January 27, 2015
Climbing Mount Elbrus - Part 1
Located in the western Caucasus, Mount Elbrus (5642 m) is Russia’s highest mountain and one of the Seven Summits. Ski touring on this dormant volcano is an experience in itself, with challenging slopes at an ideal angle and all the snow you could wish for. Our objective, however, was to get to the summit.
The journey begins
Saturday: I met my fellow team members at Munich airport. We flew via Moscow to Mineralnyje Vody, where Viktor, our local contact, met us. The weather was not exactly brilliant. In fact, the weather was still to play a big part in this project, but for now we had at least arrived.
Sunday: After an extensive breakfast we met our guide, Ismail, who was there to help us on the ascent and, in particular, to act as interpreter for us if we happened to run into any police or army checks. We all took the cable car to the middle station at 3000 metres, where we admired the incredible view of the peaks of the Caucasus with Elbrus poking up above them.
The best laid plans...
Monday: The weather in the morning was lousy, so an attempt on the summit was out of the question. Instead we decided to go up to the Diesel Hut at 4060 metres. During the ascent the wet, cold weather developed into a storm with poor visibility accompanying us all the way up. Arriving at the hut we found welcome shelter from the adverse weather conditions – but once again there could be no thought of heading on up. Instead the team skied slowly back down, at times flying blind, to the top station.
Back in the valley we hammered out a rough plan for the next few days and decided to walk up to base camp, at 3850 metres, the following day.
Tuesday: The day began with delicious cake, rain and poor visibility. We packed everything up, dragged the equipment and provisions for the next four days to the cable car and rode up to Mir station at 3470 metres. Here everything was loaded onto a snowcat, which ferried our gear to base camp.
Together with a group of fifteen climbers from Innsbruck we then set off for the camp. The visibility was so poor that it was difficult to make out the blue containers of “Barrel Camp”. Relieved to have arrived safely, we ate well and settled in, hoping for better weather over the next few days.
Wednesday: Once again the day began with high winds and bad visibility. However, the weather forecast said conditions were due to improve from the following day, which gave us cause for hope. We decided to head up to Pastukhova Rocks at 4690 metres. The weather was unpleasant but we still managed 200 metres of ascent per hour and after four strenuous hours we had reached our goal.
In the evening the sky finally cleared and we saw Elbrus in all her glory. The cameras came out and stayed out as our mood improved in leaps and bounds. It was looking like the weather forecast was right. After a brief discussion with the team and the climbers from Innsbruck we decided to attempt the summit on Friday.