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Elbrus Expedition: Mallory & Team Arrive in Moscow

Dobrye Veycher from Moscow! The RMI Mt. Elbrus Team arrived into Moscow throughout the day today, making the hour long drive from the airport to our hotel in the heart of the city, across the Moscow River from the Kremlin. With climbers coming in from all over the globe, it has been a long couple of days of traveling for the team and we had a mellow evening, finding dinner in a small restaurant down the street from the hotel.

This far north, it is still daylight at 10:30pm as we turn in for the evening. We are excited to be here and looking forward to exploring Moscow tomorrow, visiting the city’s most famous sites - from Red Square to St. Basil’s Cathedral to the Kremlin. We will check in tomorrow after our city tour.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory

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Good luck and good weather Daniel and your fellow climbers on your ascent tomorrow. Hope all that New Zealand and Kilimanjaro training comes to good use. Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi.

Posted by: Rina Mrhar on 7/12/2012 at 10:24 pm

Mt. Elbrus: Mallory & Team Sightseeing in Moscow

We spent the day visiting the heart of Moscow today, walking through places familiar from a lifetime of hearing their names but only witnessing for the first time - Red Square, Kremlin, Bolshoy…

We left the hotel this morning and crossed the two bridges spanning the Moscow River and walked along the walls of the Kremlin until we reached Red Square. After wandering through the area for a bit we met our Tour Guide, Nina, for a tour of the city. In fluent English tinted by a distinct Russian accent, she spent the next three hours recounting stories, history, and significances of the many places we bounced between. First walking around St. Basil’s Cathedral, the ornately decorated church on the south side of Red Square, we then passed through the GUM Department Store, the beautiful former Soviet State Store now turned luxury shopping mall. Between the stores full of familiar Western brands - Levi’s, Prada, Jaques Cartier - she also recounted her personal experiences transitioning from Communist Russia to life in Moscow today, explaining the differences in food choices to retirement.

Across from the Bolshoy theater we descended into Moscow’s subway system, hopping trains between several of the impressively ornate underground stations, many covered with mosaics, frescos, and hanging crystal chandeliers, before emerging into the sunlight back at the entrance to the Kremlin. We then walked beneath the thick red brick walls into the center of the Kremlin, passing throughout the churches and monuments in the heart of the Russian Government.

By late afternoon we returned to the hotel and spent a few hours of down time before dinner, trying to shake the last of the jet lag. Tomorrow we leave Moscow and fly to the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains to reach the foot of Mt. Elbrus. The team enjoyed Moscow and we are excited to head into the mountains and begin the climbing.

We will check in tomorrow from our hotel in the Baksan Valley.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory

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Mt. Elbrus: Mallory & Team Head into the Caucasus Mountains

We left Moscow early this morning, leaving the city’s quiet streets behind for the forest of pine that surround Moscow’s Domodevo Airport. The calm morning was broken as soon as we arrived at the airport, with travelers packing the main terminal trying to check-in for their flights. With plenty of time to navigate the crowds, we found our check in counter and meandered through the serpentine line to the front, doing our best to keep our towering carts of climbing gear from toppling over on the unsuspecting passerby. Despite the complete language barrier checking in for our flight was smooth and easy and before long we were climbing the steps into our neon green 737 for the flight to Mineralnye Vody.

The two and a half hour flight took us from Moscow south across the farmland of central Russia to the foothills of the Caucasus. Thankfully all of our bags appeared on the carousel in Mineralnye Vody and we shouldered our duffel bags and navigated the chaotic parking lot outside to our van (conveniently parked, we all noted, in the farthest possible point from the door of the baggage claim). After cramming all of our duffel bags and 9 passengers into the narrow van, we took off down the highway bound for the mountains.

