Viewing entries tagged
elbrus

MT. ELBRUS ADVENTURE PART 3! SUMMIT DAY!

Comment

MT. ELBRUS ADVENTURE PART 3! SUMMIT DAY!

I didn't feel nervous heading to bed the night before our summit attempt but sleep eluded me. I think I only slept one hour at most. Despite not sleeping, I felt great waking up just before three in the morning. After a quick breakfast we headed out and our quest for the summit began. Hiking before sunrise is always an interesting experience. There is no view to distract you from the monotony of the hike. It really becomes a battle between you and your mind. Seeing the sun begin to illuminate the world around me was a relief. As the sun began hitting the massive peaks of Elbrus I witnessed something that I have never seen in my life and something I will never forget, the atmospheric shadow cast by Elbrus. It's extremely hard to describe the phenomenon. Basically, you can see the shadow of Elbrus in the distance but it's not cast upon the surrounding ground, it seems to be hovering just in the distance. Hopefully, the picture below gives you an idea of this spectacular sight.

As the sun kept climbing into the sky, the exhaustion from not sleeping the night before began setting in. Physically I was feeling strong, but I almost felt like I was falling asleep while walking. At our first break, I ate some snacks, drank a bunch of water, and started feeling more energetic. I really enjoyed the first part of the climb. Since the trail between 4500m and 5000m was a constant incline I felt like we were always making progress to the summit. At this point it seemed like our team was doing well but that would quickly change

Once we reached the saddle at about 5100m, I could see the effects of altitude on many of our climbers and the next section to the summit was very steep! Our guides had us take an extended break here and rest up before our final summit push. It's hard to tell from pictures how steep this last section was, but by watching other teams climb, it looked intense! I was excited to see how I would do on this section. As we started out, I got into a great rhythm and felt incredibly strong. We were making great progress and even started catching other teams. I was slightly oblivious to what was going on behind me and when I stopped to shed a layer because I was getting hot, I realized some members of our team weren't doing well. One of the many symptoms of high altitude sickness is nausea and as I looked back at our team, many had succumbed to their nausea and actually vomited. At this point, I didn't think our entire team was going to summit since we were only a third of the way up the steep section.

We slowly kept pushing forward but now my mind was very aware of our surroundings which now included some large and ominous clouds working their way up the mountain. The trail continued to be steep and narrow but I felt very comfortable climbing. Near the top of this last face, the trail loses its vertical difficulty and traverses across a very steep and rocky section. A fixed rope (a rope put in place by guides that stays the entire season) was placed here because the fall risk is fairly high, especially if you're tired and trip on rocks. Also, falling on the rocks here would be catastrophic. I navigated this section smoothly and as we turned the corner I realized we were so close to the summit! We waited here for the rest of our climbers so we could summit as a group. We climbed a small hill and the summit came into view.  After 8 hours of climbing, seeing the summit and knowing I was going to make it was overwhelming. I thought of all the people that have helped get me to these summits and how I never would've made it without them. Our guide greeted us with a proud hug as we officially reached the highest point in Europe. As I pulled out my Save One Life banner and took the celebratory photo at the summit, I couldn't believe I had just climbed my third of the Seven Summits! As we sat on the summit the clouds closed in on us. We couldn't see far into the distance from the summit but that in no way diminished our enthusiasm. About 20 minutes after we summited our final team members crept their way on top. Although not everyone felt amazing on the summit, we all made it!

Snow started falling so we had to leave. After going through the tricky rock section my climbing friend Vibs and I descended the steepest section with one of our team members that was utterly exhausted. We did our best to encourage him and tell him he was doing a great job. Our guide came and said he would stay by our team members' side and help him down. The falling snow made the mountain incredibly peaceful and enjoyable. We hiked with a few more of our exhausted members and gave them encouragement down the steep section down to the saddle. Once there, we rested briefly and split up into two groups. One guide took a few of the faster climbers down while the rest of the guides took our tired members down. Those of us in the first group still took about 3 hours down. The last few steps into the camp were an amazing feeling! I had safely made it up and down Mt. Elbrus!

Comment

MT. ELBRUS ADVENTURE PART 2

Comment

MT. ELBRUS ADVENTURE PART 2

Our first acclimation hike to prepare for Elbrus was very different then I had expected. Down the hill from our hotel was a small ski area located at the base of Mt. Cheget. On most big mountain hikes we would be carrying a load of gear up to a higher camp and leavie it there, then head back down to our lower camp. On this climb we wouldn't be doing any of that. We gathered light day packs, walked down to the chair lift, and hitched a ride up. The chair lift was an adventure in its own right. It looked like it might have been built in the 1950's and hadn't been updated since then. We took this chair lift as high as we could, then headed for the summit of Mt. Cheget which was only about 1000ft higher than us.

