Entries By mike uchal
August 16, 2017
The Mt. Elbrus North Side expedition is a wrap. As I write, I am sitting in the Amsterdam airport, and the team is in the process of scattering to the winds; some will continue traveling, while others are headed home to family and friends. It’s amazing that the trip is already over, as it flew by. We spent yesterday on a walking tour of the best cathedrals, gardens, and palaces of St. Petersburg. The sheer size and scale of St. Isaac’s Cathedral was stunning, the luminous mosaics of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood were fascinating, and the history of the founding of the city and derive during WWII were enlightening. We wandered through the Hermitage, as enthralled with the architecture and ornate rooms as we were with the collection of some of the world’s finest art. Degas, Renoir, Michalangelo, Picasso, and so many more were on display. We finished up the trip with a delightful boat tour in the River Nieva, seeing St. Petersburg from the vantage that most in 1800 would have seen it, via the canals. Finally we gathered one last time at the Jerome for a last celebration dinner before we parted.
It’s been a fantastic trip, with an smashing bunch of new friends. We had great weather, a perfect summit day, built a hut, and tried to become a bit more worldly along the way. So many thanks to this group of climbers. Mike and I had so much fun, and we look forward to crossing paths in the mountains again soon!
RMI Guides Pete Van Deventer and Mike Uchal
Pete and Mike-Thanks for taking great care of the team! This wife and mother appreciates what you guys do. I am looking forward to hearing all about the trip. God Bless.
Posted by: Christy Cunningham on 8/16/2017 at 1:33 pm
August 13, 2017
We said goodbye to Elbrus Base Camp and our newly made friends yesterday morning and climbed back into the 4x4 sprinter van for the drive out to Kislovodsk, but not before putting another couple of hours into the hut, finishing the roof. What’s left is some trim work and flooring. It was fun to leave knowing that we had left a small mark of our passing, and had helped in some small way.
The drive out was as exhilarating as the drive in, bouncing and grinding our way up the rough dirt track with the steep green slopes of the Caucasus just to the right of our wheels. Once we reached pavement everyone let out a collective breath and settled in. Once in Kislovodsk, we did what every climber does after a long expedition: took showers, shaved, and went looking for food and drink. Those comforts of town feel so much more pleasurable after being deprived of them for a little while. We made merry, celebrating one last night as a full team, and convincing the DJ at the restaurant to bring a little of home back by playing some Garth Brooks.
This morning we will part ways with a few of our team members as they head for home, and the rest of us head to St. Petersburg to spend a day exploring the art, architecture and culture of another great Russian city. We’ll try to send some photos!
RMI Guides Pete Van Deventer, Mike Uchal, and team
- Amy, Lavine, and Shanty
Posted by: Amy Kabia on 8/14/2017 at 10:27 am
Thanks for the videos! Evan says, “Have fun exploring!” Did y’all get a team picture?
Posted by: The Hickmott's on 8/14/2017 at 7:59 am
August 12, 2017
With little to do today besides organize our gear for the next leg of our adventure, we might have wondered how we would occupy ourselves for a day in Base Camp. The Cunninghams took care of that worry, organizing a barn raising of sorts to build a hut that our outfitter has been meaning to put together. With furring strips, floor boards, and siding located, we went to work, only slightly hampered by dodgy extension cords that didn’t always provide enough power from the generator to run a drill. The activity kept everyone occupied, and just as we put up the last siding on the walls and were considering the roof, the clouds moved over and the rain started falling.
We’ve been resting in tents, staying dry since. Chances are this storm quits soon, as each one has throughout our expedition, and we’ll enjoy a last night in base camp before returning to Kislovodsk early tomorrow. From there it will be in to St. Petersburg and the finale of our trip. We’re looking forwards to showers and Shashlik (the local barbeque) tomorrow.
From Russia with love,
RMI Guides Pete Van Deventer, Mike Uchal, and team
These updates have been great!
Good to see that the Cunninghams are doing well. Take care all, and prayers for a safe return.
Posted by: Deb Thummel on 8/13/2017 at 6:18 pm
Congratulations on a great Summit and teamwork in basecamp! Enjoy the rest of your journey and celebrate a great climb.
All good at home but look forward to Lee’s return home!! Love Ya!