The drive from Mineralnye Vody to the village of Cheget in the Baksan Valley with the base of Mt. Elbrus took about 3.5 hours and brought us from the busy agricultural centers near the airport deep into the heart of the Caucasus. In the small towns on the way to the mountain we passed little markets and stores spilling out onto the streets, dozens of errant cows lounging in the roadway, and a tungsten mine and former factory used in the Soviet Space Program, long since shut down and now in the process of being reclaimed by the forest.The recent rains in the area still left thick clouds hanging throughout the peaks when we reached the little ski town of Cheget. We have yet to catch a view of the high Caucasus or Mt. Elbrus, but the clouds started to thin as we finished dinner and we are hopeful that the views will prove more rewarding tomorrow on our acclimatization hike.

We are staying in a small ski lodge at the base of the Cheget ski resort, where we will be until Wednesday. The rooms are comfortable and the food hearty. We are all very pleased to be in the mountains and looking forward to our hike tomorrow.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory

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We’re glad you (and all your bags) made it to Cheget. Climb safely! We’ll keep checking in on the blog for updates.

Posted by: Kristin PIngree on 7/9/2012 at 11:28 pm

Mt. Elbrus: Mallory & Team Acclimatize at Base of Mt. Elbrus

We woke to the steady patter of rain falling on the village of Cheget this morning. The clouds hung low in the valley, all of the mountains above still obscured. But to the west the clouds were thinning and the rain let up as soon as we finished breakfast. We left the hotel and walked over to the base of the ski lifts to catch a ride higher into the mountains. We hopped onto the lift, each chair painted a different color, and slowly rose into the clouds. At one point the lift stretched across a high point and all we could see was the little yellow and red chairs bouncing along into a sea of grey. By the time we passed the switched lifts at the mid station the clouds began to part and soon the views were improving.

Near 10,000’ we unloaded from the lifts and began hiking above the resort towards the summit of Peak Cheget. We navigated the narrow climbers’ trail, scrambling across the big rock slabs and over boulders, quickly gaining altitude on the narrow ridge. The weather continued to improve and we were soon shedding our rain jackets in favor of sunglasses. Close to 11,500’ the skies briefly parted and we caught our first views of Mt. Elbrus across the valley. The view was fleeting, as the window in the clouds quickly closed, but we were able to see our entire route to the summit.

By midday we reached the summit of Peak Cheget near 12,000’. The change in altitude from Moscow (~500’) was noticeable, but everyone on the team felt strong. We stayed on the summit for a few minutes before descending back down the trail to the lifts and returning to town for the afternoon.

We spent the rest of the day sorting and organizing our gear in anticipation of moving onto the mountain. Tomorrow we head up to our hut along the edges of Mt. Elbrus’ glaciers where we will spend the next four nights. We are excited about getting on the mountain and looking forward to trading our hiking shoes for climbing boots and crampons. We will check in tomorrow from the Garabashi Hut.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory

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Planning to spend some time with heavy-drinking Russian soldiers on this climb? Or was that a one time thing? Is there a plan to introduce those chairlifts on Denali?

Posted by: Madhu Rao on 7/14/2012 at 4:56 pm

Have a great time. Be safe, have fun and drink soup at the barrels, and catch a fish! Bill M.

Posted by: Bill McGahan on 7/13/2012 at 2:16 am

Mt. Elbrus: Mallory & Team Settle in at 12,000’

The thick rain clouds that have been covering the region for the last several days began to dissipate overnight. Leaving our hotel this morning, the sky above was a patchy mix of clouds and blue sky. We loaded our mountain gear into our van and made the ten minute drive up the valley to the tiny village of Azau. In Azau we hauled our gear from the van and through the base terminal of the tram station. A few minutes later the red cabin dropped down from the station above and we piled our team and gear into the tram.

We made two tram rides, going from the green valley floor to the top station, sitting on a rocky morraine along the edges of Elbrus’ glaciers. To get our gear the final 700’ we took turns loading our duffels, packs, and climbers onto a little single seater chairlift. Despite the slow moving chairs it was still a tricky transfer to put on and pull off the bags from the chairs as they swung by.

