Entries from Elbrus Northside
August 13, 2014
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,
August 12, 2014
The Mt. Elbrus North Side team reached the summit of Mt. Elbrus at 2 pm local time on August 12th. The team had good weather for their summit attempt. After taking photos and soaking in the views they descended to their high camp, broke down camp and descended to Camp 1. The team will spend their final night on the mountain tonight and make their way to the trail head tomorrow for a ride back to Kislovodsk.
Congratulations to the Mt. Elbrus North Side Team!
On The Map
Well done Johann & all the team.
Posted by: Jackie Melllo on 8/14/2014 at 4:03 am
Job well done Jessie and Team!!!!
Posted by: Len and Cathy Gagliardi on 8/13/2014 at 6:41 am
Hello from Camp 2 on Mt. Elbrus,
Our plan for today was to wake up early to get a head start and try to get to Camp 2 before the potential afternoon weather moved in. Well, this morning was not like the last three mornings. It was snowing pretty hard at camp, so we once again had a weather delay. This time though, our delay worked. By 9:30 the snow had stopped and most of the clouds had dissipated and we could actually see the twin summits. We were walking shortly after and made it to camp with beautiful weather. The clouds that did remain worked with the sun to create a perfect solar oven. The walk up was very hot and there was literally no escaping the heat until we reached camp.
We set up camp in the lower Lenz Rocks, 3000’ above Camp 1. Fortunately, the weather cooperated while we established a camp that was ready for the windy reputation of Lenz Rocks.
If the weather continues to improve, tomorrow should be our summit day. We are all packed and the team is strong, healthy, and ready for our attempt.
We are now tucked into our tents just as the sun is setting over the western flanks of the mountain. The views just get better and better.
RMI Guides Jeff Martin and Pete Van Deventer and the Northside Team
On The Map
Hi rob. I am praying for safety for you and team. I am so proud of you. Stay strong. Love you so much
Posted by: brendie on 8/12/2014 at 4:18 am
Climb strong Team Elbrus…..almost there…...
Posted by: LD Carani on 8/11/2014 at 8:47 pm
August 10, 2014
Greetings once again from Camp 1. We woke up this morning to a bit of a mixed bag, with a large cloud cap spinning up high, but clear, sunny skies over camp. After dragging our feet over breakfast and watching the clouds, it seemed that things were moving in the right direction and dissipating. Once we decided the move was a go, the team did a fantastic job of crashing camp and getting packed for the move. Just as fast if not faster however, was the change in the weather trend. The clouds that had been dissipating rebuilt ever stronger, and we began to rethink our decision. After some more staring at the clouds, scuffing of feet, and sighing, we decided the prudent decision was to reset camp and take a rest day. Prudent that decision turned out to be: not long after the tents were back up, our wintry mix began to fall again, and within an hour or two, a repeat of our thunder and lightning storm from yesterday.
With a lot of tent time today, and weather persisting this evening, we decided to treat ourselves to a delicious pasta dinner cooked by the camp cook, Olga. It was a nice break from the tents to share a meal, stories, and jokes around a table with a roof over our heads. With full bellies, we are retiring, with hopes that we wake up to a better scene tomorrow, and can continue our upward progress.
RMI Guides Pete Van Deventer, Jeff Martin, and team
On The Map
Good luck to you and the team!! Great to read your updates…
Cheers from the heat and 90% humidity of Houston!!