Posted by: Diann on 8/12/2017 at 8:14 pm
August 11, 2017
Yesterday’s long day let everyone find some hard sleep through the night. The sun rises early this far north though, and by 7, we were all out of our tents working on breakfast. When we get to cache loads above throughout trips, our descents often get heavy. We took several meals up high in case of weather days, but with our perfect weather, we didn’t use them. That made for some larger loads on the descent, but since we only had to walk downhill for a few hours, everyone doubled down and got the job done. By just after noon, we were in Base Camp, with tents set up, and a fast moving, rapidly darkening cloud approaching. We popped up tents, and then sure of our homes, set about to enjoying the low altitudes and green grass. We started an energetic volley ball game, Russia v. US. in the end we really aren’t sure who won, as each team had bright spots, but the approaching rain forced a draw.
As we understand it right now, it is high tourist season in the Caucasus, and there are not hotel rooms available tomorrow on short notice, so we will spend one more day at Base Camp, and them make our way to Kislovodsk. It’s really not that bad a deal since we are in a beautiful valley with hiking, volley ball, and springs that out forth sparkling water naturally.
For now, we are happy to listen to the sheep baa, the shepherds whistle, and enjoy each other’s company after a very successful climb.
On The Map
Kelly and Josh,
You guys are using your carpentry skills, so remember that GMS needs a picture hung!
Love you guys, and so glad the team had such a great mountain top experience.
See you soon.
Posted by: Sandy Cunningham on 8/12/2017 at 10:59 am
Congratulation everyone!.. Enjoyed following each day.
Posted by: Stacy on 8/12/2017 at 7:40 am
August 10, 2017
Hi, this is Pete Van Deventer with the Elbrus-Northside crew calling in. We are back at Camp 1 after a really successful summit day. Couldn’t have asked for anything more perfect. We woke up this morning to warm temps, clear skies, and not a breath of wind. We made our way up relatively quiet until we merged with the southside route at the Saddle, and then we could see the line of climbers coming from that route, but we made our own switchbacks and stayed out of the traffic and cruised up to the summit in pretty good style. One hundred percent of our folks stood on top today. A really good day all the way around. A special shout out to Josh, who ended up being pretty motivated and roped up with our local guide, Sasha, and they made another trip from there over to the east side in only about an hour, so they tagged both summits. We all descended to Lenz Rocks and stopped there for about an hour and packed up camp, and then made our way back down to Moraine Camp, Camp 1. We are tucked in here, inside our tents and we’re out to enjoy a pizza dinner from Nina, the cook here. She makes amazing stuff. The plan is tomorrow to head down to Base Camp and we’ll take our time getting down there and spend the evening. Then the cars will come for us the day after that to take us to Kislovodsk. Everybody will be back in touch with loved ones soon and everyone sends their best. It’s been a really good day here on the northside of Elbrus. Everybody’s super excited. Talk later.
RMI Guide Pete Van Deventer calls after a successful Elbrus summit via the Northside.
On The Map
Congratulations Sonam! You put your heart to it and you did it! Proud of you!
Posted by: Ephrem on 8/11/2017 at 9:22 pm
Congrats Lisa! Can’t wait to hear all about your trip and see photos. Love, the Zaia crew
Posted by: Kelly on 8/11/2017 at 7:03 am
August 9, 2017
We are that much closer to touching the ceiling of Europe. After a bit of a blustery night, things were beautiful and calm this morning. We packed up our tents, said goodbye for now to Alaska, the camp comfort dog, and headed back up our boot track from yesterday. Clouds built quickly and we wondered whether we would get wet, but the precip stayed away, and the respite from the sun was quite pleasant. We reached our new camp at 15,300’ in short order, and settled into pouring our homes back together. As we crawled in for a siesta, the clouds caught back up with us, starting with first hail, and then transitioning to snow. We are now enveloped in a bit of a winter wonderland, though the first hint of sunlight will change that.
We hope to see a clear sky and calm conditions when we wake up in the morning to give us our shot at the summit. We’re ready!
On The Map
Following this exciting climb!. Thinking of my cousin!... So amazing you can do this Robin!... Lying here warm and toasty. Hope the same for all of you!
Posted by: Stacy and Seth on 8/9/2017 at 7:44 pm
Good Luck Sonam and your climb team! We are all rooting for you at SkyKick!
Kelly and Team.
Posted by: Kelly Rodriguez on 8/9/2017 at 2:04 pm
August 8, 2017
Another pretty perfect, successful day here in Russia. Sunny, clear skies beckoned us up towards Lenz Rocks, where we will make high camp. The plumes of snow we saw yesterday were still twirling their way our of the col between the east and west summits, but we had only a fresh breeze to face as we made our way up. Everyone climbed really well, hitting their high altitude glacial climbing stride. We left a small cache of food and fuel at Lenz, then opened up our strides and cruised back to camp. We’ll do it again tomorrow if the weather lets us, and move up with our tents and summit gear to get in position for our summit bid. It’s getting close!