Nevertheless, it was a smooth process and by midday we were settled into out bunks in the Garabashi Huts, a series of old diesel tanks that have been converted into bunk rooms. Despite the long cylindrical shape, they are quite comfortable inside, especially when the hail and rain starts up outside.

After a great lunch of borsch, meats, cheeses, and French toast we set off on an acclimatization hike. The clouds once again settled onto the mountain, although with no moisture in them. We climbed for a couple of hours, ascending the glacier right above the hut and getting used to hiking in climbing boots and traveling on snow. After reaching just over 13,000’ we turned around and descended back to the hut.

We are resting in the huts now before dinner. Everyone climbed well today, making the transition from low elevation trails to the high altitude snows well. After close to a week of traveling to reach this mountain, we are happy to be here and comfortable in the huts. Tomorrow we are planning on making our final acclimatization hike up to Pastuhkova Rocks at 15,000’ before resting on Friday. We will check-in when we return from the hike.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory

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Hi - glad to hear that all is well and that you are enjoying the mountain!!  Photos look great too!

Posted by: Cindy Papp on 7/11/2012 at 10:40 am

Elbrus Expedition: Mallory & Team Acclimating Hike to Pastukhova Rocks

We caught our first real views of the mountain this morning when we emerged from the Barrels. The clouds were low in the valley below us, and above Mt. Elbrus rose clearly in the morning light. We could see the entire first portion of the route and high above, several teams were visible traversing into the saddle between the two summits of Mt. Elbrus.

We set out on our acclimatization hike shortly after breakfast. The cold night temperatures left the snow still frozen firmly, giving our crampons good purchase. We retraced our route from yesterday, quickly passing our high point and gaining elevation. By late morning the clouds returned and we climbed in a fog bank, occasional rock outcroppings appearing out of the mist ahead and gradually disappearing below us. By the time we reached around 14,400’ - the same height as Mt. Rainier - a cold breeze picked up and we climbed the remaining portion in our jackets with the hoods pulled closely to protect us from the wind.

We reached Pastuhkova Rocks, at 15,100’, and dropped our packs, resting in the thin air of today’s high point before returning to the hut for a late lunch. The team climbed well today, negotiating the altitude and varying weather conditions well. It was a long day on our feet and we are looking forward to a mellow day tomorrow to brush up on some of the final training we still need to cover and get in a restful afternoon before our planned summit bid on Saturday.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory

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Mt. Elbrus: Mallory & Team Prepare for Summit Climb

The weather has been steadily improving each day on the mountain and today was no exception: we’ve had beautiful clear skies all day here on Mt. Elbrus. We enjoyed a relaxed breakfast this morning of French toast and fresh fruit before heading out on the surrounding glacier to cover some additional mountaineering training in preparation for tomorrow’s climb. By lunch the team was well versed in a variety of climbing techniques, including ice axe arrest, climbing as a rope team, and crampon techniques for a variety of conditions.

In the afternoon we took a walk down to the top of the tram station where a little museum sits. In translated Russian, the museum keeper walked us through the small rooms, explaining the significance and events of Mt. Elbrus during World War II. So close to Russia’s oil supply at the time, the Caucasus were a major focus of Hitler’s advances into Russia and there was a great deal of fighting between 1941-1943, including on Mt. Elbrus itself as the mountain held symbolic importance in the fighting. It was a very interesting tour and a very different change of pace from the climbing focus we’ve had.

We returned to huts in the afternoon and prepared our gear for tomorrow’s climb. The weather forecast looks promising and the team is feeling strong so we are going for the top tomorrow morning. We will make an early start, getting up around 2:00am, and hope to reach Europe’s highest point by mid morning. We will check in tomorrow to let you know how the climb goes; keep your fingers crossed for good weather and smooth climbing conditions for us!

