Conditioning on Gamachi Peak

Hiking up the Adylsu ValleyOn the 18th of July we did one of my favourite mountain walks anywhere. We walked up the Adylsu Valley to our camp at about 9,000 feet (2733 m) in a beautiful meadow surrounded by mountain walls and glaciers.

We met some people from Belarus who live in the mountains near here and, as we did last year with the same group of fellows, we hired them to help us carry our loads up to the camp, to be porters for us.

Our group really enjoyed getting to know these men. They live in the mountains now, a hearty life I might say, but they have different backgrounds.

Victor, in particular, very proudly told Karen – when he befriended her and they took pictures of one another – that he was “Soviet Engineer”. A very educated man but obviously as a Soviet Engineer, his career was in a different time. Now he lives in the mountains and we enjoyed getting to know these guys as we all approached the camp we call the “Green Hotel” in that lovely meadow.

Our "Green Hotel" campsiteWe also, now that we’re away from the hotel, have Marsha our cook with us. And helping Marsha cook is Felix, the son of Alex who you’ll remember from last year as one of our Russian mountain guides. So we have quite a happy troupe as we approached this lovely glacier.

On the morning of the 19th, we did our first roped glacier climb up towards Gamachi Peak. This was primarily a training climb. We moved on three rope teams. Everyone moved at virtually the same speed. This group is really well matched physically and we had a good day climbing to about 12,000 feet (3,658 m).

At that point, Keith, Mark, Spencer and Mike Doty felt like continuing on about an hour further across a bergschrund. And they did so on one rope team with a guide. And then George, Gretchen, Denio, Richard, Karen, Mike and Deborah turned back.

The four guys who went ahead were on a rope with Yury, who you’ll remember from last year’s BAI climbs. The others went down on rope teams with myself and Alex.

We all met up at the bottom of the glacier and by 3 in the afternoon we were back at our camp. Marsha had a wonderful meal prepared, including a fabulous fresh salad. We relaxed for a bit. Our friends from Belarus showed up and we returned back down the valley.

Elbrus from our campsiteThe weather has been quite good. There has been moist air and we climb in broken clouds and light rain sometimes. But yesterday morning as we began that climb in the Gamachi Peak area, we looked back and saw the twin summits of Elbrus very clear above all the cloud layers. Throughout the day you could see Elbrus – on the summit it was clear even though we have clouds coming and going in the valleys.

On the way back down this evening we had a beautiful rainbow as we looked back up towards the glaciers. And of course we were back at the Hotel late in the evening for a kind of late dinner. We are a tired crew, but each day of climbing like this builds our conditioning and acclimatizing for Elbrus, which is to come soon.

Above: Comet Hale-Bopp over Mt. Elbrus from Pik Terskol, Caucasus, April '97. ©"Observers",