conditions and with just a bit of delay we loaded the 4x4’s and made the trip back to town. After a well deserved shower we met up for a great dinner. The next stop for us is St. Petersburg which should be great!
James and team, no luck with weather, no summit, but you do have great stories to share! Just admiring you for the hard work for the preparation and climbing. Thankful that you are well. Have great time in St.Petersburg.
Posted by: Soonja Choo on 9/3/2013 at 4:16 pm
September 2, 2013
Hi, this is Seth. We’re all back down at basecamp. It was a bummer to walk down today without the summit but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Everyone was in good spirits even though we didn’t top out.
The weather has just not cooperated with us for a summit bid. We were never able to reach high camp and that forced us to try to go for the top from Camp 1. Even then the winds pushed us back after just a few hours.
Like I said, that’s the way it goes sometimes. The important thing is that we’ve all descended safe and sound. We have some great stories that is for sure.
On The Map
I just returned from Burning Man where we battle wind and dust instead of wind and snow. I’m sorry to hear that Elbrus has been throwing up roadblocks for you guys. Sounds totally different than when I was there in July. St. Petersburg is a fabulous city. You’ll all love it.
Seth - Looking forward to seeing you and Dave down at Vinson in 3 months.
Posted by: Larry Seaton on 9/3/2013 at 12:31 pm
James and team
I hope you have a wonderful time in St. P!
I am rEally looking forward to hearing your stories, learning more about the partcular challenges you faced and safely addressed, and hearing about your next mega-goal and adventure. Your couageous acts and actvities are very inspiring and motivational to me!!!
Posted by: Fred Klingbeil on 9/3/2013 at 4:03 am