Posted by: Salil on 8/11/2014 at 8:24 am
Senor Senior Guide Pete…Elbrus and from the north side - Look at you !...Dont believe you’ve been there before have you ?...If I’m right - holy moley I lead you in one peak category :)...All the best for a memorable / great climb…Saying the Weather Prayer…Spain and El Camino 19 days and counting…All the best + God bless…Waltero
Posted by: Waltero on 8/11/2014 at 5:14 am
August 9, 2014
Hello from 3800 Assault Camp (as our Russian friends call it). Since we were reunited with all of our gear yesterday and had some time to contemplate the piles, today was the perfect day to once again bump up a portion of that gear to our next camp at Lenz Rocks (about 15k). We woke to brilliant azure skies and cooler temps: perfect climbing weather. By 9 am we were donning harnesses and crampons, and clipping in to the climbing rope for the first time of the trip. The terrain below Lenz was our first snow climbing of the trip, and the conditions were perfect for cramponing. The group moved very well through the first stretch, but it began to feel like we were racing the weather a bit. First, a few errant clouds drifted across our climbing route on a light breeze, temporarily reducing our visibility. Then, just as we neared our destination, there was a distant rumble of thunder. At Lenz we didn’t rush with our cache, using the time at a new altitude to help our acclimatization, but we didn’t linger either. With our gear stored, we headed down into very low visibility and a couple of more distant rumbles. We moved very well downhill with light packs and some motivation, ultimately beating the weather to camp. Not long after we were tucked into tents snacking, the first flash of lightning alerted us that the storm had arrived. We sat, counting the seconds between flashes and cracks, listening to the tattoo of hail and graupel on the tent walls. By dinner time things had calmed down, and we ate dessert while watching spectacular colors play on the clouds as the sun set. We are hoping that our luck with the weather continues, and that tomorrow will give us the opportunity to move camp once again. We’ll be in touch tomorrow.
Trevor I see that you are back in your element…...snow and ice…...what Canucks are raised on. Keep climbing baby.
Posted by: LD Carani on 8/9/2014 at 4:39 pm
August 8, 2014
We had a good first night at Camp 1. Everyone is doing great and feeling strong.
We did sleep in a little this morning and woke up to a beautiful cloudless day. A welcome treat after the last few mornings of rain. After breakfast we headed downhill to pick up our cache that we left two days ago. It was a quick roundtrip and we were back in camp by lunch. Since it was a rest day, we fired up the stoves and had quesadillas for lunch and lounged around camp.
Starting tomorrow, we will be on the glacier for the rest of the climb. We wanted to get a little review in, so we went out on the glacier to practice some cramponing and ice ax arrest. We are all ready for tomorrow!
Now we are back at camp hydrating and trying to make a dent in our pile of snack food.
Dinner will come soon enough and we enjoying the late afternoon sun and the constantly changing colors on the upper mountain. What a view.
All the best,
RMI Guides Jeff Martin, Pete Van Deventer, and team
On The Map
Hello Jess and team.
Great to hear you all had a great day.
We are all doing well here at home.
Love you sweetie!!
Posted by: Hector on 8/8/2014 at 4:15 pm
Sounds like a great day!
Hello to Bruce from all back home!
Isabelle is missing her buddy.
Go conquer that glacier.
Posted by: Joyce Pully on 8/8/2014 at 3:38 pm
August 7, 2014
After two great nights at Basecamp, it was time to move out and establish a new camp higher up on Mt. Elbrus.
We were really lucky again today with the weather. It was still raining when we first woke up, but just about the time we were taking down the tents, it stopped and has been dry ever since.
The trail was still challenging today, but everybody did great. We made good time all the way back up to our cache site at 11,200’. We grabbed a few items from the cache that we would need for the night, and continued on our way. The last stretch into camp climbs up a very rocky moraine and is some of the most trickiest walking on the whole mountain, especially with some heavy packs. We worked our way up the faint climber’s trail, dealing with lots of loose scree and some very awkward steps, but finally being rewarded as we crested over the top of the ridge and arrived at Camp 1.
The weather has not been that good the last several days, and as a result, there is a fair amount of climbers still waiting at Camp 1 for their summit attempt. Tent sites were at a premium, but after a little searching, we found some good spots and started building our camp. We are now all settled into what will be our home for the next three nights.
We have been in the clouds most of the day, but the upper mountain has made a few brief appearances this afternoon. Our hope is that this improving weather trend will continue for us.
Right now there are many climbers in camp getting ready to climb tonight. We, on the other hand, are going to bed and looking forward to sleeping in the morning.
All the best,
RMI Guides Jeff Martin, Pete Van Deventer and the team
On The Map
Glad to hear you had better weather.
I am enjoying the blog and look forward to a new installment each day.
Best wishes for continued weather improvements and great climbing!
Posted by: Joyce Pully on 8/7/2014 at 2:58 pm
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