Climbing in Russia, Part 3

Left the inn at around 9:30 to catch the tram. We piled stuff into this big tramcar and off we went. This scenery is amazing! We had wonderful views of the mountains and valley. At the top, there are a few memorials to climbers on the inner walls. The second tram was not running due to an accident the week before where something broke and a car fell severely injuring people. No problem I’ll walk.

We hiked mainly up a primitive road that was used to build the lifts 30 years ago but did cut up lots of scree slopes. Glad I brought my ski poles because they really help. My Nike Air Mowabs left imprints in the dirt and I soon got nicknamed the Mowab monster. Lift three was working which made things nice. We filed into this really ancient single chair lift with our full packs and attempted to get on. It was harder this time because of the heavy packs and nobody to hold the chair. I was scared I was going to tip out and get smashed to bits on the rocks below. My husband Stan and I and three others decided to walk the 1,200 feet up to the hut. Besides, it’s much better to acclimatize this way than ride. It was also fun in the snow and ice. It took around 45 min at a leisurely pace to get to the “big airstream trailer” in the sky. Strange looking place. It’s at 13,860 feet and is rather large. It has 3 floors one of which looks closed off. The second has a kitchen-dining room at one end and the rest are rooms. We were on the third, which has around 5 rooms on each end laid out in a pie shape. Each room has two beds. The rest of the floor has around 10 more rooms with 4 beds in each room. Stan and I got a room at the end because the guide told us since we are married “it’s better this way.” It had to be the tiniest room ever made. It had a bunk bed, desk, chair and small table. I could reach both walls with my arms stretched out. Cozy was the operative word. Stan and I moved in, one at a time. Dinner was around 8 and the food was good. Lots of cabbage soup. Then it was off to bed where we fell fast asleep.

I forgot to mention the facilities. Get ready for this. As they explained to Stan, for a “little deal” you go through a door on the third floor and out on this plank that connects the hut with a rock on the hillside. The large rock has plaques in memory of climbers who died on Elbrus. Somehow I don’t think I would want everyone peeing at my memorial. I might add this is also not far from the water supply. OK on to the mountain. We were to be ready to go at 11:30 for a hike up to the Pastukhov rocks at 15,840 feet. I put my tape player with a Lynard Skynard tape in and was jammin’. Lots of slow climbers but it’s always wise to acclimatize slowly especially if you have good tunes to listen to. It took around 2 hours to get to the rocks where there is of course a memorial. The weather wasn’t too great and the visibility got bad on the descent. Lots of snow recently and now it was sleeting pretty hard. We made it down in about an hour then got lunch. Seems like all we do is eat here. Took a nap in preparation for tomorrow’s summit day. Got up for dinner to eat some porridge stuff. Looks like a storm is brewing outside, strange thunder and lightning.

Up at 3 A.M. for breakfast. Had everything ready to go and was out the door at 4:30. Of the 14 climbers on the trip only 1 stayed back because of illness. Slow pace to start out.

I felt good but very cold and windy. I like a quicker pace to keep warm. We got to the rocks at around 6:30. After a short rest some of the climbers decided to call it a day. The rest of us put on crampons and soon it was time to go. I got up really fast and started to feel sick to my stomach. Everything got dim and my skin was clammy.

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