Hiking on Mt. Cheget was interesting and beautiful. Just across the valley was a stunning peak, with a glacier on it that resembled the number 7. Our guide explained to us that the ridge of that mountain was the border between Russia and Georgia and that we were technically hiking in the border zone. I'm not sure if everyone is familiar with Russia-Georgia relations, I sure wasn't, but in 2008 there was an armed conflict between the two nations so the border zone is a serious place. Sergi, our guide, explained that being climbers we were allowed in the area. The hike was easy and fun with beautiful views of the valley. Unfortunately, we were unable to see Mt. Elbrus due to some dense cloud cover. We would have to wait another day to see the highest peak in Europe. We descended to the chair lift and rode it back down to the village for lunch. I think this may have been the first time I have ever ridden a chair lift down! We spent the remainder of the day packing our gear for the mountain and visiting the local market. We had a great time trying to barter with the local women that spoke no English. They were incredibly friendly so we had to buy a few things from them

The next morning, after a filling breakfast, we loaded up our gear and headed for Mt. Elbrus. Interestingly, there is also a ski area on Mt. Elbrus. When we arrived we threw our packs on, jumped on an enormous tram followed by another shaky chair lift and arrived at The Barrels, our basecamp for the entire climb. I had heard many stories about The Barrels, none of which were good but I was pleasantly surprised. Don't get me wrong, The Barrels weren't the Hilton by any means but we got to sleep on beds ... on the highest mountain in Europe. We had an hour to unpack our gear and get ready for another acclimation hike. We would be heading up to an elevation of over 15,000ft know as Pastukhov Rocks. It was surprisingly warm on this hike which made walking on the snow difficult. The snow was more slush then anything so in some of the steeper sections it was difficult to find stable footing. It took us about 3 hours to complete this section of the climb and a few of our climbers began showing symptoms of altitude sickness. Fortunately, I had been staying hydrated and felt no ill effects. I took my time descending back to basecamp, enjoying the cloudless day and the stunning views of the Caucasus Mountains. The rest of the day was spent eating, resting, and getting to know the rest of the climbers in our very international group. There were 2 Americans (including myself), 1 Norwegian, 1 Italian, 1 Germany, 1 Australian, 2 South Africans, and 2 gentlemen for Poland just in our group! It was so much fun learning about their lives and cultures!

The next day on the mountain was spent resting and learning a few safety techniques. Mostly we practiced self arrest techniques. In the event you take a fall on a steep section of  a mountain and are sliding down the slope, you use your ice ax to arrest (stop) your slide. To practice this technique we hiked about 20 minutes from camp and literally started sliding down the mountain, stopping ourselves with our axes. It was really fun to practice this technique but we also had to keep it serious. This could end up saving our lives on the mountain. After self arrest training others in our group also practiced hiking around in their crampons. We went back to camp for lunch and more rest. We were heading for the summit early the next morning and I was beginning to get nervous. I spent time going over all my gear but rest eluded me. The night before the summit was a restless one but my third summit of the Seven Summits was just hours away!

Comment

MT. ELBRUS ADVENTURE PART 1

Comment

MT. ELBRUS ADVENTURE PART 1

First of all, my success on Mt. Elbrus and my amazing adventure in Russia never would've happened without all of you. Your support has been absolutely amazing and I hope you all enjoy hearing my stories.

Setting up this trip was a bit chaotic. The guide I usually climb with and wanted to climb with on Elbrus was unable to take a trip this year, which meant more planning on my part. Fortunately, he was still around for advice and he even recommended a group in Russia. Thankfully another of his usual climbers also decided to join me. After some miscommunications and stressful moments we got the whole trip planned and I boarded my flights to Russia! It was comforting to know that I had one of my climbing partners meeting me at the airport and an even bigger relief finally meeting her. Her name is Vibeke and she rocks!

The ride to the hotel was interesting and fun. First of all, the highways in and around Moscow are terrifying! There are marked lane lines and posted speed limits but I think they are just suggestions. Motorcycles flew by, cars cut each other off. It was intense just riding in the car, I couldn't imagine driving there. On the ride, Vibs and I talked about all our experiences climbing and about life in general. She told me about her amazing job for the United Nations and her experiences all around the world. We also have very similar feelings about traveling. We were both tired and could've probably taken a nap when we got to the hotel but we were in Russia!!! We had to get out and explore! A local market was close to the hotel so we spent most of the evening there. On the Fourth of July we headed for downtown Moscow and Red Square! It was strange to spend America's biggest holiday in the center of the former USSR but what an experience. We also spent hours in the State History Museum looking at treasures from Russia's past. There were many beautiful things to see in Moscow but my mind was always drifting towards Mt. Elbrus.

P7040717.jpg

I woke up early on July 5th, headed to the airport and boarded another flight, this one bound for Mineralyne Vody, Russia. Waiting at baggage claim was our guide Sergi and other climbers from our team. The drive to our hotel was quite long and equally as exciting as our rides in Moscow. The only difference being that cows were a common obstacle on the roads. About a hour into the drive the scenery changed from rolling farming fields to some of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen. We were finally there! We had an informal dinner at the hotel that evening. Tomorrow we would actually get out on the mountain!

Comment