Best from the Caucasus,
RMI Guide Pete Van Deventer
Hope day is your best day yet, oh so close to your goal, prayers continue for the teams safety and good weather. Josh and Kelly we love you. GMS
Posted by: Sandy Cunningha on 8/9/2017 at 9:40 am
Best of luck everyone in the team!
Sonam, I know how much this means to you and I couldn’t be more prouder of you! Get it done! Can’t wait to celebrate upon your return!
Posted by: Ephrem on 8/8/2017 at 7:00 pm
August 6, 2017
With yesterday’s preview of the terrain between Base Camp and Camp 1, today’s move uphill felt significantly easier to everybody. Everyone commented that it felt like we were walking more slowly, but were covering more ground and trimming time. In short, we were the best looking team on the hill today, in fashion and in climbing style.
Once at Camp 1 we found that available tent sites weren’t as plentiful a we had hoped, with a fair number of climbers here since it is high season. We managed a few spots in our outfitter’s camp, before the guides broke out the rock bar to move a couple big boulders to clear one more. Everyone was excited to see the cook hut and celebrated our successful move with some gluvine. We are psyched to be up above the clouds with some great views. Tomorrow, we will take a rest day after two big days in a row. We’ll refresh some climbing skills and enjoy our new home before focusing on moving higher once again.
RMI Guide Pete Van Deventer & Team
It was good to hear you all were the best looking team on the hill; since, it is the first rule of mountain climbing, or so I’ve been told. Glad the team is feeling strong. Thanks so much for the updates, the best part of my days! Keep the father/son team in check, they can be a handful. Praying for safety, good health, and great weather.
Posted by: Christy Cunningham on 8/6/2017 at 2:41 pm
August 5, 2017
First, and most importantly, we’d like to wish Kathey Uchal a very happy birthday. We hope it is a great one!
We fell asleep listening to the bass tones of the nearby river last night and woke to sun early. The sun rises at 4:30 or 5:00 up here, and once out there’s not much sense trying to sleep, so we crawled out, fired up coffee and breakfast, and got set for the day.
With packs full of food, fuel, a spare tent and some other odds and ends, as well as our personal gear and food, we headed uphill towards camp one, in a moraine at the base of the glacier around 12,000’. Early on, the sun made its presence felt, instantly heating everyone to a rolling boil. As we climbed higher though, we made it into a nice breeze that kept things pleasant. After many hours of laboring under our loads, we arrived at Camp 1 and stashed all of our stuff. With the bulk of the work done, we turned back downhill. Mt. Elbrus wasn’t done with us yet though. Half an hour into our descent, the first piece of hail fell in the rocks somewhere, probably not that near us. But then the skies opened up and it was like being brutally outmatched in a paintball game. We threw our hard shells on and beat foot downhill, running at times to escape the pelting. The hail finally let up, yielding a rainbow a few hundred yards in front of us, but no matter how hard we looked, we couldn’t find the pot of gold.
Back in camp, folks ducked into tents, eager to snack and recover, but then one of the Russian cooks of our outfitter came looking for Josh, wanting someone to play volleyball with. Mike and Pete couldn’t resist, and joined the match too, and soon we had a decent game going. Now dinner is done, and we’re back in tents eager for the deep sleep that follows a hard day of work. We’ll do it again tomorrow, moving our camp to Camp 1 and continuing forward progress. Wish us luck!
On The Map
Hey Lisa and Robin - The whole gym is routing for you!
Lifting 250 or pushing 300 seems like nothing compared to what you guys are doing - best to you and all your comrades (no pun intended) - enjoy!
Cheers - Liz
Posted by: Liz on 8/8/2017 at 9:06 am
Hope you’re having the time of your life!
Everyone from Seattle says Hi!
Have a great climb!!
Posted by: Mayank on 8/7/2017 at 4:28 pm
August 4, 2017
After the bustle of Moscow and several days of traveling, it’s a bit of a relief to finally be at Mt. Elbrus Base Camp! We had a pretty relaxed departure from Kislovodsk this morning, stopping at our outfitter’ s home to leave some city cloths, before climbing into our driver Alexi’s tricked out four wheel drive sprinter van knockoff and heading for Base Camp. We started putting our tents up as the first drops began to fall. Before long things ramped up and we were in a small thunder squall. Once the rain let up, we headed out for a quick hike to a gorgeous earthen bridge crossing the river, far below. Then dinner and off to bed to get ready for a big effort tomorrow. We’ll carry a load of food and fuel to Camp 1 tomorrow, before returning to Base Camp. We’ll let you know how it goes.