RMI Guide Linden Mallory

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Elbrus Expedition: Mallory and Team Summit!

After a few hours of fitful sleep, interrupted by the anticipation of the climb, the alarm went off at 1:05 a.m. this morning. We pulled on all of our gear, forced down a quick breakfast, and then loaded onto the snowcat for a lift up to 15,000’. The night was perfect, an awesome amount of stars covered the sky and a faint crescent moon was rising in the east. Well, almost perfect: the
temps were cold and a steady wind was blowing out of the west. It was cold. We began climbing in our big down parkas and didn’t end up taking them off until we were back down off of the summit many hours later.

Besides the biting wind the climbing was perfect, wind compacted snow that was great for climbing but still soft enough to keep the slopes from being too slick. The sun began to rise as we approached 17,000’, casting long shadows of mountains across the landscape below us. But, unfortunately the wind didnt let up with the sun and it stayed cold. The team did a fantastic job of keeping themselves warm, avoiding even the smallest bits of frost nip. By 8 am we reached the saddle between Elbrus’ twin summits and we started up the steep slope above to reach the summit plateau. We were briefly sheltered from the wind until we reached the summit plateau and traversed across to the highest point, a small rise on the far side perched over massive slopes descending the west and north side of the mountain.

Despite the wind, it was wonderful to reach the summit and we spent 20 minutes or so admiring the views, exchanging high fives, and snapping photos, before we beat a hasty retreat back down from the top.

By midday the afternoon clouds were already building and they blew in and out around us as we made the long descent back to our hut. We are now settled back into our bunks, tired from a long day of climbing but happy with the climb. Tomorrow we will descend back to Cheget for hot showers and clean clothes.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory

Linden Mallory Callling from the Summit of Mount Elbrus

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Congratulations to all on a great climb.  Can’t wait to see more pictures.

Posted by: Mary Ann Papp on 7/14/2012 at 10:50 am

Elbrus Expedition: Mallory & Team Back in Cheget

After a long summit day, we slept soundly last night. When we poked our heads out of the hut this morning we found a clear day on the mountain above, but plumes of snow were being whipped across the summit - another windy day. Instead of looking uphill, we turned our attention to packing up and returning to the village of Cheget.

We loaded all of our duffels back onto the series of chairlifts, tram cars, and vans to reach Cheget and by early afternoon we were showered, dressed in clean clothes, and sitting down for lunch at a small cafe in Cheget. We enjoyed a great lunch and have been spending the afternoon relaxing in Cheget, wandering through the stalls of local goods, sitting at the cafes and sharing stories of the climb, and taking the opportunity to send emails back home. Tomorrow we head back to the airport in Mineralnye Vody to fly to the north of Russia to the city of St. Petersburg, sitting along the edges of the Gulf of Finland. We will spend two nights in St. Petersburg, visiting one of Russia’s most beautiful cities, before heading home. We will check in tomorrow from St. Petersburg.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory

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Elbrus Expedition: Mallory & Team in St. Petersburg

We left the mountains this morning, piling all of our gear into the back of our van and following the small, twisting road out of the Baskan Valley and into the farmlands surrounding Mineralnye Vody. The fields of sunflowers were in full bloom and the day was clear enough that we could see Elbrus off in the distance.

Thanks to the upcoming winter Olympics in nearby Sochi they have recently finished renovating the Mineralnye Vody Airport and it was an easy process to get checked in, even with all of the excess baggage and climbing gear. Before long we were airborne, flying north across the country. We arrived in St. Petersburg in the early evening under grey skies, where the temps are far cooler than the planes to the south. We navigated the crowded streets of the city to find our hotel before heading out into the city for a nice dinner at a nearby cafe.

It’s been a long day of traveling and we are happy to be here. St.Petersburg has a very different feel than Moscow and the Caucasus Mountains and we are looking forward to seeing the city. We are spending tomorrow, the last day of our trip, exploring St. Petersburg.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory

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