Climbing in Russia, Part 4

Oh great, now what?! I sat down and tried to figure out what was going on. Stan took the camera and left with the group. I stayed for a while at the rocks with a couple guides. One of the guides Sergey, nicknamed “the gentle bear”, told me to keep remembering the music. He had seen me yesterday dancing my way up the mountain. I told them I thought I would be fine and headed up the hill. I felt much better when I got going. I held a very comfortable quick pace and in no time was up with the rest. We continued on slowly, and took much more breaks than I liked.

At around 10:30 we reached the point called the saddle which is between the west and east peak. There is a ruined hut there and we rested there waiting for the others. It was evident some didn’t want to go on. Stan and I were chomping at the bit to get going. It was strange to us that the guides should even bring up the point about not going further and/or going for the lower east summit. It wasn’t that much further, probably 2 hours to gain the higher west summit. We decided to leave the packs and put on a little more clothing.

Stan talked one of the stronger women climber into going with us. She had really no experience on mountain and really didn’t understand that she was supposed to be very tired at this point. The climb to the summit was a long, steep leg burner. Of course, Stan kicks into another gear at this point and goes into overdrive. He’s feeling super and as he puts it “turbo charged”. So much for the age difference! He’s 53 and I’m 34. The steep climb ended and we made a traverse around to a small section up to the summit. Before we knew it, our guide Ludmilla stopped at the top and waited for us to join arm in arm and step up together.

It really was a wonderful feeling. We all yelled loudly and then got out of breath immediately. Yahoo! What a great view. The skies that were overcast below were clear up top. We had gotten lucky again. I again carried a Quincy College T-shirt, while Stan had his Indiana University flag. I also carried up a photo of a Russian wolfhound somebody in Quincy named Elbrus after the mountain.

We had reached the highest peak in Europe at around 12:50pm. On the way down we saw a couple more from our group coming up. They looked really tired as we bounded by them giving them pats on the back for encouragement. We grabbed our stuff at the saddle and headed down.

Our guide had gotten bad news over the radio that her father was ill in Moscow. With all the snow in the previous few days the descent was one of the nicest I can remember for my feet.

Lots of plunge steps and not a lot of hard ice. Stan and I lagged behind to enjoy the mountain and we got back around 4:45. Hot tea and super awaited us! The summit was hard because of the long way and high altitude but was worth the effort. One of the guys thought it was much harder than Aconcagua because of the total altitude gain in one day. A couple others thought it was harder than Kilimanjaro because of the same reasons. I feel we’ve got a tough one out of the way. Total of the group that summited today was 7. This is a beautiful mountain and an even more exquisite country!

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